Her penguins wear plaid mufflers and play with bears.
Her lady bugs have tea under a mushroom umbrella.
Her cats are frisky; her flowers radiate sunshine; her birdhouses offer a cheery welcome.
And if you look at them and smile, Debbie Mumm feels that she's done her job.
"I want to be known for art that makes people feel good," Mumm said during a telephone interview from her Spokane, Wash., office. "There's nothing edgy; it's friendly art."
And maybe, in some way, she says, it will promote kindness; maybe help someone have a brighter, happier day. "In a nutshell, that's the basis of all I do. My goal is to brings smiles to people's faces."
It's a formula and style that consumers — particularly women — are embracing in increasing numbers these days. Mumm is now head of a corporation and licenses and distributes her products in an almost endless variety of forms.
She will be introducing some new products and talking about her art when she visits the Village Quilt Shop at Gardner Village, 1100 W. 7800 S., West Jordan, on Saturday, Sept. 22, from 10 a.m.-noon. She will be signing free 5-by-5 prints for those who want them, and door prizes will be given away.
It will be fun to be at the quilt store, she says, because that's what started it all.
Mumm found she had a talent for art in elementary school, when she was assigned bulletin-board projects. "I would hole up in my room for hours, sketching and experimenting."
But she didn't really think about making it her life's work until the mid-1980s, when she began making quilts, and then, instructional kits so that other women could copy her designs. That was followed by a number of quilt books. And that led to designing fabrics that could be used for the quilts. Then came a line of kitchen products — towels, hot pads and such. And from there, she says, it has expanded into all kinds of products.
Now, everything falls into three basic categories — quilts and fabrics, home decor and gift products. But those categories include a wide variety of items, everything from books and notecards to lawn ornaments and music boxes. "Decorating is a personal passion that I also do for my own enjoyment," Mumm says.
But she loves sharing that passion with others. "We provide the design and the fabrics so that people can duplicate our look exactly, or they can use our designs as a foundation to express their own creativity. I see my designs in home decor as a natural outgrowth of my work in quilts and textiles. It's about self-expression, creativity and innovation. And I love to work functionality and creativity into the same product."
Mumm does a lot of holiday designs and motifs. "It's so fun to decorate for holidays; it adds joyful traditions" to any holiday — not just Christmas, but Halloween or Thanksgiving or Valentine's Day, as well.
Recently she has launched a line of papers, stickers and stamps for scrapbooking. "I love the contagious enthusiasm of scrapbookers," she says.
Her most recent designs have also involved a lot of flowers; and she's found it a lot of fun to explore the textures and patterns of floral designs. "We use different color palettes — spring or winter colors." And she finds that variety both challenging and stimulating. She loves the thrill of creating something new, she says.
New — and yet, there's no denying that there's also a nostalgic element in her artwork. "Nostalgia is one of the ways we connect with people," Mumm says. "We all have a connection place in our hearts or minds." If she can help bring it out, help people feel personally connected, all the while having fun, she feels good about her work. "That's kind of a noble pursuit, don't you think?" she said with laugh.
Mumm talks about how lucky she feels to be able to do what she does. "There are a lot of creative people out there. I'm not sure why I get to do this. I feel very fortunate."
Although she's head of a large corporation, Mumm is the first to admit she's not your typical CEO. She's apt to show up in overalls, likes to munch on chocolate at her desk, and when she's feeling worn down, she may take a day to do nothing but watch old movies and rejuvenate. She serves chocolate and champagne to her staff on Valentine's Day, sponsors monthly birthday lunches and keeps employee morale high on her priority list.
And, she says, her goals in business are pretty much the same as in life: "Be kind to others. Focus my energy and love toward my family always. Laugh a lot. Continue to develop my heart and soul. Enjoy beauty and nature. Have a balanced life."
It's enough to make anyone smile.