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Shy,"Boring" Accountant Takes Reigns of Isabel Bloom
Watching Concrete Bloom: A Peek into Isabel Bloom's Studios
A Heavenly Gift for an Angelic 100 Year-Old
Gift Giving Across the Country
Mom to Be Shares Passion for Blooms
How to Make Your Own Fairy House
A Real Princess Fairy Tale
Megan's Best Birthday Ever
On the Wings of Hope: Escaping from Perfect
Art with Heart and Soul
Building a Home with Love and Sweat Equity
The Comfort of Sisters
Behind the Scenes: A Bloom Festival Story
Saving a Starfish: A Story of Hope and Faith
Blooms Speak Language of Love
The Comfort of Home
Soothing Small Souls with Heart
Mammogram Party Saves Lives
Love at First Sight
A Family Affair: Collecting Blooms Together
Flying on Wings of Hope
Isabel,Through the Eyes of Her Student and Friend
Taking Concrete Steps to Feeling Great!
Bringing Cheer to Children
All Cracked Up
A Happy Halloween for Area Women
Friendship Goes on Blooming
Helping Children and Their Mothers Shine
Expressions in Bloom
The beauty of a rose may last for days, yet the beauty of someone special will live on for eternity.
Sometimes it's better to put love into hugs than to put it into words.
Other things may change us but we start and end with family.
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When Isabel sold her sculpture studio back in 1981, she sold it to loyal customers, the late Barb VanVooren and Bernie Murphy (along with a couple of silent partners who sold their shares back). Barb and Bernie had known and loved Isabel for years. As the new owners, they would take the studio to the next level ... with their families' support and help.
We have been delighted to reconnect with Barb's daughter, Guff, recently. She had called owner and sculptor Donna Young for help restoring an original Isabel Bloom direct concrete piece that her father, Bob, owns. Donna and the artisans repaired and restored "The Family," which Bob has generously allowed us to display in the Isabel Bloom East Village Studio heritage room through the holidays.
Guff reminisced with us about her mom's - and whole family's - experience as stewards of the Bloom legacy. Guff spoke by phone from Minneapolis, where she works with several nonprofit organizations.
We plan to interview Bernie Murphy and her family for an upcoming issue ... so stay tuned!
How old were you when your mom bought Isabel Bloom?
It was the Summer of '81 and I was going into my senior year of high school. There were 7 of us, 1 boy and 6 girls. It was so exciting for us. We were all - my dad and all the kids - so proud of Mom for doing it.
Did you know much about the company?
We already had a lot of sculptures all around our house, and we bought them for gifts. I remember seeing the sign that said "Open by chance or by appointment." We used to go to Isabel's studio. We were huge fans.
What jobs did you have?
My mom used to say Bloom had "great job opportunities for the VV kids." Most of us worked there. I am proof that we had real live mold scrubbers. That was one of my "opportunities." Two of my sisters, Ali and Sara, were UPS packers at one point. We used newspaper then. They would come home filthy, head to toe. My oldest sister, Mardy, would babysit Chris when she came home from college. We also answered phones, helped with sales. The more artistic among us - Steph - learned to finish and coat the sculptures. All of us did something that revolved around Isabel Bloom.
What was it like to work there?
It was such an energetic place! Always fun, but especially at the holidays and when new sculptures came out. The line would go out the door and around the corner. It felt like everyone you knew in the Quad Cities was coming through the doors to buy Blooms for themselves or others. It was such a happy sharing. Like a party.
It was very cool to see Mom work there. I remember how proud Dad was of her.
Did your mom ever buy sculptures for you and your siblings?
Oh, my, yes. We had a tradition at Christmas time. There would always be 7 blue bags under the tree. Everybody got the same sculpture, so we all had to open our bags at the same time. We couldn't wait to see what it would be. Hugs was one of our favorites, along with Violet and Lovebirds. We also received Birdwatcher and other larger pieces on special occasions. Birdwatcher is still my favorite piece.
Your mom and Bernie did a great job of stewarding the Bloom legacy. What would you call her greatest gifts to you?
My mom is one of my - and my siblings' - hugest role models. Gosh, she was my age, 47, when she bought the company. She was a strong and independent woman with great integrity. She showed us all how to not be afraid to take a chance. She supported us in everything we did. She showed us how to love unconditionally.
Mom also showed us how to work hard, be patient and persevere. She was a great leader, very determined and positive. She and my dad are the most giving and generous people I've known in my life. She and my dad are the most family-oriented people I've known in my life.
So, owning Isabel Bloom was a good fit?
Oh, absolutely. Isabel Bloom is all about family, whether you're talking about the sculptures or the people. What a legacy! Isabel's family and my family and the Murphy family and Donna's and the other new owners' families and the employees' families - this is what the company has always been about.
It's a legacy Of family For family.
It's pretty exceptional. I'm so glad that this local, iconic sculpture studio is still thriving. It's something we all can be proud of. The VanVooren family is honored to have been a part of it.