Kristina Gaughran

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Keepsake Artist Kristina Gaughran

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Kristina Gaughran

Title: Hallmark Senior Artist
Date started at Hallmark: 1995
Date started at Keepsakes: 1995
Hometown: Osceola, Iowa

Even though there were lots of stars to wish upon growing up in rural Iowa, Kristina Gaughran never asked their help in finding a job with Hallmark. "I grew up in a tiny town," she explains. "There was only one Hallmark store."

Upon graduation from high school, Gaughran landed in Hallmark's hometown–Kansas City, Missouri. As a student at the Kansas City Art Institute, artists from Hallmark often visited. In 1995, during her junior year, the manager of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments visited one of her classes. He asked each of the 70 students to submit two drawings. One from each student would then be selected to sculpt.

"I submitted a worn little teddy bear with a cat rubbing up against him affectionately and a Christmas wreath with a mouse hanging off of it," Gaughran remembers. "The teddy bear was the one they chose."

Based on that submission, Hallmark offered Gaughran an internship for the following summer. At the end of that summer, Hallmark asked her to continue as a contributor. "Once a week I would meet up with a group from Keepsake Ornaments for lunch," she says. "I wasn't out of school yet, but already it was very much like family. It was like having 30 friends that were there to support and help you."

When Gaughran finally graduated in the spring of 1996, she was offered a full-time position with Keepsakes.

"Growing up, I actually wanted to work for Disney because I love animation," she confesses. "The funny thing is, I get to work for Disney after all!" Many of Gaughran's Keepsake Ornaments are Disney characters. She even travels to Disney headquarters on occasion for approval on some of her sculpts. "It's like the best of both worlds," Gaughran says. "I get to visit Disney, but I get to live at Hallmark."

2015 Keepsake Ornaments

Mom to Bee

Celebrating her 20th year as an artist for Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments, Kristina, when she was sculpting this ornament, was also on the verge of another milestone—she was expecting a baby of her own.

That made her the perfect person to design the new “Mom to Bee” Keepsake Ornament, debuting in 2015. So was that by design, so to speak? Actually, turns out it was just a happy coincidence. She started working on the ornament the beginning of 2014, but didn’t find out she was expecting until several months later. (Her second son Tristan was born February. Her first son, Finn, turns four in April.)

Back when Kristina’s team were brainstorming potential concepts, it occurred to them that using an actual bee would be the perfect, punny tie-in.

“Then it was just drawing it up, figuring out what she was going to look like,” said Kristina, who started to zero in on a more whimsical style—sweet and just a little silly.

The mom character is an actual bumblebee. She’s wearing a purple shirt with a little baby bumblebee on it. Instead of sculpting the wings along with the rest of the figure, she made them with a coated, synthetic paper called Yupo.

“It just adds an extra element of value and interest, to have little attachments like that,” Kristina said.

Lotus and Poinsettia

1st in the Baby Fairy Messengers series

With all the baby stuff happening in her life already, why stop there? Kristina also created two baby fairies that coordinate with the Fairy Messenger series. The little duo is based on grown-up Poinsettia—the very first offering in the Fairy Messenger series in 2005—and grown-up Lotus, this year’s fairy.

As the mom of boys, Kristina said, “I tried to think about nieces and friends’ babies, to help me imagine how they’d look or what little girls would be wearing.”

Kristina incorporated the corresponding flower into each design as a resting surface, like a baby’s blanket. As she created the pieces, she imagined that as the girls grew up, they’d pluck the petals from their flower to make their skirts. Just as with the “Mom to Bee” ornament, Kristina needed to think of a different solution for the wings than a more traditional mold, so the wings wouldn’t be “too chunky looking.” So she opted for a thin sheet of styrene, which was then laser-cut and glittered. She said that despite the thin look, “they’ll be nice and sturdy.”

The idea was to add something new and interesting for those who already collect the Fairy Messengers. We know collectors have been asking for more miniatures, and this duo seemed like the perfect fit.

“I think there is also added appeal for people who think they look like their daughters at that age, or like their granddaughters.”

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