Who was Betsey Clark?
If you were to travel through Amarillo, Texas, you would not be asking that question. Although she passed away November 6, 1987, she is still remembered there for her unique waifish characters with their ability to spread the glow of love to whomever experienced them. She was an artist for Hallmark Greeting Cards of Kansas City for 25 years, and her paintings have been exhibited at Amarillo College and West Texas State University. Her characters were licensed to all manner of toy and art manufacturers; names like Knickerbocker, Picco, Coleco, Hummel and Goebels. The Amarillo City Commission proclaimed April 15, 1973, as Betsey Clark Day. Betsey lived in a modest home, and shunned the general fame her talents brought.
At age 9, Betsey had already won prizes from magazine and local fairs. Her drawings were almost always of children, portending the focus of her future creations. She developed her professional training at Amarillo College and the Los Angeles Art Institute. She won a scholarship to the Parsons School of Design in New York, and received special training from Chouinard School of Design in California. Initially, her art teacher frowned upon her characters, but she persisted, refining her style. While attending school in Los Angeles, she worked at Disney Studios, which helped her develop her prolific talents. During the WW2 years, she supported herself as a drafting technician and technical illustrator at the Amarillo Air Force Base Technical Design Department. During her career, she traveled extensively throughout Scandinavia and absorbed a good deal about paper mache, book binding and stichery from the European artisans she met. She joined Hallmark in 1962, where she worked on greeting cards adorned with her "whimsical waifs", creating both the art and the captions.
She instantly gained a popular following eagerly awaiting each new release. Eventually, she ceased writing the text for her cards, the demand for more and more of her art consuming all of her time. Thousands of fan letters poured into Hallmark as her fame grew and lives were touched. In 1973 and '74, W. Goebel & Co. of West Germany was commissioned by Hallmark to make four Betsey Clark figurines for them of fine hand painted porcelain. In May of 1980, Hallmark began a test marketing program in four areas of the United States (Florida, Seattle, Detroit and Philladelphia) where BC afficianados could pay $15.00 and join the exclusive Betsey Clark Collector's Club. They received a welcome package in the mail which included stationary, a membership card, a newsletter and a pewter figurine. A total of three special pewter figures were created for the Collector's club, sculpted by Duane Unruh and offered only a single year. These figures are now highly sought-after and coveted by those who find them.
Betsey liked to work at home, preferring to "work off in a little bitty corner with the drapes pulled around me" as opposed to Hallmark headquarters in Kansas City. She continued producing artwork until her passing, and Hallmark has recently resurrected many of her characters, re-issuing them as cards and porcelain figurines. Although her artwork has been imitated, it's overall effect has never been duplicated. Betsey Clark's 'waifs' will continue to brighten our days for years to come...
The 2nd edition of the Betsey Clark Collector's Guide is back in production with expanded descriptions and color photos! Sorry for the long, long delay, but circumstances like deaths in the family, the economy forcing me back to work full-time, have stalled my efforts. Still, I have since resumed the task and hope for completion before the end of 2013.
Feel free to contact me using the contact tab.