Hallmark has heard you loud and clear… you LOVE Matt’s ‘unofficial’ series featuring miniature appliances! And they have confessed, they love them too. Matt has done a fantastic job bringing such unique detail and simple movement to these adorable mini ornaments. Keep reading to learn more behind the scenes info about Matt’s inspiration, and more!
Hallmark asked Matt if he was aware of how much his fans love these miniature appliance ornaments and he said, “yes, the mini appliances or kitchen items began in 2018 with the miniature Tiny Teapot I worked on.”
Matt went on to say, “it did so well that I then began to look at other items in the kitchen that could have a Christmas theme or styling. My inspiration comes from looking at existing products, such as things people have transformed for Christmas in their own kitchens and upcycled art. My background is in Industrial Design, so I enjoy the history of vintage appliances and I enjoy cooking.”
Much like other Keepsake artists, Matt also looked to the Keepsake Studio for inspiration. He said, “Tom Best and Nello Williams, among other Keepsake artists, have done a great job of incorporating appliances into ornaments, so that also was also a big part of the inspiration.” And taking a few notes from a few ‘sweet tooth’ artists, such as Nina Aubé and Tammy Haddix, Matt said, “another big part of inspiration are waffles, coffee, cookies, warm toast, baking… things critical to living a good life!”
Matt shared more about the simple movement we have seen of these ornaments in more recent years. He said, “another thing we began to incorporate is more simple magic into our miniatures, so that gave me more opportunities to explore the storytelling. You can lift the handle on the toaster to make the toast pop up, turn the knob on the bottom of the ornament to see the mixer work,” – 2023 sneak peek alert! – “and open the waffle maker to get a snowflake shaped waffle inside.”
Did you catch that? Matt mentioned a waffle maker – stay tuned for that miniature ornament release next year! It is the Whimsical Waffles ornament, where you will be able to lift the lid to see the festive waffle inside!
Until then, we hope you enjoy the Merry Mixer, available for purchase at Ornament Debut in October.
Meet the Newest Guy in the North Pole
How Sheyda Advabi Best created Young Santa.
We’re so excited to introduce you to Young Santa, the first ornament in a new series that will tell the childhood story of our favorite gift-giver. This adorable ornament was created by Sheyda Advabi Best, a senior artist in Hallmark’s Visual Studios, who gave us a peek into her artistic process.
To start, Sheyda looked at toys and characters from all over the world and closer to home. “In my studio is a display case full of ‘Kawaii’ toys, which inspire me with their pillowy shapes and stylized faces. They’re so cute!” she says. She was also inspired by snow-days gone by, when she and her sisters would be so excited to get out and play they’d leave a mess of coats, mittens and scarves on the floor.
“I thought it would be sweet to give the same feel to Young Santa—he’s so excited to get outside that he forgot to put on his other boot!”
Once inspiration struck, Sheyda began sketching out dozens of versions with all sorts of proportions and styles. “I wanted to make sure that I exhausted every option before settling on one look,” she says. After sketching, it was time to sculpt. The rough shape of our not-so-old Saint Nick was formed from clay. Then she made molds, casted melted wax into them and refined the wax shape with sculpting tools, sandpaper and an electric waxer device.
Sheyda says she had to be very mindful of how she handled the wax, because there aren’t any undo buttons if you accidentally snap o an ear!
“I can remember literally holding my breath when I was doing some of the smaller detail work. It requires a lot of concentration,” she says.
After the sculpting, Sheyda painted the prototype before adding in some delightful details: a pom-pom, leather ribbon, and we can’t forget his adorable puppy companion!
Speaking of companions, did you notice that cute cardinal on the top of the Young Santa Special Edition ornament? Sheyda says the little birdie is doing its best to help deliver Christmas joy. The limited-quantity Young Santa Special Edition will be available at Ornament Debut, but in the meantime you can pick up the first-in-series Young Santa at Ornament Premiere!
We can’t wait to see where this series goes in the future, and Sheyda assures us we have plenty to look forward to. “Expect to see lots more storytelling about Young Santa’s childhood. You might even discover how he learned to spread Christmas cheer!” she says.
“Meet the newest guy in the North Pole.” For Keeps 21 Summer 2022: 4-5.
Nina: “He’s engaging in every kid’s most anticipated holiday activity… opening presents on Christmas morning! He’s in his red jammies, which look just like the red flannel footie pajamas my two sisters and I had when we were kids.“
Nina went on to say, “since sweets are an integral part of the series, the tree is a 3-tiered sugary cupcake with red licorice garland, centered on a peppermint taffy rug. I don’t have a photographic memory, so of course needed to buy some licorice while I was sculpting this one for ‘research purposes.’”
Nina: “the cookie cutter is a present with a bow on top, which echoes the shape of one of the colorful gifts under the tree. The 3D shape is created digitally. I gave a sketch to (fellow Keepsake Artist) Rodney Gentry, who created a 3D prototype from the drawing. The scene inside is sculpted by hand. I work in a very firm wax-based clay, which needs to be warmed up first, so it’s pliable enough to rough out the basic forms. Once the clay cools, it holds its shape for even the tiniest details, which I carve into with various tools.” We are still in awe of the talent of Hallmark’s Keepsake Artists, and constantly reminded, it truly does take a (Keepsake) Village to bring these beloved ornaments to life!
