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The way artist Mary Engelbreit turned her line of sweetly illustrated greeting cards into a booming licensing enterprise was simple: She did what she herself loved.

The 42-year-old St. Louis native's love of home, hearth, family and friends inspired her first greeting card designs. And like-minded women

snapped them up.

Continuing to draw on her real-life experiences as a wife, mother and friend, Ms. Engelbreit came up with a plethora of designs that today have found their way onto more than 300 products.

Mary Engelbreit products include wall hangings, stationery, books, calendars, tote bags, jewelry, apparel, bedding and rugs. Total licensed merchandise sales this year are projected to reach $88 million-that's a 76% increase over 1993 sales, which jumped 66% over 1992 sales of $30 million.

Sales at the flagship Mary Englebreit retail store in St. Louis are soaring, too, and an other store is scheduled to open in Atlanta this year. Meanwhile, the At Home with Mary Engelbreit home fashion collection is being introduced at department stores.

Her designs appeal particularly to women, who love her warm, whimsical messages like "Bloom where you're planted," and "Life is just a chair of bowlies," along with her eclectic design style.

Reminiscent of needlepoint, stitchery and modern quirky textile prints, the

Mary Engelbreit look manages to be hip but not square; sweet but not schmaltzy.

And Ms. Engelbreit truly lives her message of home and family: her business manager is her husband, Philip Delano, who quit his job in 1986 to become president of Mary Engelbreit Co. and has developed the licensing operation.

"She draws the things she loves, and her life truly is about being a wife, mother and an independent person, much like her audience of women

who buy greeting cards and related products," says Janet Keller, who with her husband, Tom, of Keller & Associates, St. Louis, oversees Mary Englebreit's publicity.

Yes, that's two husband-and-wife teams behind Mary's success.

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