Started at Hallmark:
Started at Keepsakes:
Even after a 40-year association with Keepsake Ornaments, Keepsake Artist Linda Sickman still gets a twinkle in her eye and a lilt in her voice when she talks about them.
“After doing three or four hundred ornaments, I have lots of favorites, and for different reasons,” she says. “The first six produced in 1975—how could I not include them? They got my career really going. I love the process of doing tin ornaments, which is totally different from the sculpted ones, and I love that they are lightweight and not branch-breakers. I love all the series, whether Americana or rocking horses or nutcrackers and miniatures. Gosh, my list does go on and on.
“But one ornament is stuck in my mind,” she says. “It’s from 1986, a lighted panorama ball ornament called Gentle Blessings. I sculpted little animals around Jesus in the manger, and that scene symbolizes the essence of Christmas to me. That’s why we celebrate. It’s still my absolute favorite after all that I’ve done.”
When working on an ornament, Linda has a tried-and-true methodology for inspiring her creativity. “I eat,” she says and laughs. “I procrastinate a lot and then I decide to think about it a little bit more while I get something to eat, and that gets me determined to work.”
“But there’s a reason behind it,” she explains. “I can do all the sketches in the world, but when I sit down to sculpt, it all changes. The creative process is ongoing. Every time I put my tools on the ornament, something happens; either the material itself or my feelings toward it will guide my tools. It’s very hard for anyone to describe the artistic process. I used to wonder why everyone didn’t have artistic ability, but I have grown to accept it is a gift I can share. Not everyone can do this, and everyone’s process is different.”
Through the years, she has embraced what she calls the wonderfully supportive community of Keepsake Ornament collectors—but she is quick to say that ornaments can be just as appealing to someone who isn’t looking to start a whole collection.
“Find the ornaments that speak to you,” Linda says, “the ones that represent memories from that year, or something that reminds you of your own childhood or your child’s, or of an event for your family that year. Buy Keepsake Ornaments for the memories. They will be with you for a long time, and you’ll be able to revisit those memories when you get them out at Christmastime every year.”
Portrait of an Artist: Linda Sickman (1989)
Childhood memories of Christmas gathered while growing up in rural Missouri inspire Hallmark senior designer Linda Sickman to create some of the most popular Keepsake Ornaments.
The Tin Locomotive, Rocking Horse and Clothespin Soldier collectible series are only a few of the classic and nostalgic ornaments created by Sickman.
“I create ornament by thinking back to my childhood, of Christmas treasures belonging to my sister, my brother and me, or to things I wished for as a child,” she said.
Sickman conceived the idea for the first Tin Locomotive ornament, which appeared in the 1982 Keepsake Collection, when she recalled wanting to play with her older brother’s train set as a child.
“I was fascinated with the motion, and the way the track was set up around the Christmas tree,” she explained.
This series is one of her favorites because she likes working with tin. The finished ornament is lightweight and doesn’t pull down a Christmas tree’s branches. Litho printing makes the ornament colorfully detailed as well.
To create her designs, Linda first sculpts an original. The design is stamped and die cut next. Sickman then competes the flat art work used as the pattern for the finished three-dimensional piece. The ornament finally is litho printed, embossed, die cut and assembled.
Sickman has created Keepsake Ornaments since the line’s 1973 inception, and has been a Hallmark artist since 1963. Her many artistic skills go beyond sculpting, and she has worked in such areas as lettering, gift wrap and party ware design during her career at Hallmark.
Her 1988 Keepsake Ornaments include Tin Locomotive, Rocking Horse, Babysitter, Goin’ Cross-Country, Noah’s Ark, Sailing! Sailing!, American Drum, Old-Fashioned Schoolhouse, Old-Fashioned Church, Light and Motion Ornaments Country Express and Parade of Toys and lighted ornaments First Christmas Together, Festive Feeder and Bearly Reaching.