Artist Profile: Joanne (Eschrich) Wright

Title:
Hallmark Master Designer

Started at Hallmark:

September 14, 1981

Started at Keepsakes:
January 1996

Hometown:
Westport, Massachusetts

People started collecting Joanne Eschrich’s work when she was in third grade. Of course, the collectors at that time were her classmates. Later, the requests kept coming. In high school from fellow classmates who asked her to illustrate their reports for biology. That was Joanne’s moment of discovery. Unfortunately, it was because the biology teacher didn’t think Joanne should be sharing her talents when it came to homework assignments.

Joanne’s parents encouraged their children to be creative with their playtime. As a young artist being raised on a farm, Joanne had no shortage of animal friends to pose for her. She built dollhouses with her sisters and spaceships with her brothers.

When college came along, Joanne knew she was going to study art. Nothing else was as important. Despite her parents’ attempts to talk her out of her career choice, she persevered and got an interview with Hallmark in her senior year. A job offer soon followed.

Joanne had never even considered sculpting when she was asked to try doing a piece for the Hallmark Merry Miniatures line. She created a basset hound named Sebastian for that assignment and discovered that her sculpting abilities rivaled her illustration talent.

Joanne doesn’t have to look far for inspiration or support for her craft. Her daughters Jamie and Anna are thrilled with what she does, especially when she brings her work home and they get to give their opinions or model for her angels.

“On a few occasions they’ve brought my original sculptures along with the finished ornaments to ‘show and tell’ at their school,” says Joanne. “They also love seeing ‘Mom’ on the back of the ornament boxes at the store.”

Joanne’s Ornament Gallery
Joanne’s Ornament List

SNEAK PEEK

Hopeful Father Christmas (2017)

Joanne Eschrich never expected Poland to feel so much like home.

“It had a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere,” says Joanne, who traveled with a small Hallmark team to several glass-blowing vendors in summer 2015. “The people there were very down to the earth; there are a lot of churches; I loved the food. All of it.”
Joanne adds that buildings in the town of Józefów, Poland, are just as quaint as you might imagine. “We were in heaven,” Joanne says. “It was like something out of a storybook.”

At Silverado, a family-owned business in Józefów, original proprietor Jerzy Jaroszyński started his Old World glass-blowing workshop in 1959. His daughters and sons-in-law now run the shop, but Jerzy still trains their artisans and designers.

The family invited the Hallmark team to their home, which was directly behind the shop. “They were so personable,” Joanne says. “It was such a great connection to come from a family-owned business like Hallmark and work with family-owned businesses over there. It was this great understanding.”

Hopeful Father Christmas

Inspired, in large, by what they saw in the showrooms, Joanne and the team began a fruitful collaboration that is now in its second year. For Christmas 2016, Joanne created a Madonna, an angel, an ornate cross and an evergreen inside a glass dome. For 2017, Hopeful Father Christmas is the second ornament that Joanne has tied to her Father Christmas series, which began in 2004. The one she used as inspiration, from 2005, carries the theme of harmony.

“It was a lot of fun working with them to understand what I was trying to connect it with,” Joanne says. They deliberately chose not to go with a more familiar bright-red coated Santa. They wanted something a little more unique, hence the “harmony” Santa holding musical instruments. “We thought the rich burgundy and the gold would play off this off-white glass ball very nicely,” Joanne says.

So after she cropped the character the way she wanted, the artisans at Silverado sculpted the mold, performed the glassblowing, handcrafted the snowflake designs on the back and added a flocked-fabric material to replicate his coat—with Joanne and team providing art direction and input along the way.

“It was fun to see the intricacy of the detail on the glass,” Joanne says. “It’s amazing how accurate they were, how beautiful the details were.”

El Divino Niño Jesús (2014)

El Divino Niño Jesús

“We had the opportunity to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a huge art fair. While there, I saw a small, charming piece depicting The Holy Family with baby Jesus inside a paper star. The colors were similar to a lot of other pieces I saw throughout the Santa Fe area. I actually made the original ornament out of terra cotta clay, but it was too fragile to mold from. So, I created the original for this in wax.”

A Keepsake Flight of Angels

“All together, this collection reflects both the familiar and known concept of angels from my upbringing, plus my exposure to this other way of looking at the same icons. It’s the same faith and the same muse, but as seen through the eyes of different cultures using their own medium.”

