As Executive Director of the Quebec Federation of Home & School Associations, Carol Meindl develops projects, writes grants and makes presentations before the provincial government. A far cry from what she did the first 25 years of her working life, crafting and selling china figurines? Or maybe not!…
Recently, Blue Met contributor Shelley Pomerance spoke with Carol Meindl about her unusual career path and about the books that have influenced her.
One of the first novels Carol Meindl remembers reading as a child is A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, about a girl she describes as “a misfit, yet who was very clever, very smart, and who was going to make a difference…” Later on, she read Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. “I think the overlying message of those books is be yourself, yet dare to be different enough to make yourself noticed, but still be within the social norms. You have to be socially acceptable, but you can have your own flavour. That’s very important when you’re a teenager and you’re always trying to conform and failing miserably!”
Meindl’s parents immigrated to Canada from Germany, in 1950. Newly married, they lived in Toronto, and worked in local factories. “My mother had always liked Royal Doulton figurines, but of course they could never afford them. So my father built her a little kiln and bought her clay, and she started making beautiful hand-built figurines of her own.” In the late 1960s, after their children came along, the family moved to Nova Scotia, where Elfriede Meindl entered her figurines in the Lunenburg craft exhibition. “She made these fishermen figures – nobody else was making them – and fishermen go over big in Lunenburg County! She sold them for three dollars apiece, and that money went a long way…”
She soon had her children making little clay figures, too. “My older sister was making menschen – little goofy figures, my other sister was making mice, and my little brother and I were making teeny tiny toadstools, and selling them for 10 cents apiece.” Later, Carol and her sister Susan turned their craft into a business and began selling their work at craft shows.
After she moved to Montreal in 1986, Meindl continued to produce and sell her small china objects. A few years later, she married and had a family, and when her children started school, she began volunteering for the local Home & School Association. That’s when she began to see things in a different light. “When you make figurines, you spend a lot of time alone in your studio. All of a sudden I was part of a team of women my own age, with kids in the same school, and we had a lot in common. Up until that time, the only two people I really worked with were my mother and my sister. This was a totally different experience and I really liked it!”
The goal of the Quebec Federation of Home & School Associations is to provide a caring and enriched educational experience for students. Meindl has served at all levels of the organization, first as a volunteer with her local home and school association, then as director of the Quebec Federation of Home and School Associations, and within a couple of years the QFHSA’s president, then past president and now executive director. Along the way, she packed up her business, Meindl Figurines, but the experience she acquired at craft shows has come in very handy. “When you’re constantly dealing with the public, putting on your best possible face, explaining your product, why it’s special, why the customer should want it, that gave me an opportunity to develop public speaking skills.” And much more.
Carol Meindl dares to be different, has her own flavour, and through her organization, the QFHSA, makes its members – parents – heard.
Here are five books recommended by Carol Meindl that can be purchased on Amazon.ca:
|A Wrinkle In Time – Madeline L’Engle|
|Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen|
|Emma – Jane Austen|
|The Masqueraders – Georgette Heyer|
|A Civil Contract – Georgette Heyer|
– Shelley Pomerance