Sharon Visker

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Keepsake Artist Sharon Visker

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Sharon Visker

Title: Hallmark Artist
Date started at Hallmark: 1983
Date started at Keepsakes: 2000
Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Her mother seemed to be taking an art class or immersing herself in an art project during every spare moment. Her brother seemed to be able to draw just about anything. And in an atmosphere where art seemed like a part of everyday life, it was only natural that Sharon Visker would want to give it a try.

She quickly discovered she was unusually good at it. So good, in fact, that her friends would offer to buy the bubble gum cards she copied for fun. Which made Sharon realize she had the ability to be an artist who could make people notice her work.

Throughout grade school and high school, the opportunities for Sharon's work to be noticed occurred frequently and took various forms. She created elaborate bulletin board displays, designed yearbooks, entered—and won—numerous art competitions.

Her exceptional talent eventually brought her to Hallmark, where, after 15 years as an illustrator, she participated in a woodcarving workshop and discovered a knack she didn't know she had. A knack for sculpting—which she's been exercising ever since for the enjoyment of Keepsake Ornaments collectors.

U Can't Touch This Keepsake Ornament

U Can’t Touch This

When her kids were 4 and 8 years old, Keepsake Artist Sharon Visker got them a hedgehog they named Pokey. And true to its name, it was extremely hard to handle.

“They’re really spiny to begin with, and this one ended up biting quite a bit, too,” Sharon says. “They’re just not the most lovable creatures in the world.”

Her kids are 23 and 27 now, but they’ve never forgotten their cranky little pet. And Sharon has wanted to create a hedgehog ornament ever since. Then opportunity knocked (or did it bite?) in the form of the song “U Can’t Touch This.” A hedgehog was perfect to pair with the song, right down to the outstretched hand keeping you away from the Christmas present.

“I looked at a lot of images of real hedgehogs to get the feel for their actual appearance, and then researched quite a few cartoon versions, too,” Sharon says. “The challenge was getting the spines to look right. They needed to be pointy but laying down, because it would be extremely tough to sculpt them sticking straight out.”

The authenticity stops at the face and paws, Sharon says. “That’s where we get to take some more creative license and kind of cartoon it up a bit.”

Working from her own sketches, Sharon still likes to approach each ornament the traditional way: warming up a ball of wax and using sculpting and dental tools to carve out the shapes, bit by bit. She used a dry-brush technique on the tips of the spines to make the texture more apparent.

The bow attachment is actual ribbon. “I was happy to get that extra piece because those are really tricky to sculpt!”

Born This Way Keepsake Ornament

Born This Way

Sharon knew just the right creature to capture the spirit of Lady Gaga, performer of “Born This Way”: a peacock!

“I just tried to think about what her personality is like without it actually being her,” Sharon says. “I wanted a character that looks dressed up, very proud of the way she looks. I was going for more of that attitude.”

She also spent a lot of time thinking through the pose, wanting to capture the right blend of lightheartedness and confidence by cocking her head to the side just a bit, with the tip of one wing almost resting under her cheek.

“The color turned out beautifully, and the attitude is really playful,” Sharon says. “This might be my favorite one this year. I just really like how it turned out.”

Like with the hedgehog, she researched countless real and cartoon versions before settling on her own interpretation. Inspired by the animal’s brilliant natural colors, Sharon added gold and glitter to glitz up the style a bit. She also sculpted in a bit of purple “eye shadow” to round out the face. “I just wanted to have fun with it.”

Mele Kalikimaka Keepsake Ornament

Mele Kalikimaka

Sharon’s favorite place on earth? An island beach, ideally holding a tropical drink. So she was a natural choice to design this snowman chilling out in a Hawaii-themed hammock.

“My dream is to always be near the ocean, vacationing in the tropics,” Sharon says. “I’ve been to Tahiti twice, and other islands near there, as well as the Caribbean, Mexico, Jamaica, and I’m going to the Bahamas next year.”

Those idyllic, leisurely trips served as inspiration for this ornament, right down to the beverage in the snowman’s hand. “I wanted to give him a coconut drink, because that’s what I want,” Sharon says.

To achieve the look of a coconut shell, she used her smallest sculpting tools to carve some strategically placed “hairs” around it. Sharon researched a lot of Hawaiian shirts and patterns to bring the right color and tone to the hammock. The cord holding up the hammock is made of actual rope. The sunglasses and visor provide a fun, summery contrast to the cozy scarf and glitter that sparkles like newly fallen snow.

The fact that the ornament plays “Mele Kalikimaka” (performed by the Blue Hawaiians) just adds to the island charm!

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