Byers' Choice

Barbara Blankenship © 2009

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We visited Byers’ Choice when the dogwoods were in full bloom. Meticulous care has been taken with the grounds surrounding the campus, and I was so impressed with the beauty of the area. This was one of our last places to visit and one of the most memorable.

We explored the visitor’s center, the Emporium and watched from the observation deck as artisans worked their magic creating Carolers and Kindles. The wonder and magic of Christmas surrounded us as carols played quietly in the background. We walked from room to room and saw some of the most amazing creations. In one room there were displays of crèches from all over the world. Each artisan had interpreted the nativity scene and recreated it in amazing and beautiful form.

Byers’ Choice began as a creation from the talented hands of Joyce Byers. In the late 1960’s when aluminum trees and tinsel were so popular, she longed for the warmth and tradition she remembered from her childhood.

Starting with scraps of fabric, a small piece of her Mom’s old fur coat and various other fibers, she created her first caroler. It graced the Byers’ family dining room table that Christmas; everyone seeing it fell in love with this whimsical little creation. She began selling them in area stores, and the unique appearance and handcrafted quality appealed to everyone who saw them.

Over the intervening years the business grew and prospered into the remarkable campus it is today. Robert and Joyce Byers, along with their two sons Jeff and Robert Jr., employ approximately 180 artisans. As many as ten artists may work on one creation, and no two are ever alike. A special personality and appearance evolves with each creation.

Byers’ Choice is known throughout the community for their support and donations to various charities. Each year the family donates 20% of their proceeds to help those in need.

In 1993 Evelyn Lauder of Estee Lauder Companies founded the Breast Cancer Awareness Month along with designating the pink ribbon as a symbol. Each year the various cancer charities use the month of October to concentrate efforts for campaigning and fundraising.

Joyce Byers discovered a beautiful fabric with this tiny pink ribbon symbol. Using this fabric as her inspiration she created a unique pink ribbon Caroler. With the creation of this lovely little Caroler, Byers’ Choice joined in the effort of fundraising for breast cancer research. A percentage of the sales from the pink ribbon Caroler are donated to the Fox Chase Cancer Center.

This October the various breast cancer charities will once again concentrate their efforts toward fundraising and campaigning for more intense research into the field of breast cancer. Byers’ Choice and the James Michener Art Museum in cooperation with Victoria Adams Brown will present the original WTWW ArtBra Collection. The exhibit will be on display the entire month of October. Byers’ Choice will host a Gala event to kick off the exhibit. Ticket sales will be donated to the Fox Chase Cancer Center. By logging on to their website you can check the schedule of events.

As a designer of four of these ArtBras I am so excited to see these wonderful creations continue to bring awareness to the issues of breast cancer. The designs garner differing responses including laughter and amazement with the sheer creativity. The one thing in common, however, is the impact they make. Pictured here are several of the ArtBras featured in the exhibit:

"Hot Flash"
designed by Stephanie Novatski

"The Girls"
designed by: Stephanie Novatski

"Foul Play"
 designed by Julie Yonge

"Sweet Seduction"
 designed by Julie Yonge

"Earth Mother"
designed by Allison Aller

"Flower Girl"
designed by Allison Aller

"Grape Expectations"
designed by Barbara Blankenship

"Opposites Attract"
designed by Barbara Blankenship & Debi Nielsen

"Pansy Pickin'"
designed by Victoria Adams Brown, founder of the ArtBra Collection

"Mask of the Bird Brassiere"
designed by Victoria Adams Brown, founder of the ArtBra Collection

Perhaps a little known fact is the story accompanying each ArtBra. Each designer was asked to write a short fictitious story regarding who might have made or worn the bra. The stories are amusing as well as inspirational.

It’s wonderful to realize the impact these ArtBras have had on those who view them. And to see them continue to bring awareness and aid in fundraising brings such joy and pleasure.

I had the pleasure of visiting the ArtBra Exhibit on display at the Joe Arrington Cancer Center in Lubbock, Texas. I asked Dr. Catherine Ronaghan, one of their attending physicians, to autograph my 2006 ArtBra Calendar. Her words bring inspiration each time I read them: “ Bless you for raising awareness! Continue God’s work!”

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