'Friends' Fall Feast

Courtesy of Owatonna People's Press, October 11

LuAnn Heyer, owner and operator of Faribault’s Annie Belle Creations, showed off her wool designs and explained her creative process to a packed house Wednesday at the Friends of the Arts Center fall luncheon.

“A lifetime seamstress (who) started at (age) eight or nine,” Heyer eventually spent nine years doing displays at the Faribault Woolen Mill, she said. During that period, she opened Annie Belle Creations and realized products are “much better” when made “from the heart.”

“I’ve been fortunate to make lasting relationships with my clients,” Heyer added. “They make me smile.”

“It’s unique to go to a shop, meet the designer — and the person who makes it — and share a real connection with the garment and the creator,” said Silvan Durben, creative director of the Owatonna Arts Center. “It’s really exciting to see an individual who has made a career being creative,” and Heyer, he added, is “able to personalize warm, comfortable, wearable” clothing.

“Years of experience go into every coat,” Heyer said. In her clothing creations, “we’re all about the story,” and she now uses “fine wools from all over the globe.”

Several models — many of whom were converted to Annie Belle Creations by bringing Heyer items and then being thrilled with the resulting coats, vests, etc. — showed off their clothing Wednesday. Not all models took that approach, though, like Patti Braasch-Turi, who stopped in the store recently and immediately found a perfect coat for herself.

It “was like it was made for me,” Braasch-Turi said last week. “It had my name on it.”

“This is one of a kind. I never saw a blanket made out of this before and probably won’t again,” Heyer said. “Doesn’t she look great?”

Another of Wednesday’s models, Mary Kaye Tillmann, “had a vision,” Heyer said. “She knew exactly what she wanted.”

In order to create a “flattering” coat from the American flag blanket Tillmann brought Heyer, she needed to consider myriad factors, including which side to make the coat’s outside — the jackets are not reversible — and “where it’s going to hit,” Heyer said. The key, of course, was managing an “Americana look” without leaving Tillmann looking “like an American flag.”

“It’s amazing,” and Heyer “just has an eye” for this, Tillmann said. “I didn’t think it would be that warm, but it is.”

Retirement is not in Heyer’s near future, as while “fads come and go,” she has “found a way to keep current and in-demand,” Heyer said. She focuses on the “three P’s” of patience, persistence, and passion, because “if you don’t have all three, I don’t think you can do this very long.”

Recently, she “developed a real game-changer,” the circle vest, she said. The circle vest’s “versatility” is alluring, as it can be turned simply into a cape or scarf — a process she demonstrated Wednesday at the OAC.

The circle vests and circle coats “kind of conform to the person wearing them,” due to limiting seams, she said. In addition, it’s ideal for travel because “it folds completely flat.”

Heyer has been in business since 1989, opening her Faribault store in 1996. In addition to the vests and coats she crafts from blankets, she makes everything from memory bears and mittens to hats and neck scarves.

Each year, the Friends of the Arts Center organize this luncheon, complete with a meal and a speaker, so “everyone can learn something new and enjoy each other’s company,” Durben said. “The Friends do a wonderful job with the whole day.”

Indeed, while the arts provide an avenue of expression for those with ideas to share, those words “would fall on deaf ears” without patrons like the Friends of the Arts Center, Heyer said. “Thank you to the Friends of the Arts Center.”