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November 2015 Keepsake Ornament Artist Ken Crow

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Most of us doodled in our notebooks during high school, but Ken Crow’s drawings were a real learning experience. In his 11th grade history class, he discovered that his pictures were worth a thousand words. History teacher, Mr. Ciriello, began letting Ken use creative illustration instead of taking class notes. During a civil war lesson, Ken drew battle scenes. When Ciriello explained how an economy works, Ken sketched his teacher running a treadmill turning the cogs of an economic engine. Ken calls Mr. Ciriello’s encouragement the “green light” for his ability to express his artistic sensibility. Ken always understood the power of communicating ideas through art, and he became an editorial cartoonist for a newspaper. Now he conveys a sense of history and emotion in the expressive and complex work he does with Keepsake Ornaments.

Hallmark Keepsake LIONEL® Toymaker Santa Express Electric Train Set

When Ken Crow’s manager asked him to make a full-size, electric Lionel toy train, Ken thought it might be…well, Christmas morning!

Ken had worked on Keepsake Ornament Lionel trains before—but never a functioning O-gauge version. “I was born to do this,” Ken said.

When he started working on the project, he spent time in train stores talking to lots of customers. The finished product, inspired by the Toymaker Santa series, features a metal die-cast engine with a bell, a horn, the classic steam-locomotive “chuff” sound and a stack that puffs out perfect little donut-shaped rings of smoke.

“It’s the most traditional Christmas train set I could bring out of my mind,” Ken said.

During the train’s development, his engineering partners pushed him to make it better and his Editor suggested Ken’s name should be on the back of the engine—for posterity. “I can’t wait for people to open up their train set and put it under the tree,” Ken said. “I can’t wait to open up my own box!”

LIONEL® Toymaker Santa Express Train
Rocking Horse Keepsake Ornament

Rocking Horse Keepsake Ornament

3rd in the Santa Certified series
What if Santa picked his favorite toys and then wrote his signature on each one of them, telling the world that these toys have his official seal of approval? That’s the idea behind the Santa Certified series ornaments.

Or, in Ken’s words, “They should look like the toys Santa would put on the shelf at his workshop and say, ‘Yes, these are the coolest toys we make.’”

Ken has worked on all three of the ornaments in the series. The first two featured a toy train engine and a jack-in-the-box. Ken said the challenge with this rocking horse ornament was to figure out something that hadn’t been done before. “I didn’t want to just make another horse,” Ken said.

Ken decided that he wanted to make the horse appear as if it were made from wood. And even though the horse rests on a glider, Ken wanted to create the illusion that it was galloping across a bridge. “I really wanted to make it look like the horse is galloping through a Christmas forest.”

Sharon Visker—December 2015 Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Artist

Who's coming up next?

Don’t miss our next featured artist interview with Sharon Visker
coming in December.

Find one at your local Hallmark Gold Crown store.


Available to purchase online.

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LIONEL® Licensed by Lionel LLC.