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Challenges, problems, and triumphs -- from a manufacturer's perspective.

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The History of Walnut Hollow®

One of the genuine pioneers of the modern craft industry.

Staff Report (January 16, 2012)

(Note: CLN is in the process of publishing histories of industry companies, including Plaid HERE), Michigan Scrapbook Scrapbooker magazine, The Creative Network, and Design Works Crafts (current issue). If you would like to submit a history of your company, send it to mike@clnonline.com.)

A timeline for one of the industry's iconic companies:

1972. Walnut Hollow was started by Dave and Nancy Ladd as a family idea that originated from the family tree farm in Wisconsin and an interest in nature and woodland conservation practices. The family enjoyed planting, pruning, and watching trees grow on their farmland. When some of the mature trees were harvested, Nancy began making woodcraft projects using cross-section pieces from the tree limbs. At that time, dried flowers, bread dough art and decoupage were very popular.

1973. Dave attends his 1st HIA Trade Show to market Ladd’s Walnut Country Rounds® which were offered in eight sizes. Customers were served Wisconsin cheese and crackers and he went home with $25,000 in sales. With the help of family, business friends, and the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Dave developed a manufacturing process and Walnut Hollow was soon on its way. After a short period of time, the Country Rounds® line was expanded to include a full array of rustic products with the natural bark look.

1975-76. Scott Ladd, Dave and Nancy’s son, is introduced to the art of woodburning. At the age of 13, Scott attends trade shows with Dave and demonstrates woodburning techniques. With Scott’s help, Wanut Hollow becomes the craft industry’s "Pioneer of Woodburning.".

The original Creative Woodburner® Pen is developed along with special tips and techniques mastered by Scott Ladd.

1978. An expanded Naturally Rustic Woodcraft line is launched and the first Creative Woodburning® book is published. Soon thereafter, a complete line of woodburning products is launched along with a clockmaking program to include wood blanks, movements, and numerals.

1980. After exhibiting at various trade shows, a partnership develops with Sue Scheewe, a widely known tole & decorative painter. Sue began painting on Walnut Hollow's rustic products and this led her to create original artist patterns designed exclusively for woodburning and Walnut Hollow. Her endorsement contributed considerably to Walnut Hollow’s growth.

1981. Walnut Hollow becomes one of the first craft companies in the industry to promote merchandising and education. More books are published and woodburning kits become an integral part of the product line.

1982. Walnut Hollow celebrates its 10th anniversary and acquires O-P Craft Company. With new equipment and manufacturing capabilities, new products are developed such as boxes, plaques, and plates. Basswood and Walnut Natural Plaques are added to the growing product mix and a woodcarving program is developed to include carving blocks, tools, and books.

1985-86. The company takes a new marketing direction with Routed Shapes, Functional Wood, Country Primitives, and Signboards. As sales grew within these categories, the company began putting more emphasis on those products. The rustics all but disappeared except for Country Rounds and Planks.

A new decorating trend emerged and the American Country Woodcraft line is launched. The collection includes primitive signboards, shelves, letters, and gameboards.

1987. On May 8, 1987, a fire destroyed company's offices, shipping department, warehouse, and more than fifty percent of the inventory of finished goods. With the help of the business community, friends, and employees, the company was producing and shipping product within three days after the fire. In spite of the loss, the company was able to achieve substantial sales gains by the end of the year.

1988. Dave receives the Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year award and becomes second runner-up in the national competition.he was honored by President Regan in a Rose Garden ceremony. The product line approaches 500 items. New programs include doll furniture, carved plaques, project promo kits and sales-building woodcraft assortments.

1990. Home décor for the 90’s is the company's new direction.

At HIA's Press Day in New York City, Scott Ladd unveils wooden birdhouses to the craft industry.  Over the next year, more than 1,000,000 birdhouses are produced.

1992. Walnut Hollow celebrates its  20th anniversary. Expanded home décor lines are introduced, including small furniture pieces and screen-printed seasonal shapes. A new signboard program and laser-cut phrases are launched.

The company is now producing more than 1,000 products using state-of-the-art routers, lasers, sanders and planers.

1993. Unexpected death of Scott Ladd, who by that time was VP of Sales & Marketing.

1994. Walnut Hollow teams with Priscilla Hauser to publish 12 new decorative painting books.

The Scott Ladd Memorial Award is established by ACCI and awarded to Walnut Hollow for 15 years of loyal participation in promoting creative crafts in the industry.

1995-96. Four new woodburning books are published and a collection of frames and wide-edge basswood plaques are launched.

The Contemporary Folk Collection is introduced, along with pre-stained functional wood pieces and slide-lid Boxes.

1998. Walnut Hollow receives the HIA Innovation award for the new Basswood Folk Boxes and the Doll Furniture Collection is expanded to accommodate the popular American Girl® dolls.

2000. A Lifestyle Collection of small, affordable furniture pieces is developed for the DIY customer.

2002. Walnut Hollow celebrates its 30th Anniversary.

Dave Ladd receives the HIA Lifetime Member award for his commitment to the association and the industry.

2004. Walnut Hollow receives the HIA Innovations "Best of General Crafts" award for the Creative Versa-Tool™ and Creative HotMarksTool.

2006. The John H. Brogan Environmental Achievement award, Wisconsin's highest form of environmental recognition, is presented to Walnut Hollow and Dave Ladd.

2009. The Creative Metal® program is launched and includes a comprehensive product mix including metal, tools, accessories, and kits. Two new Clay Tools are added to the product line.

2010. Walnut Hollow manufactures new wood surfaces including cherry and oak Signboards and Basswood Canvas™. Professional tools for artists and artisans are introduced.

2011. Wood panels are added to the mix of new wood surfaces, giving customers new options for stamping, painting, altered art, embellishing, and collage.

2012. Walnut Hollow® celebrates its 40th Anniversary and launches the new and improved Creative Versa-Tool™.



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