working two jobs and attending college at night as a single
mother, Linda Lindquist Baldwin found a book at a garage sale
about how to make papier-maché Santas.
She made several of the Santas and sold them at a local craft
fair. Over time, Belsnickles have become a multi-million dollar
Life is unpredictable.
At times every day seems to repeat itself when suddenly everything
can turn on a dime. Or in Linda Lindquist Baldwin’s case, a
It began with a
garage sale. While traveling home to Joplin from Springfield one
Saturday in 1986, Linda stopped at a small yard sale. Even today,
not sure what caused her to stop. At the time, she was a single mother working
two jobs and attending college at night, so she could hardly afford to spend
time or money at a garage sale.
Linda struck up
a conversation with the owner and learned she was going to a nursing
home after her husband’s
death and needed to sell most of her belongings. Feeling sorry for
the woman, Linda desperately scanned the table looking for something
to buy when her eyes landed on a worn book featuring old-fashioned,
papier-maché German Santas called Belsnickles. She paid a nickel for
the book and took it home, where she immediately fell in love with the collectibles.
As she read, however, she learned the antiques were worth thousands.
was no way I could afford that,” she says, “but that
McDonald County determination kicked in and I thought, ‘I’ll
make one myself.’”
no artistic training, Linda began experimenting with Elmer’s
glue, newspaper and water. She created several crude Santas and, hoping
to earn extra cash to buy clothes for her son, set up a booth at
a Joplin craft fair and priced them at $6 a piece. Years later, she
would buy one back for $75. She now has a $6,000 offer for it.
Linda’s surprise, the Santas quickly sold out. More importantly,
a scout from Better Homes and Gardens saw her creations. “He
told me no one else in the United States was doing this and I was
renewing a lost form of papier-maché,” she
Linda began designing
crafts for Better Homes and Gardens, and soon she was receiving calls
from other national magazines, as well as CNN and NBC’s “Nightly
News with Tom Brokaw.”
Each Christmas, Linda designs a new Belsnickle Santa.
Above is her latest.
was suddenly interested in my Santas, and there was no way I could
keep up,” she says.
she launched into business. In 1992, the Schmid Company, a firm specializing
in gifts and collectibles, began duplicating Linda’s
work from her originals and placing a nickel in each collectible
to remind collectors of Linda’s story. Four years later,
she joined with Enesco, the world’s
largest gift and collectibles company at the time. With Belsnickles
among the company’s top sellers, earning about $4 million
per year in retail sales, the company rented a stretch limo and
luxurious hotel suite for Linda once a year when she traveled to
Chicago to meet with Enesco executives.
the nation, signing her work and speaking to collectors. The New-Mac
Electric member’s extroverted personality made her an ideal
are typically known as being shy,” she says. “Well,
I was almost 40 before I became an artist and it was too late
for me to become shy.”
Linda, who has
made life-long friends while serving jury duty, came to form special
bonds with many collectors at these events. She often refers to them
a long-time collector who lives near Joplin, has met Linda on numerous
the most gracious person you will ever meet,” Hardman
so busy, but she always has time for you.”
Linda never knows where she'll find her inspiration. These snowmen
were inspired after her husband, Bill Cearnal, apologized after
typically works 18-hour days, six days a week, credits
her work ethic to her upbringing on a McDonald County farm that
lacked running water and electricity. Years later, she
often visits that farm to find peace while she works.
knows where she’ll find inspiration. Her Belsnickles, which
have expanded to include snowmen, witches, rabbits and
Red Hat Society members, often have a story behind them. For instance,
a collectible that depicts two snowmen with arms wrapped around
each other was inspired by a time when Linda’s
husband, Bill Cearnal, apologized after a tiff. Collectors
love the way Belsnickles capture such moments.
me of a gentler time,” says Hardman, who displays her
collectibles year-round like so many other collectors. “They’re
not like the roly-poly, ha ha Santas. They’re
To protect collectors
like Hardman, Linda made the latest change in her life. In 2002,
she left Enesco to start her own business, Seasons
of Snickles. By limiting the production of Belsnickles,
she can ensure the collectibles keep their value.
Running her own business, however, means more responsibilities
and constant work. Still, she’s loving it and
has no plans to quit anytime soon.
see myself retiring,” she says. “There’s
nothing I’d rather do.”
For more information,
visit Linda’s Web site at www.lindalindquistbaldwin.com.