Christopher Radko Interview

Joseph Walden, Senior Designer, Christopher Radko

In 1983, Christopher Radko and his family were enjoying holiday festivities when from the other room, there arose quite a clatter. Was it Santa? Oh, no. His Christmas tree, decorated with more than 2,000 glass heirloom ornaments, had crashed to the floor.

Michael Sneed, Designer, Christopher Radko

Radko traveled to Poland to find a glass blower who could replicate the treasured ornaments, and worked on numerous designs to bring back to the U.S. Family members and friends loved the whimsical, delicate baubles, and Radko decided others might enjoy exquisitely handcrafted European-made glass ornaments as well.

Today, a team of artisans and sculptors create the highly collectible Christopher Radko ornaments. LoveToKnow Christmas is delighted to feature two of the company's artists, Joseph Walden and Michael Sneed. Together with another member of the premier design team, Mario Taré, these artists uncover inspiration in the most unexpected places, letting imagination become reality in the form of magical decorations and collectibles.

Christopher Radko Interview

LoveToKnow (LTK): Tell us about your favorite Radko ornaments.

Walden: I love the vintage feel of "Chappy O'Snow". He has such a cute face and a unique texture with the all-over glitter. Also "Peppermint Parade", a rich-looking nutcracker, the peppermint accents next to the elegant red jacket really make this piece wonderful...I can't tell you how many of these I signed at our store events!

I also love the playful "Majesty's Kiss". I often enjoy taking fairy tales, such as the frog prince, and turning them into something new and fun. I think people really get a kick out of this dandy looking frog -- he's over the top!

Sneed: I really had fun doing the "Chimney Dance" this year. Oh, not me, rather, designing a fun-loving Santa doing what he does best! He always brings that holiday spirit to everyone's doorstep. Well, it was via the chimney on this occasion. And it was in the top 10 best sellers for this year!

Joseph Walden's "Chappy O'Snow" ©Christopher Radko

Building on Inspiration

LTK: Throughout the year, what adds to your inspiration to develop new ornaments and decorations?

Walden: You never know where inspiration may come from. Sometimes it's a pattern that you see in a fine painting, a line in a classic Christmas story, or a conversation that we may be having in the studio. Or maybe it's when you're simply sketching and then something just clicks -- and your design takes a new unexpected path! I often know I'm on to a good design when it begins to make me smile -- then I know I have a winner!

Michael Sneed's "Majesty's Kiss" ©Christopher Radko

Sneed: I must admit -- this is the hardest part of the job for me. Yet, at the same time, it's the most rewarding. It's such a treat to come up with an idea and take it all the way through the production process and then meet a customer that purchases an ornament at a gift or department store.

I think experience is paramount. After nine years working in the Christopher Radko tradition, I know what's expected and how demanding a first-rate company is. But, no worries about that! It's always my pleasure to seek out new ideas in my day-to-day travels, or talk to the reps that sell the products to our gracious buyers and special customers.

LTK: When you have a chance to meet with collectors, how do their stories and emotions influence your designs?

Walden: We can try to anticipate what the collectors may enjoy, but it's only when you actually have an opportunity to talk with them do you get that valuable insight to what attracts them to a particular design. When a collector speaks about your design with so much excitement, it also inspires us to find that next special concept when we get back to our drawing tables. Hearing how collectors respond to specific textures or colors encourages us to find new ways of applying those characteristics again.

Sometimes conversations with a collector can even lead directly to a new concept for a design. I've had someone say to me, "You know what would make a great ornament…." and often, those suggestions are springboards for next year's designs.

Sneed: I've never been so inspired as I was when I attended a signing event in the Lone Star state recently. People's enthusiasm and emotion moved me and I saw a new side to our brand. I saw how much people enjoy what we do. How couldn't I be influenced by a distinctive public that cares so much about what we do?

Bringing Imagination to Life

LTK: What still surprises you about the design process?

Walden: That after almost nine years of designing, each new season still gets me excited! There's always something new to try, new challenges -- it still feels fresh.

Sneed: Sometimes the "simple" turns out to be the most challenging. Even a "quick" sketch or a basic piece always needs the attention our premier team gives it. Sometimes, however, there's an ornament or a spreader or a cookie jar that can leave you thinking, "Oh well, back to the drawing board!"

Michael Sneed's "Chimney Dance", a 2008 limited-edition gift store exclusive ©Christopher Radko

LTK: Can you please share a new idea that we can look forward to in the future?

Walden: While in Paris recently, I visited the Musée d'Orsay. I was able to see many paintings by one of my favorite artists, Gustav Klimt. Let's just say his use of ornate patterns really resonated with me! Also there are a series of ornaments that are truly inspired by dreams -- almost like a Christmas fantasy.

Sneed: At my recent signing events, I debuted a playful and fun snowman. He's a merry melody maker and a flower child all rolled into one! Peace and love is truly wonderful. Enjoy!

More about Christopher Radko

When visiting the Christopher Radko website, click on the "News and Events" tab to learn more about the Radko artists and review the signing event schedules.

Christopher Radko Interview