Blog post written by Karen Lordi, Creative Director for Willow Tree
With strong themes of healing, comfort, hopefulness and remembrance, Willow Tree® is a product line that people turn to in times of loss. This is also often an entry point into the brand. Dealing with loss or struggling through adversity are personal reactions that people experience in many different ways, so Willow Tree artist Susan Lordi has created and carved multiple interpretations of these powerful emotions over the years.
The first Willow Tree piece that Susan carved was Angel of Healing. Susan used a small fragile bird as a metaphor for the vulnerability of our inner feelings. She worked on this piece very intuitively, leaving much room for personal interpretation. This piece, from the original January 2000 introduction, embodies the timelessness of Willow Tree.
Courage was first introduced as a donation piece for the Susan G. Komen foundation. It was sculpted to celebrate the triumphant spirit, inspiration and courage we call upon to face challenges in our lives. When the donation program ended, Susan re-carved and re-introduced this piece because it was so frequently requested as a symbol of strength and courage in the face of adversity.
Angel of Hope holds a candle, perhaps to guide one through dark places — to illuminate one’s hopes and dreams — or to thank someone for being such a shining light. Hope is a small playful figurine holding aloft a wire balloon in which the word ‘hope’ is written. The sentiment, “Hope lifts us up!” expresses the joyful exuberance of a child. This piece continues to be much requested by families who are going through a healing process with a child.
The figurine Healing Grace is a more mature piece… a woman with her arms and hands crossed over her heart. A woman who, through time, meditation, prayer, support of family and friends, is coping with a difficult situation or healing after adversity. In Susan’s words, “This piece is about making room for grace. We encounter things that might not, on the surface, seem like blessings; but if we wait — be patient, hope, trust — they might become our biggest strengths that we can draw upon.”
Evidence of the ever-increasing importance of the Healing & Hope category is the small angel, Remembrance, the #1 top-selling unit SKU from 2014 through 2016. The gesture of this angel, the importance of her title and accompanying sentiment, and her highly carved surface design and gold-leaf heart, reflect the strength of the connection that consumers make with this highly emotive product line.
In 2016, Susan introduced two new pieces to broaden the offerings even more in this meaningful category. While different from each other in scale and form, Vigil and Tapestry carry a similar intention and feeling.
About Vigil, a tall, elegant figure holding a candle, Susan says, “I wanted this to be a strong message of hopefulness and healing, with attention on the gold flame. An upward vertical emphasis, in variations of gold and white. I wanted her whole form to glow, to give a sense of an inner light. Vigil can be seen as a welcoming piece as well as a bereavement piece; a healing piece, a serene piece, a piece of comfort and mindfulness.”
Tapestry is a small, intimate piece encrusted with gold leaf. Susan’s story about this piece. “This piece is very much about healing. Her gesture is protective. While carving the relief pattern on her dress, I just kept carving… I wanted to push the message further, so I kept going, surrounding her with nature and everyday objects—metaphorical of a life well-lived. The carved icons reflect our connections to those we love. Our story is one we share with others, all woven together, as in a tapestry. When we lose someone special, our shared experiences and memories become all the more precious to us.”
There are many other Willow Tree pieces that communicate healing and/or hope… a tree, a prayer, Blessings, Heart of Gold, Angel of Caring, Hero and Love. It is Susan’s hope that by providing this variety of expression, customers will find a piece that speaks clearest to them, based on their own personal experiences.