Welcome to my Folk Art and Fancies Blog

I am a wood crafter artisan from the southwest Missouri Ozarks.I may just ramble on here about my art workings, my life, and my fancies about what I find fun and interesting in this world.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Buried Treasure and the Jealous Aunt

 When I was growing up I had two aunts whom I greatly admired and loved. Here they are ,with my grandpa; Marian on the left, and Janice on the right. They were both unmarried and lived together in Kansas City, and both were artists working at Hallmark Cards. Janice, was in design and Marian, in production art which took great skill. I believe Janice was a real go getter, with a lot of self confidence, and had also been a supervisor, While Marian was more laid back and very sensitive. They were both very talented artists who took advantage of the available art classes in the area.
 The two aunts would often come down to Springfield, MO. to visit us, or we would go to K.C. to visit them (and another aunt--Margaret who had seven children).
 Janice was a diabetic, and in her late 40's she lost sight in one eye, and began to have health problems, so Hallmark let her work at home. At age 50, in I think 1966, she died of kidney failure. I was about 13 years old.
 A few weeks after she died I was visiting at my Aunt Margaret's house and she had a large file cabinet in her dining room. She told me I could look through it if I liked, because it was Janice's art files and she knew I loved art. She also gave me Janice's art books and paint brushes. I started looking at the files and I was amazed at all the drawings, and  little watercolor paintings in those files. I knew some of them were card designs Janice was working on before she died. There were also a lot of clippings she used for references. (I now know that if Janice had not been working at home, all of this would have been left at Hallmark, and I would never have seen any of it.)
 I didn't think much about those files again until the early 90's when after over 25 years of working at Hallmark my Aunt Marian had retired, and moved back home to Springfield. I asked Aunt Marian if she knew if Aunt Margaret still had Janice's file cabinet, and she replied, "no, I have it here in my art room." I said "didn't it have a lot of Janice's art work in it?" Marian said "well,...I don't think there's much of it left. I gave a lot of that away". Aunt Marian was  very sensitive, and I believe she was a little jealous of my asking about Janice, so I didn't say any more about it. I loved her and didn't want to hurt her feelings.
 Dear Aunt Marian passed away about 10 years ago. Her estate was to be auctioned off, (except for any paintings she had). I saw the files, and they were all dumped in a large box, which I bought at the auction for $10.00. Here are a few things I found in this "buried treasure" box. Buried about 33 years!

A lot of these were practice, and some were completed hand made cards, probably prototypes.
 Here is an actual card that she sent me, when I was about 10 years old...and on the right I found this rough sketch,/beginning of the design---
Here's the back of my card, where she signed it. If you click on it you can read her note to me ....(she said this card was featured on TV on the Hallmark program!)
These barely scratch the surface of the files.... How I wished my dear Aunt Janice had lived longer,but she has lived on in these buried treasures, and in my heart!
Here are a few more pieces of her work.... 
              I am going to frame this little group of 3 pansies! I just got 3 frames at a yard sale for them.
      These 2 Christmas cards seem to be complete prototypes, but they are originals and hand painted. The Easter basket has some gold foil pieces glued on.

The girl above is dated 1946, and I think the boy with the monkey is from the same era. And here are a set of 3 Christmas cards that are the finished product and she signed the top one and gave them to us...
                 And here is an oil painting by my aunt Janice that I have in my home. I just love it!


  1. Really interesting and lovely cards from that era!

  2. I agree - most interesting! Super that you were able to retrieve it all! Such a neat family history you have!!!

  3. Delightful memories, photos, and the actual handwork.........what an inheritance. I know you treasure it

  4. OMG that's amazing! I've seen that card with the horse and sleigh before! It's awesome having a great family history, my grandmother is constantly telling me mine and I try to store it all in my memory for later.

  5. Horse and sleigh is a very popular theme at Christmas. I know that Hallmark has a revamp department to renew old designs also.

  6. What a neat post and family history!

  7. Lovely findings and a sweet story about your aunties!


  8. I'm excited! This blog post is featured on the Hallmark blog!

  9. A beautiful story and family heirloom.


  10. I am Jennifer's older sister and Aunt Janice Johnson was my mentor. Shortly before I graduated from highschool, not knowing what I was going to do with my life, she asked me if I would like to live with her and thought I could get on at Hallmark. She had a friend in Personnel and I actually was hired in the Lithography Dept., retouching negatives. About a year later, I was interviewed by a supervisor in Revamp Design, now called Redesign. Aunt Janice must have thought I had inherited some talent. I worked in that department for almost 4 years.

    I am so thankful for Aunt Janice's interest in me and she taught me so much, managing money, etc. and by her example. While living with her, she signed me up for an oil painting class. I got hooked on painting and creating. Also attended classes in the evenings at Kansas City Art Institute, which were paid for by Hallmark if you made a B or above. The practical, basic instruction in drawing and painting has been so helpful.

    I will never forget what Janice Johnson did for me. I now work mostly in watercolor in a realistic style and always trying new things. Some of my art can be viewed at www.paula-reed@fineartamerica.com.

    My sister Jennifer is also very talented with her folk art wood crafts. I'm very proud of her.

    1. You can now also view my work on Facebook/Paula's Art Works.

  11. What talent! I LOVE those pansies...the colors. You are blessed to have such a woman in your life.

  12. Artistic sisters... that is wonderful and such sweet memories to share!

  13. What a neat story, and what a treasure to find!

    If you can recognize your Aunt Janice's artwork on sight, you might want to look for her cards in the auctions on eBay and Etsy. I collect vintage Hallmark cards by Vivian Smith, and find hundreds of them there. You might even find the production versions of some of the same cards that you have the original art for, which would be real cool to display together.

  14. Your aunt was so talented. What beautiful illustrations. I just love the artwork. Thanks for sharing.

  15. What a blessing to have all of those beautiful painting to remember your aunt. They are certianly to be cherished. She was a very gifted painter. I am amazed at all the details in her cards.So beautiful

  16. Loved your story! such beautiful cards and I actually remember some of those. We lived in Emporia, Kansas 1945 thru 1954 and my mother worked at the Hallmark Cards there.

    I had a cherished Hallmark "Little Women" book-like magazine. I loved looking at them and touching the feathers in their hats.

  17. These are just beautiful; you were so lucky to have such talented Aunts. I'm sure you will cherish these always. I loved your story and I really loved the pansies. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Jennifer, what a blessing!! I just love those pansies...such a wonderful treasure! Thanks so much for sharing with us.