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October 23, 2017
Today we’d like to introduce you to Willy and Donna Petersen.
Willy and Donna, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.My mother, Annette Petersen started making and selling crafts in the late 60’s. Craft fairs were becoming popular and she received a lot of encouragement selling her stone and glass owls. When she started sculpting dressed animals she found they weren’t as well suited for fairs but sold very well in retail stores. By the time my sister, Donna and I joined she was doing both wholesale and retail and her sales were growing.
Although my mother is a very gifted artist she needed some assistance with some aspects of the business such as molding and instructing painters. My sister and I were able to organize the production to help us scale up to meet the orders. Orders were increasing partially because we were being helped along by a new trend we had no idea was coming. Collecting was becoming popular and we were becoming a collectible. This trend swept us along for many years. Donna and I do most of the sculpting now that my mother is 98 years old but she still sculpts and likes to come to the mouse studio every so often!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?We were fortunate to start making our miniatures at a great time but actually producing the sculptures is never easy. Any lapse in vigilance can allow quality to decline and an amazing amount of new ideas are constantly needed to keep our miniatures fresh and interesting. The market is in a state of flux now with the balance between brick and mortar stores and an online presence upsetting all the norms.
Family business has its challenges. For each strong minded person there must be others willing to accept and compromise.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Wee Forest Folk – what should we know?Wee Forest Folk is a line of miniatures handcrafted entirely here in Carlisle, Massachusetts. Most are mice (and a few bunnies) are dressed and going about their daily lives and especially enjoying the holidays. All the steps necessary to make a sculpture are done at our studio or in our artist’s homes. We are fortunate to have many wonderful artists working with us. We sell mostly to gift stores throughout the USA. We also have a growing presence in Japan and Singapore.
We are proud to have created a company that brings so much joy to so many. We hear most often how much our little mice make our collectors so happy. I also feel good that I have been able to help realize my mother’s artistic vision and ambition to have a successful business.
Wee Forest Folk is different than other collectibles because they are made from start to finish in the USA. We produce small batches whereas others are manufactured overseas in the thousands. Our miniatures are exquisitely hand painted by highly skilled artists and each one is handcrafted with precision and detail. In order to make a figurine here in this country it has to be somehow worth the inevitably higher price. We feel that by having everything under one roof we can have an extraordinary amount of control over the production of our designs. This gives us a wonderful freedom to be more creative and the assurance that each piece will look just the way we would like it to.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?People often tell us they enjoy having a collection of our characters that cause them to smile every time they see them. The emotional connection people feel to our miniatures is very important to us and we always endeavor to keep it front and center. One of my mother’s greatest joys in life is creating Wee Forest Folk and Donna and I also love what we do. I can’t help but think this comes through in the joyfulness of our sculptures and the response people feel towards them.
Another reason for our success is that people love that they are handmade. They notice the skill and attention to detail we bring to the production of our miniatures and I feel that serves to deepen their enjoyment and is just as important. People also love the touch of humor in each one and the little world that they would love to escape into!
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