What started out as a garage cleaning task for my sister and me, ended up with a crafting history jackpot yesterday!
Let me take a moment to tell you how this journey started. Several years ago Heidi, Momma Aleene and I met with our life-time friend Hazel Pearson to talk about what she wanted to do with some of her company’s history archives. Hazel was well into her 90′s at the time and it was time to discuss how to preserve the early history of today’s craft industry. When we met, Hazel granted me rights to all of her published materials and we discussed how to start making the transfer of archives. It was a bittersweet conversation for the four of us as we knew that an era of crafting history could easily become forgotten if we did not take action. Let’s take a quick peek a few years back.
ALEENE & HAZEL THE EARLY YEARS. Born in 1914, Hazel’s early years as a one-room school teacher and her mother’s passion for china painting led to her interest in teaching women how to craft. Because no “craft stores” existed in those early days, “crafting” for Hazel focused on teaching copper tooling and china painting. Fast forward to 1944 when, at the age of 19, Momma Aleene had just opened her first business, a florist shop in Arcadia, CA.
It was natural that the creative paths of these two women would quickly cross. They had a similar passion for crafts, an entrepreneurial spirit and lived in nearby cities. Hazel was ten years older than Aleene so she had a bit more experience under her belt at that time and was the first person to introduce Aleene to the Hobby Industry Association. At that time, HIA consisted of model trains, remote control airplanes and hobby items. It wasn’t long before Hazel Pearson Handicrafts was well known for introducing the world to resin grapes (she imported the glass resin molds by the train carload ) and Aleene’s Fibre and Floral Supply Company was known for its huge success with Aleene’s Wood Fibre Flowers and junk (recycle/upcycle) crafts.
Over the years, these amazing women remained friendly competitors in adjoining California cities (Temple City and Rosemead) and even teamed up in 1967 to launch the Aleene’s Craftmaker Caravan which is credited with the birth of today’s craft industry. Our families took vacations together and spent holidays together.
Always amused by Aleene’s “in-your-face” marketing style, Hazel took a quiet behind-the-scenes approach to her business building. These women were well respected and revered and adored by crafting fans and served as tremendous role models for women business owners in a time when female entrepreneurs were few and far between.
For many, many years, Aleene and Hazel had talked and dreamed about some type of craft museum where industry manufacturers could display their early-years products and samples. It would be a great way to preserve the rich history of their businesses and many other sewing, yarn, craft, button, millinery and tool companies who share a history and passion for this industry. Unfortunately, that dream never came to be in Hazel’s lifetime as she passed away in 2011 at the age of 98.
Thankfully, in 2009, my sister Heidi started making regular trips to LA to pick up boxes that Hazel had stored in her garage. Heidi and Hazel would open each box, review the contents and Hazel would give a “yeah” or a “nay” for Heidi to take that box with her. As you can imagine, it was very difficult for Hazel to part with her craft treasures but she was very grateful that my sister and I were taking on the task of preserving craft history. During that time, Heidi transferred about 100 of Hazels boxes to our garages. We didn’t learn of Hazel’s passing until Christmas 2011 when Aleene tried to make her annual Christmas call to Hazel. We’re not sure what happened to the all of the museum quality collection that she had in her home (Hazel’s home was filled to the brim with 60-years of collecting) but we do know that some are in the loving hands of her daughters and grandchildren and others were sold at her estate sale.
Yesterday, Heidi and I started to dig into the boxes that we had been storing for many years. When I asked Heidi for 2 hours of help, little did I know that 5 hours and one box later that I would find that our dear friend Hazel had unknowingly given me my greatest crafting treasure!
Tucked into the bottom of one box were several bottles of glue and when I found this one I squealed with delight. Heidi had already left for a grandson’s basketball game, but Momma Aleene was home so I rushed inside to show her the treasure I had found – a well-worn bottle of Glue d’Aleene. I have shared this story for many years how Aleene’s Tacky Glue had first started as Glue d’Aleene but Momma Aleene changed its name when designers and customers would ask for “that tacky glue”. And now, 50+ years later, we have uncovered one of those original bottles.
Thank you Hazel for leaving your crafting legacy to us and for preserving the greatest gift you could give back to the Aleene’s family! You are dearly missed and we will always do our best to be sure that today’s crafter never, ever forgets you and your incredible crafting legacy!