“My family comes from the Portuguese Islands. My mom is always asking when we’re going to do a Portuguese angel. I tell her, that’s a skin tone of its own, Mom. Maybe I’ll get to that.”

“I love the feedback I get when people say I’m so glad you did an angel for us.”

Feliz Navidad (2014)

Feliz Navidad

“When we were in Santa Fe, everywhere we went these Hispanic angels were a big thing. The colors were bright and different from the way we usually do angels. I wanted to address that and truly capture the flavor of it. Angels are so often whitewashed and we wanted to get the colors of the skin and the hair just right. I wanted this one to look like it was made out of terra cotta like the clay and figurines we saw there.”

Angel of Prayer and Angel of Enlightenment (2014)

“For the past five years I’ve been doing an unofficial series of African-American angels. These are also very interesting to me because (like the Hispanic angels) there’s a rich culture there to dive into—looking at skin tone and using models (friends of mine here at Hallmark), making a connection with their culture and, once again, seeing how the faith we share is reflected in yet another culture, another perspective.”

Angel of Prayer

Angel of Enlightenment

Christmas Angel (2014)

Christmas Angel

“This is kind of the flipside of the Hispanic angel. I wanted to give it that traditional cherub kind of look—joyful, with the larger wings and a flow about her with the charms of a cross and a heart that’s dangling from her waist. I wanted to keep her colors light. I had a lot of fun with her. She kind of reflects my Catholic upbringing. Like the angels I’d see in the churches growing up.”

FUN FACT

“On a few occasions, my daughters have brought my original sculptures along with the finished ornaments to ‘show and tell’ at their school. They love seeing ‘Mom’ on the back of the ornament boxes at the store.”

Guardian Angel (2012)

“I’m partial to making angels in general. The halo is laser-cut metal. I wanted it looking delicate and fresh.

Guardian Angel

Details on her dress are embossed so metallic-gold glaze could highlight it better. I purposefully left areas in bisque rather than finished with a glossy glaze to give her more presence in her appearance. Working on the beautiful line really gave me a better understanding and even more of an interest in working with porcelain, metallic glazes and metal. These materials go together beautifully. She’s called Guardian Angel, and I like to think she’s all about love, comfort, and guidance. I photographed my daughter in a pose to inspire me for this one. Every time I use my daughters as models, I get a personal, emotional connection to an ornament.”

Mother and Child (2012)

“I wanted this to be meaningful to any mom with a baby, but I designed it so it might also represent the Madonna and child if someone likes.

Mother and Child

I wanted to create a portrayal of a mother and child with broad appeal, but I wasn’t sure what material I wanted to use when I began. I was inspired by metal jewelry I had seen, and we went with pewter. We tend not to do ornaments in pewter as it can be a heavy material to work with, but in this instance as an embossed medallion, it worked.”

Stamped Starlight (2012)

“I created the concept for this ornament, which was then sculpted by (Keepsake Artist) Terri Steiger.

Stamped Starlight

When I started, I knew I wanted to create a star, and I wanted another opportunity to use metal as a material. I was playing around with paper, cutting out different shapes of stars with layers to give the ornament more beauty and visual interest. It’s important to give metal a design with appeal because metal tends to come across aesthetically as cold. I wanted it to appear more embossed than flat. One layer has a matte finish and the back has a shiny finish to reflect the lights from the Christmas tree. And I placed a crystal in the center as a focus point. It was fun to work out the details.”

Hometown & School

I’m from a small town south of Boston, called Westport. I studied illustration and design at University of Massachusetts.

Inspiration

Wow…about a thousand things a day. Color, new things I see online, friends, work, my daughters and what inspires them, my mom, traveling, lots of stuff!

Best Advice

“You’ll never be good in 3D; stick to illustration.” It made me strive harder than ever to learn it.

Happy Place (when I'm being creative)

My kitchen table has always been my favorite place to work…even when working on college assignments way back when. I like activity and music around me—working in an open space.

Favorite Work of Art (so far)

So far, it’s the porcelain angel that will be out this year. (I used my daughter as my model.) The angel has lasered metal wings, and the delicate flowers were each attached by hand.

When I'm Not Working

I come from a large Portuguese family back east. When my two daughters and I are not traveling back there to visit, we’re running around to high school and college events. Both girls are graduating this May, so we have a lot going on this year!

Things I'm Drawn To

Angelic things, Santas, snowmen and beautiful, mixed-media pieces.

2020-09-29T17:50:02-06:00