The Sweet Lil’ Mouse miniature ornament is the SAME little mouse friend from the series, in miniature form!
Nina: “I love the smaller version, it makes a really cute complement to the larger series. The mini is all about sweets as well, so he’s about to nibble on a yummy star shaped Christmas cookie.”
Nina went on to say, “this is the second time the mouse is making an appearance in miniature form. The first was as a part of 2018 KOC-exclusive collaboration Let’s Build a Snowman! ornament.” This ornament was delivered to 2018 KOC members in their Dream Box and featured characters from the Frosty Friends, Snowball and Tuxedo, Cookie Cutter Christmas, and Snow Buddies series. Nina is super excited as this is the very first time our mouse friend is an ornament all on his own!
What do you think? Will you be adding the Cookie Cutter Christmas #11 or the miniature Sweet Lil’ Mouse ornaments to your collection when they release at Ornament Premiere next month?
Jake: “For the last couple of years before Chad* retired, he had been my neighbor at work.“
Jake’s and Chad’s cubicles were right next to each other at our headquarters here in Kansas City!
Jake went on to say, “Chad always told me, ‘I am going to suggest that you take this series over. Just watch, they will have you doing Mary’s Angels when I leave!’” Jake said, “well, here we are! I really thought he was just saying that because of my last name. I can only hope he was happy to pass the torch to me.”
We are certain that Chad has happily passed the torch on to Jake, and it is very fitting given Jake’s last name.
And Jake is carrying on Mary and Chad’s legacy with much excitement! He said, “It’s a great series done by some wonderfully talented people. I am humbled.”
Jake does not take his role as artist of this series lightly. He went on to say, “it will always be a challenge for me to do right by Mary, in remembrance of such a wonderful, talented, historic Hallmarker. I hope when Chad sees the new ornaments, he knows that I was thinking of him too. And that he agrees I did right by Mary like he would have.”
If the Aster ornament is any indication of what’s to come with Jake as the lead artist of this series, we think Jake is doing a fabulous job that both Chad and Mary would be very proud of. Do you agree?
*NOTE: Robert Chad is known as ‘Chad’ in the Keepsake Village.
Jake: “Growing up, my dad was a Methodist pastor. One of the songs I always remember singing as a child was ‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’ in nursery school. It’s a catchy tune you won’t forget. I think the world needed some healing, so I put the whole world in this little guardian angel’s hands.”
What do you think? Will you be adding this ornament to your collection when it releases at Ornament Premiere in July?
Hallmark sat down with Keepsake Artist Anita Marra Rogers to chat more about the Mrs. Claus’s Sewing Cabinet ornament releasing on June 4 at 11 a.m. CT! Anita was the lead on the project, and she worked with the entire Keepsake Studio of Artists to bring the ornament to life. Keep reading to learn more of what she had to say about the process.
Don’t forget to join Hallmark on the Keepsake Facebook page on June 4 from 10-11 a.m. CT for their virtual Keepsake Artist Signing Facebook Live event! Anita along with art director Kurt Gaulke will be chatting more about the Mrs. Claus’s Sewing Cabinet ornament and answering all your burning questions! There will be signed giveaways as well for those in attendance. The giveaway is the Mrs. Claus’s Sewing Cabinet ornament signed by the entire Keepsake Studio! The event is completely free! See you on 6/4 from 10-11 a.m. CT.
As you can probably guess, Anita had tons of fun being the lead artist on this piece! She said, “I love to boss people around. Just kidding!”
She went on to say, “I like the opportunity to do a little bit of art direction. The hardest part of leading this is trying to figure out which parts can be assigned to traditional sculptors, digital sculptors, and surface design artists. It’s got to be divvied up just right. Once I got that figured out, I sent out the preliminary sketch to the studio and let them know which elements were to be done by which type of artist.” See below for the original concept sketch and the rough color sketch where she was trying to figure out what colors to put where. The final ornament ended up much different from the sketch, but we love it all the same! Anita mentioned, “as you can see from these, I am not very good at drawing, that’s why I sculpt. It comes more naturally to me.”
Once she sent out the preliminary sketch, Anita said, “then at the announced time and day, it was open for sign-ups! Of course, I got first choice.” As you should, Anita! “I think most everyone was happy with the item they got to work on. There wasn’t any bickering over parts.” Success!
Because most of the Keepsake Studio are working primarily from home, there were unforeseen challenges. Anita described, “every so often we (Kurt, the art director and I) would meet up at Hallmark’s corporate headquarters here in Kansas City to look at the parts that were being turned in by the various artists to compare for size, etc. Funny story, the first time we saw Sharon’s mice they were about twice the size they are now. They looked more like rats than mice! We had to ask Sharon to re-do the mice, so that they were less rat-like.” Thanks for reworking those mice, Sharon!
Anita went on to say, “it was interesting and a little challenging trying to bring this all together working almost completely virtually. It was kind of like herding cats getting all the artists on the same page. I think it came together nicely. I know our fans are going to love it. I know I do.”