story is one of Faith and Inspiration. Learn how this talented fine artist
was inspired to create these endearing little birds and color them blue. .
. bringing hope and sunshine into her life to overcome despair, and
Artist Gretchen Clasby says, "I was near 40 before I realized I was magnificent in God's eyes. Not more than anyone else, but at least as much, and that was something I needed to learn." Gretchen's disarming honesty and humility have earned her immediate acceptance by the collectors who have met and heard her at collectibles shows and retail events since the Collection was introduced in 1998. Gretchen displays her affection and respect for each individual she meets and is known for her quick hugs and wit, as she shares her poignant personal story of faith triumphing over despair.
Coming out of a difficult divorce, with three children and financial problems, Gretchen credits the love of a dear friend with helping her get through those hardest years. A working artist for more than 20 years at the time, it was during this struggle that she had the inspiration for the little message-carrying bluebirds with their insightful scriptures that she came to call Sonshine Promises.
Until that time, her art had been one-of-a-kind fine art pieces that she sold to collectors. Her talent enabled her to regain financial independence, but it was the little bluebirds that changed her life. She began by creating the whimsical, witty birds to illustrate every scripture she had learned from her friend during the previous year.
She began by outlining the birds in black, putting them on scrap mat board and having them copied. Then she would hand color them and take the pieces with her to fine art shows. Gretchen says she figured she would sell a few for $5 each to help her financial crunch. To her surprise, she sold the little prints "by the fist loads!"
People wanted to know everything about her new Sonshine Promises birds, and her answers were simple and direct. The bird became blue because it is her favorite color. "He isn't any type of bird you'd recognize - it's just a bird and it's blue!" She gave it webbed feet "because you can do fun things with them." All the other features she rounded off - nothing is sharp - and she gave them big, expressive eyes, "because that's where you see the pain and joy and happiness in everyone."
Although she never took an art class past grade school, she realized in college that most of her electives were in the arts. Had she not married and started a family, Gretchen is certain she would have earned an art degree. However, it was her mother's encouragement helped Gretchen find ways to express herself through painting and then on to exhibiting at arts and craft shows.
In 1989 she stopped selling at weekend sidewalk shows and turned to inspirational and gift shops for her marketing. Her artwork began appearing on greeting cards and calendars, glassware and tabletop accessories, but she was unsuccessful in her efforts to create a figurine collection.
"We have samples from some of the best companies in the industry, and they came out with sharp beaks or flat faces," she recalls. We were finally able to obtain the designs we wanted, that captured the image and shared my philosophy for Sonshine Promises."
Gretchen had chosen the name as a tribute to her Faith. "Son" refers to Jesus, "who does make the sun shine." And like her artwork, each of the amusing little bluebirds has a whimsical message, followed by the more serious Biblical inspirational quote.
The Sonshine Promises Collection debuted at the International Collectibles Exposition in Rosemont, IL in June 1998. Distribution is through a network of national sales representatives to qualified gift and collectibles retailers, who have been designated as Authorized Dealers. Although no one had seen the Collection prior to the Expo, it won immediate, enthusiastic response from both dealers and collectors, who jammed a meeting room to hear Gretchen tell her story.
Gretchen resides in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. She continues to exhibit her fine art at regional shows and one-woman exhibitions nationally and to share her uplifting personal experiences with collectors she meets.
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