Fond Memories of “The Original” Cookie Cutter Lady
Phyllis Steiss Wetherill
No site about cookie cutters would be anywhere near complete without acknowledging the contributions of the founder of it all and our dear friend, Phyllis Wetherill, who passed away January 31, 1995.
Phyllis had many “firsts” in the area of cookie cutters.
She started collecting in 1953. She felt that this was something that anyone could afford to collect. As her collection increased she wondered if there were any others who shared her interest in cookie cutters and cookie shaping. In 1971 she placed a small item in Women’s Circle magazine looking for others who shared this hobby. Thus, the Cookie Cutter Collectors Club was started with just four people who answered her ad in the magazine. Today that small group has grown to a national club with well over 300 members and many smaller regional clubs. The national CCCC holds bi-yearly conventions, each time in a different part of the country.
With the start of the club, Phyllis published a newsletter to keep collectors up-to-date. Her newsletter “Cookies” was published until 2002 with Phyllis doing all the writing of 6 issues a year for 13 years until her death in 1995.
During that time she also authored 3 books on cookie cutters and was nearing completion of her fourth one. The information for that fourth book is used as the basis for much of this web site. So much of the information we have on earlier cookie cutters and cookie history comes from Phyllis’ research and writing.
On a personal note, I began collecting in the mid 1970’s when my children were very young. I was fascinated by the wonderful little cutters and soon began buying them and hiding them around the house because I thought there must be something wrong with me to be so obsessed with them. In 1979 I found a small article in the Washington Post with a color photo of Phyllis’s wonderful cookie cutter collection and information on how I could find out about the club! I was estatic. No longer did I have to keep this compulsion hidden in the back of my closet. I Was A Collector! And there was a whole organization of others just like me. I went to my first meeting shortly after that and met Phyllis and over the years we became close friends.
A number of times while I was living in Germany and Phyllis would come on her yearly trips to the Christmas marts, we were able to spend those days together looking for cookie cutters. She was always a whirlwind of activity as she breezed through the stores looking for something new. (We always had a rule, however. If there was only one, it belonged to the one who touched it first!)
Phyllis was interested in so many things along with her interest in cookie shaping and its history, but I think what fascinated her most was people – all kinds, from all different places and backgrounds. When we were at conventions together, she would always sit with some one new so she could get to know them. Once on a long drive to a convention (in the days before everyone had a cell phone) my husband had insisted I bring his CB radio in case of an emergency. She wanted to know what it was and how to use it. After I showed her, she spent the remainder of the trip talking to the truckers we passed!
Even today, when I find something new and different in cookie cutters, I can’t help wishing she were here so we could share the fun. I know she would have enjoyed the internet and all the wonderful knowledge it has brought. But we wouldn’t have gotten this far if she hadn’t started it all.