Ivy & Innocence was created from our little village of bricks.
Ever since I could hold a crayon, I colored. I had an artistic eye and spent a lot of time coloring. I did not just color in my coloring books, oh no… I highlighted and shaded. Nothing is one color. I saw a full spectrum of shades and various hues. I love that we are all created so uniquely different in so many ways.
As I grew older, I continued to draw and paint but never dreamed anyone would pay me for something I love to do. I shelved my work and life went on. Eventually, I fell in love and married.
Exactly one year later (I remember this because it was on our first year wedding anniversary), my husband was laid off. At that time we had one child, Jonathan, only a few months old.
By December things were tight. Squeaky tight. I remember walking the mall trying find anything we could afford for Christmas. The problem was we couldn’t afford the necessities let alone gifts. I was disheartened. Then an idea struck… I can paint something and I said, enthusiastically:
“Let’s make our gifts this year. I can paint something.”
John, my husband, was skeptical. I had never shown him any of my artwork at that time but I knew I could paint as good as the items displayed in the stores. So, with the few dollars we had, we bought paint. For Christmas in 1986, we gave our family hand-painted wooden angels. Needless-to-say, they were well received and our business grew from there.
At first, I painted on wood (or anything I could find). John would cut, sand and shape the wooden items and I painted them. Soon we began doing the local art and craft shows. By late 1987, we began using bricks. I painted what John cut and we could not make them fast enough.
In 1988, BrickWorks was born. I quit my job to acquire the extra time I needed to paint. We began traveling to various art and craft shows across the country. I painted, it seemed, non-stop. At the shows, I continued painting behind our tiny podium on the floor because there was no room to paint anywhere else. After the show, John two-wheeled boxes of bricks into the hotel rooms for me to complete until I could no longer stay awake. This was our life for several years. However, as time ticked on and our child grew, I knew we could not continue at this demanding pace. It was only a matter of time before we would burn out. We had to take our business to the next level, but we did not know how. Seven more years passed.
During a show in 1995, a few months after our youngest was born, I met a man who shared the information we needed to take the next step into the collectibles market. Without Matt, Ivy & Innocence would have never happened. I am, and forever will be, grateful for Matt. John and I decided to scrape together everything we could, take a leap of faith and turn our brick village into Ivy & Innocence.
I began converting our brick village into the very first Ivy & Innocence pieces, via 3-d line drawings. All the necessary arrangements were coordinated, including securing the funds to bring the initial pieces into the country. When the white sculpts arrived, they needed reworking. I painted them to set the high quality of standard I would expected and to show them my unique painting technique.
It was a few weeks later when I received the first re-sculpted, perfect samples. It was the Ivy & Innocence I envisioned. These prototypes were delivered to our house a day before we were to leave for Indiana. A few days later, during that 1996 collectibles show in South Bend, these Ivy & Innocence prototypes made their premier appearance.
By this time, the Reader family had grown. In 1996, we had three boys; a one-year-old, a two-year-old and a nine-year old and I felt like I was missing their entire childhood. (With complications during the latter part of my third pregnancy, I was ordered bed-ridden. And after my surgery, I wanted to spend as much time with my boys as I could).
Exhausted, we continued producing brick, we had to in order to pay bills and fund Ivy… although, now, John had to travel alone while I recuperated and rested. I painted more brick, designed Ivy & Innocence and cared for our very healthy, very rambunctious boys ~ I felt like I was juggling three full time jobs. (What is rest?)
John left every Friday for the next show and returned late Sunday night. On Mondays he tried to catch up on sleep, then unload and together we ran errands, restocking supplies, including diapers. He cut brick on Tuesday & Wednesday while I worked on Ivy (and potty training boys). John watched the boys on Thursday and Friday while I tried to paint as much brick as I could. On Friday afternoons, he loaded everything I could get done, leaving as late as possible to let me finish more. Then he drove all night to set up for the next weekend show (wherever it was) to return in the early hour of Monday morning. Then it started all over again. We were reaching overload.
That following January, at the 1997 Atlanta Gift Market, we began accepting the first orders for our new collectible line called Ivy & Innocence. Our booth won the 1st place booth award and the first Ivy cottage I designed received an award for excellence in conception, design and creation. It was a whirl-wind of exhaustion and excitement… and it was at this show in Atlanta where a company approached us, offered to help and I entered a licensing agreement. In less than three years, they merged with another company. A few years later, this merged business failed and our fledgling line never had the opportunity to establish itself in the marketplace.
At the time, I was recovering from a life-threatening health issue along with other crushing blows in my life, including the death of my father and grandmother. Looking back, would I have done things differently? Yes, but it was a huge learning experience that I will always treasure. It shaped me into what I am today.
I am stronger and wiser from all my tribulations. I have gotten back up, safe and sound, and brushed and whacked and scrubbed the dust off (there was a lot of dust). Through all this, I have been blessed… given precious time to watch my children grow into the wonderful young men they have become. As they leave the nest and my heart aches… I focus on another love, patiently waiting for me to return and continue what I started years ago. I want to give Ivy the chance it deserves ~ to become the legacy I know it can become.
Once again, I draw on my inner strength to marching forward because I believe in Ivy.
Built on a solid foundation, Ivy & Innocence was created from our humble brick past and it has persevered. Ivy has the strength of friendship, the love of family, and the endurance to overcome. Ivy is truly a special place in time… and it is where I belong.
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