Started at Hallmark:
Started at Keepsakes:
Lynbrook and Long Island,
Sue can trace her influence on Keepsake Ornaments back to the very first set of ball ornaments produced in 1972. But after 46 years as an illustrator, product designer and sculptor, it’s difficult to point out a type of Hallmark product that she did not create at one time or another in her career.
“I was in the right place at the right time to be able to develop lots of skills. I’ve worked on about everything,” says Sue, who recently retired from Hallmark as a Keepsake Artist. “I got an education in all kinds of stuff and the opportunity to make all sorts of wonderful products. It was a lot of fun.”
Since starting with Hallmark in 1964, Sue lent her artistic talents toward illustrating cards as well as a Hallmark newspaper comic strip, helping create Hallmark’s first plush animals, and sculpting Hallmark Little Gallery collectible figurines and Keepsake Ornaments.
“I was about to graduate with an art degree from Syracuse University, and they said I had better start getting interviews for jobs,” she explains, “so I went to this meeting where Hallmark was recruiting just so I could tell my parents I had had an interview—and Hallmark hired me! I called my parents, and they encouraged me to go to Kansas City. I thought I would come here for a year, and here I still am. But I love it here.”
Sue started as an illustrator in what was then called the “Cute Department,” and one of her very first supervisors was renowned Hallmark Master Artist Mary Hamilton, whose own work is reflected in the Mary’s Angels series of Keepsake Ornaments. In 1971, as she prepared for the birth of her second child, Sue started working from a studio in her home. It was from there that she first sculpted for Hallmark, something she says she was surprised to do.
“I never had studied sculpting at all, but I used to make little sculpted things as gifts for people,” she says and laughs. “When Hallmark started its Little Gallery gifts, I was asked to do some work because people had seen what I made on my own.”
Her first Keepsake Ornaments as a signature artist appeared in 1996. Some of her favorites to create were among her Keepsake series, such as The Language of Flowers, Happy Hatters and The Way to Bees, as well as her Itty Bitty Bears and “The Queen of…” collections.
“I really enjoy making characters out of thimbles and boxes and other objects,” she says. “I loved the jointed ceramic teddy bears and any dangly characters that move, like Snowshoe Snowman that I did for the Keepsake Ornament Club (from 2011). Sweet Little Soldier (from 2008) is one of my all-time favorites because I loved the mechanics, and Chocolate Moose (from 2007) because I like that quirky play on words with visual humor and movement.”
Sue says she does plan to keep creating. “Since I’ve retired,” she says, “it’s astounding how busy I am just living life!”
While in the company’s gift-wrap and party department, Sue created what would become her first Keepsake Ornament.
“I came up with this group of elf characters who interacted playfully with nature, and I did three pieces of artwork featuring the elves. One was chosen for a ball ornament for the 1972 line,” Sue says. That ornament, simply named Elves, features a group ice-skating on a rink made from a sardine can.