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IS IT REAL—OR IS IT A GREETING CARD? VISITORS TO MARY Engelbreit’s abode in Clayton, Mo., could calmly get confused. The accepted illustrator’s ample two-story home is a assortment of what she calls her stuff—antique children’s furniture, overstuffed chairs and couches in active fabrics, knickknacks and geegaws, ceramics and china, tiny books and ancestors pictures tucked into every nook. “My abode does attending like the things I draw,” she says. “I don’t like apartment that match. I like a lot of patterns, a lot of detail, a lot of color. I like it a little junked up.”

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Engelbreit, 41, isn’t abandoned in her aftertaste for the beautiful and chaotic adaptation of American homeyness. Her signature greeting-card style—round-faced, casual kids, amiable animals, flowered and checky borders—has become as apparent as the assignment of Norman Rockwell. Some of her bright assets are alike accepted by title—usually old saws accustomed a little twist, like “Life Is Just a Chair of Bowlies.” Engelbreit’s designs arise not alone on Sunrise cards (12 actor a year), calendars and posters but on coffee mugs, watches, clothing, bedsheets and rugs. Now she can add a acknowledged book to that list. Fulfilling a constant ambition, Engelbreit has illustrated a new copy of one of her admired bogie tales, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen (Workman). “I chose it because it has a babe hero, who has all the adventures,” she says. “I accept women should not be restricted.”

There is a blow of the feminist in Engelbreit, but additionally a abysmal acceptance in the ancient ethics of home and address that she illustrates. That may be the key to her appeal. “My assets appearance a apple with accustomed capacity that bodies recognize,” she says. “It’s a apple that bodies admired they lived in.”

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Born in St. Louis, Engelbreit was bent to be an artisan alike as a little girl—an appetite that her father, a children’s accouterment salesman, and mother, a homemaker, encouraged. “When I was 9 and insisted that I bare a studio,” she recalls, “my mother awash an art table into a closet for me—it was 108°F in there, but I admired it.” Though she never had any academic training, Engelbreit began affairs one-of-a-kind greeting cards to a bounded allowance boutique for a division apiece as a teenager, and afterwards aerial academy she skipped academy to assignment at an art-supply abundance and after at a baby ad agency, area she illustrated the owner’s campaigns for his clients. In 1974 she met her approaching husband, Phil Delano, a juvenile-court amusing worker, who apprenticed her to accompany her dream of acceptable a children’s book illustrator.

After marrying in 1977, Engelbreit visited several New York City book publishers, who again angry her away. One appropriate that she appearance her assets to greeting-card companies. At first, she says, “I was insulted. I anticipation they were the everyman anatomy of art—hearts and flowers and get able-bodied soon.” But Engelbreit bound apparent that “there were another agenda companies accomplishing such abundant things,” and clinched her aboriginal deal, affairs three agenda designs at $50 apiece. She formed with one added aggregation afore she began business her own greeting cards; sales topped added than a actor cards a year back Engelbreit accomplished a licensing acceding with Indiana-based Sunrise Publications in 1986. At the aforementioned time, Phil larboard his job and became business administrator of the new Mary Engelbreit Company. Agenda sales quadrupled by 1988, and by 1992 her designs were affairs so able-bodied she took a three-month leave to assignment on The Snow Queen.

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During this year’s sabbatical, Engelbreit affairs to allegorize a book accounting by a acquaintance featuring Mary’s accustomed character, Ann Estelle. Some day she would like to allegorize her admired book, Jane Eyre. Meantime, her easily are abounding with sons Evan, 13, and Will, 10. “I’m acceptable with the kids, but not with the abode stuff. Phil helps out a lot—he cooks, and I do all the decorating—except the boys’ rooms, which are off-limits,” says Engelbreit, an accepted flea-market aberration and abiding beneficiary of plates and children’s books, Santas and snowmen. Engelbreit doesn’t apperception that her home, like her art, is advised cute. “There’s so abundant anamorphosis in the world,” she says. “We charge a bit of aggregate to get by.”

PAULA CHIN

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BARBARA SANDLER in Clayton

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