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Green Bay Press-Gazette (US)
October 23, 2002

Local woman adds charm to Tori Amos' new CD

by Jim Kneiszel
jkneisze@greenbaypressgazette.com

A Green Bay woman working out of her basement is playing an unlikely role in a Sony Music CD release by singer-songwriter Tori Amos.

Debbie Ellison, who markets beads and charms from her Loch Drive home, was hired by Sony executives last month to deliver 184,000 pewter charms to be packaged with the singer's concept album, "Scarlet's Walk." Each of a variety of charms chosen by Amos fits the theme of a song on the limited edition package being released Tuesday.

It was an unprecedented order that came when the music giant happened upon Ellison's 3-year-old virtual storefront, wisconsinplaza.com. Used to shipping small orders to crafters here and there, Ellison was suddenly vaulted into the big-time entertainment industry.

"It was a learning experience, I'll tell you that," Ellison said. "I know I wouldn't want to work for a corporation as large as Sony that has that many heads in one room."

Ellison said the project was on-again, off-again numerous times between when she was contacted in late September and the recent shipment of charms to four different factories. Amos hand-picked several charms from hundreds offered by manufacturers to be among items included in a trinket box with special-edition discs.

The trinket box also will include a DVD, photos and a map showing the journey taken in "Scarlet's Walk," according to Sheri Lee, a vice president of design for Sony Music. The special package will be available at major retailers and will come at a higher list price than a standard issue of the CD released at the same time.

Lee said music companies are turning to more sophisticated packaging to convince consumers to buy CDs instead of download music from file-sharing Web sites.

"It creates more of an experience for the consumer," Lee said. "To me it's unfortunate that we feel we need to do this. The consumer no longer feels the value is the music."

Ellison orders beads and charms from manufacturers worldwide. Many of the beads are from Eastern Europe while all the charms, in pewter and silver, are made in the United States. The fledgling business has grown big enough for her to hire son and daughter-in-law Jerry and Brandi Manning to handle shipping and run a storefront she plans to open in Green Bay in the spring.

Charms have been making a fashion comeback in recent years, and Ellison has seen no let up in the trend. Popular for bracelets, charms also are used in wine rings to identify wine glasses at parties and in wedding invitations.

A gifted piano player, Amos, 39, is known for modern or alternative pop fare and compelling, introspective lyrics. She has had three multimillion- selling albums over the past decade.

The details

- The release of the concept CD "Scarlet's Walk" is set for Oct. 29; the first single, "A Sorta Fairytale" debuted last week on MTV.

- Amos' representatives ordered 184,000 pewter charms from Green Bay small business wisconsin plaza.com to be included with the CD. The charms help carry the album's themes.

- A bracelet featuring charms chosen for the album will be packaged with an autographed "Scarlet's Walk" disc and sold on eBay to raise money for the Golden House, a shelter for battered women and their children in Green Bay.

- On Dec. 1, Amos will play at the Riverside Theater, Milwaukee. For tickets, call (414) 224-3000.

- Amos played at the Weidner Center in September 1996.


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