“The kids had crayons in their hands before they could talk,” said Karen Hammerschmidt this week, behind the counter of her Redwood Falls shop Lights of Home.
Hammerschmidt knew all about growing up in an artistic home. As a little girl in a suburb of Los Angeles, “my father was very artistic. He was always working on something.”
When her daughter Mary was in ninth grade, the two began collaborating on whimsical sculptures and paintings.
“Mary and I have always worked well; we’re always thinking of new creations.”
They still do. For one recent sculpture of a snowman, Karen created the face, while Mary made the body out of paper-mache and clay.
Like all artists, Karen and Mary wanted their work to be seen, and began selling their works locally.
Over the past 14 years, the duo built up a following in the region. One day, while looking through a website for folk crafts and gifts, they decided to contact the company.
“They liked what we did, and we signed a contract with them,” said Mary.
“We’ve designed many collections over the past eight years for different companies: ESC Trading, Crossroads Original Design, and now an exclusive contract for Midwest CBK”
“We create the prototypes, and license them,” Karen explained, adding, “We always have to think a year ahead. The line we finished just now is for Spring, 2014.”
The two still have a following, but now it’s nationwide. When they’re not creating for the larger market, Mary and Karen prefer to keep their focus on southwest Minnesota.
Hence, their gift shop “Lights of Home,” in downtown Redwood Falls.
Why open a gift shop?
“It’s what we do,” Mary said, as if it’s self-evident.
But first, they needed a space. The narrow shop used to be an alley between two larger buildings. At the turn of the century, it was walled up to become a barber shop. More recently, it’s been both a yarn shop and the office for a cotton shop.
“I have an extremely supportive husband,” said Karen. “Dan and my son Michael basically gutted the building. There was nothing left but the bricks.”
Lights of Home opened just before Christmas in 2008.
“We were open for 35 days, and it was a huge success,” said Karen, “so we thought we’d give it a try for spring and summer.”
Being open from April until January means they shop undergoes several changovers a year.
Page 2 of 2 - From Oct. 19 until Nov. 1, the Hammerschmidts will do the annual changeover from autumn decor to Christmas decorations.
Now open Mondays through Saturdays, Lights of Home sells other collections and original artwork in addition to Karen and Mary’s.
With most of their sales coming from royalties across the nation, how would Mary and Karen like Lights of Home to be perceived?
“We would like our shop to be a place where families always come to enjoy the changing seasons — a tradition, you might say,” said Karen.