Butte boy to Make CD of his Accordion Playing in May

Cantlon, Cleo. "Butte boy to Make CD of his Accordion Playing in May." Minot Daily News, 18 November 2002, sec. 3A.

BUTTE - The Holiday Showcases for products made in North Dakota have an extra glow this year for artist Nellie Edwards of Butte.

Not only has Edwards seen her "Mother of Eight" designs attract buyers at the state displays and a nationwide market, but she also shows off her son Teddy and his accordion at showcases in Minot, Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck.

I just started playing the accordion about a year-and- a half ago," Teddy Edwards said, "but I really like it." His musical performances have included the YWCA Chocolate Fantasy in February and the past two Norsk Hostfests in Minot.

He was particularly excited when Myron Floren remembered him from the 2001 festival and recognized him at the annual banquet. Teddy was delighted when Hostfest visitors wanted their photos taken with him this year.

"The most exciting thing so far, though, was when Dolajak Music Company told me at the Minot Holiday Showcase that they want to make a CD of me playing next May," he said.

Teddy is concentrating on polkas and waltzes for the CD but he is already planning farther ahead, including experimenting with changing tempos on songs.

The pint-size accordion player, who celebrated his 11th birthday in October, gets plenty of practice, including area anniversaries, Senior Citizen and American Legion meetings and other events. He studies with longtime Minot musician Jerry Schlag.

His parents brought their eight children Washington to Esmond several years ago, then bought a farm home south of Butte almost four years ago. Their rambling house provides creative space for Nellie Edwards and production, storage and shipping areas for her ceramic creations.

She began by selling refrigerator magnets, Christmas ornaments, jewelry and plaques.

"I'm branching into some more upscale things," she said, "like desk top items." She showed a small sculpture originally created for Great River Energy Co., surrounded by coal and mounted on an oak plaque with a brass engraving. She is working on a similar piece in honor of the Lewis and Clark expedition anniversary.

Many of her designs are created for one customer or occasion but can be modified for wider use. For example, a potato design showing the entire plant with its flowers, leaves and a baker's dozen of potatoes, was designed for the Washington State Potato Commission, but she predicts potato growers in other areas also will use it.

Like many of Edwards' designs, each potato pin is personalized for the customer.

Each year she expands her offerings. A new Christmas design was inspired by "Our Lady of Guadalupe." The mother of Jesus appeared to a peasant in Mexico in the 1400s and a serape that bears her image has been venerated in Mexico City's cathedral for centuries. Edwards added the infant Jesus to her design but stayed true to the Aztec Indian flavor of the original.

She has attracted other major buyers they include Polaris and Moose International in Roseau, Minn. She created a girl hugging a moose for the fraternal organization while the current Polaris model shows their original snowmobile in a crisp blue and white design. She is working on a new concept for Polaris' 50th anniversary next year.

Edwards is excited about the acceptance of her work. The famous Biltmore Estate in North Carolina has become a steady customer for one of her intricate winery designs. "We sell to almost 40 wineries around the country." she said. "The especially liked this design showing an antique hall table, books, a candle and a bowl of grapes."

A child waving a flag was the patriotic design she recently completed for Federal Interbank.

Not all her sales go to distant places like Georgia, California, Texas and over 30 other states. She also markets at Dakota Square Mall, the Minot Convention and Visitors Bureau, Home Sweet Home and the Minot International Airport gift shop.

Edwards has focused on the upcoming Lewis and Clark anniversary, creating designs that mirror events of the explorers' travels. She expects that 2003, the start of the observance of the trek, will add to her work load as she expands designs relating to the expedition.

"We do everything from the ridiculous to the sublime," she said. "I like my new snowman design and I'm excited about doing one with cemetery iron crosses for Michael Miller at Fargo for the Germans from Russia Heritage Society."

Even though many of Nellie Edwards' designs are folksy and whimsical, like the red barn of neighbors Ray and Frieda Plesuk, she researches each aspect of them. She also continues to study casting resins and glues to attach magnets, jewelry clasps and stands to some of her mini-art.

In the future she expects her work force to expand beyond her husband and children. The rambling house at Butte may be too large to be a cottage, but "Mother of Eight" designs is
cottage industry at its most successful.

Reprinted with permission of the Minot Daily News.

Nellie Edwards takes a break while she listens to her son Teddy playing his accordion.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller