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Winterset artist uses her skills to create a children’s book

Christine Hilbert

Christine Hilbert knows children books.

With a son entering preschool and another two-year-old son at home, she reads a lot of children’s book and knows what she likes. When her and her oldest son would sit outside their Winterset home and gaze at the stars, she got an idea for a story.

Plus as an artist, she knew could illustrate the whole thing.

She just needed some sort of inspiration.

She would—unfortunately—get that inspiration in the Fall of 2016.

“My brother in law passed away last year,” Hilbert explained. “So a lot of the inspiration came from trying to figure out how to explain loss in a way to a small child and make it attainable. So it has a positive twist I guess you could say.”

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Everything falls into place

After graduating from Iowa State University Hilbert spent three years at the Savannah College of Art and Design. After moving back to Des Moines in 2009 she started making jewelry and selling it at local craft shows.

“I just slowly built my business that way,” Hilbert said. “The jewelry side of what I do has sustained me for many years. And I’ve always painted. So for a long time I was trying to figure out a way to bridge these two components.”

So Hilbert started doing a series called Heirloom Anthology, which is drawings or watercolors combined with heirloom collections. She photographs it and takes those collections into a piece of jewelry.

Then last Fall she got the idea to write a children’s book.

“Everything I do is kind of chaotic but is kind of cohesive,” Hilbert says.

The story behind Echo of the Star came from personal experience Hilbert said. And her four-year-old son helped.

“A star that when the morning comes, goes away and its animal friends are sad to see it leave,” Hilbert said.

Hilbert wrote and illustrated the book. She says she didn’t want the book to be, “Super death specific.”

“Whether your parents are getting divorced, moving away, going home at the end of daycare, it’s for a little kid to have that idea that a memory can carry on,” Hilbert says.

And writing the book has helped Hilbert cope.

“I feel very humbled by people who find something emotional in it that they can relate to,” Hilbert said. “You just want to connect with people as a creative person.”


Winterset artist uses her skills to create a children's book | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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