“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
The Lordi sisters behind the inspirational brand of figurative sculptures, Willow Tree, are Girl Scout Alums who found the best co-workers are family. Susan (“Sue”) and Karen Lordi have been working on projects as a team since childhood, and that sisterly teamwork has transformed into a powerful duo that’s flying high in the world of consumer art. Together, they’ve created a brand that defied artistic styles of the time, combining Sue’s art with Karen’s words.
For the Lordi family, it’s no surprise that Karen and Sue work together today because their childhood was filled with partnerships that complemented the skills of each girl. A joyful Karen found herself the willing assistant for big sister Sue’s big ideas. “Sue was always coming up with creative projects, and she wanted someone to do them with. As her younger sister, I’d do anything she said!” said Karen. From the mini summer camp they organized in their neighborhood, charging $.10/child for the day, to building Sue’s high school float (where Karen did more work than the high schoolers), the two made a great team.
During their childhood adventures, they hatched a plan to create a puppet show that mirrored their working lives today. Sue painted beautiful backdrops, sewed costumes and sculpted the papier-mâché puppets while Karen wrote the script. They both performed the show in a little puppet theater their father built and soon got requests to come perform for birthday parties in the neighborhood. This artist/writer partnership still exists today, with their creation of the international brand, Willow Tree.
“We’ve always had this artist and writer relationship,” Karen said. “A few years ago, we realized, ‘gosh, we’re doing the same things now!’ I’m sculpting the figures, and she’s doing the writing!” Sue said.
During their childhood, both girls experienced the power of Girl Scouting. Their mother was a troop co-leader and the girls fondly reflect on memories of the play she put on with each of their troops. The play was a great way to incorporate visual art and performance art. Engaging in the costume design and scenery painting fulfilled some of Sue and Karen’s artistic desires.
As adults, Sue and Karen found themselves in the roles of co-leader and troop leader for many years. Sue encouraged her Girl Scouts, which included her daughter Sara, with innovative outdoor art projects. Karen led two troops for her daughters, Diana and Julia, for 10 years, focusing on a lot of challenging outdoor experiences. With such a love of the outdoors, it’s no wonder that the Willow Tree team does hiking retreats each year as a team builder!
Today, Sue and Karen continue their strong sisterly bond, sculpting Willow Tree figures and writing the titles and sentiments that accompany each piece. Creating Willow Tree pieces that inspire the consumer has become a passionate life’s work for both women. By standing together, believing in the original creative rationale they presented when forming the brand, they’ve been able to maintain an incredible standard of quality in Willow Tree for nearly two decades. Talk about some serious G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM working together!
“[Our job] is just fun. It’s not just about making money, there are a lot of places you can make money, but there aren’t many places you can have this much fun at work,” Sue said.
As Sue and Karen worked on the piece “Butterfly” that is flying into our Inspire a Girl celebration, they reflected on their own “butterfly stories” and the times they’ve overcome personal challenges. For Sue, she feels transformation happens “any time you have inner healing.” For Karen, one of her butterfly stories was learning to manage business and family. “Over the years, we’ve had to learn when to be sisters and when to work together on business. Sometimes it’s nice to just be sisters and go shopping together,” Karen said.
Every day, these sisters work together, and what they produce is a testament to their connection and creativity. You can see and feel their passion for what they do every time you give the gift of Willow Tree, and it starts from the dynamic duo of Susan and Karen Lordi—plus an amazing and dedicated team at DEMDACO!
We invite YOU to share your Butterfly Story TODAY and enter to win some AMAZING prizes – including your very own piece of Willow Tree! Girl Scouts are invited to submit their “Butterfly” story by March 12th and our friends at Willow Tree and DEMDACO will select the winning entries – including Sue and Karen! Each Girl Scout in the troop and her leader(s) will receive her/his own “Butterfly” sculpture AND complimentary entry to April 14th’s Inspire a Girl! We will also feature the winning stories at Inspire a Girl and get a special photo opportunity.
A special thanks to DEMDACO for their incredibly generous donation of the “Butterfly” sculptures, and to Susan and Karen Lordi for their involvement in this contest.