Karen Mueller is not a cancer survivor. She doesn't have any close friends or family who died of the disease.
But three years ago, on a day she found herself praying through tears, the Springettsbury Township woman had an idea that seems could have been born only of empathy.
Mueller is the creator of newly patented tight-fitting, cotton caps designed for people experiencing hair loss but "funky enough that every-
body would want to wear it."
A lifelong artist, Karen Mueller had made a living for years selling her paintings.
"And then the recession hit," the Springettsbury Township woman said.
The economic times demanded pragmatic art. Mueller said she remembers crying and praying for guidance when -- seemingly for no particular reason -- a vision of the "funky" and "fun" caps suddenly came to her.
Maybe, as a redhead, she's just extra sentimental about hair, she joked recently at her studio.
HedArt: The idea -- which she soon came to call HedArt -- fulfilled a second goal Mueller had set for herself: to help people.
Cancer patients not only endure the pain and sickness that comes with chemotherapy.
"They also have the heartbreak of losing their hair. To most people, it's devastating," Mueller said.
Mueller said it's taken a few years to perfect her product. She admits marketing is not her strength, and she found roadblocks where she hadn't expected them.
Groups like the American Cancer Society and local hospitals did not immediately embrace HedArt the way she'd hoped.
At first, she designed caps embellished with colorful, dangly accessories. But she eventually found that most customers preferred the plainer version.
Catching on: She'd made 50 caps before realizing the caps will shrink until they've been washed three times.
Mueller now sells nine sizes of caps separated by three-eighths-of-an-inch increments.
"So many times, I was just going to walk away from this," she said.
Friends and family -- and some new, loyal customers -- urged her to keep going.
"Finally, it's beginning to catch on," Mueller said.
Today, she has customers in Russia, Australia, Hawaii and, of course, York. The caps are for sale at Sweet Melissa's Dream, 51 N. Beaver St., and the York Health Boutique for Women, 180 Leader Heights Road.
They are also available on Etsy.com, an online store for handmade items. The caps range in price from $35 to $55.
For more information, visit www.hedart.com or contact Mueller at Karen@hedart.com.
-- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.