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."

Ornament of Month July #6 Friendly Fairies - Summer Snow Cone

4th of July Snow Cone | Summer Snow Cone Fairy

When Keepsake Artist Kris Gaughran started thinking of ideas for the July version of Friendly Fairies, a new month-by-month spinoff of her Fairy Messenger series, she wanted to try sparklers or fireworks. Since the fairies are supposed to be tiny, she pairs them with larger objects to make the difference more obvious. But nothing gave her the balance she needed. Until she thought of a snow cone.

“We molded the snow cone in clear and did hits of color to get the different flavors of ice,” Kris said. “Once I painted over the bottom part of the cone and added the fireworks, it resembled the paper cone they come in.”

Not only did the snow cone work as the perfect shape for the fairy to hold, it also made her think back to the Clarke County fairgrounds in her home state of Iowa.

“One of my favorite events was the county fair. I loved all the rides and games,” Kris said. “Snow cones were a great treat, mostly at the fair. My friends and I would also walk over to the local Dairy Queen.”

She didn’t grow up on a farm, so there were no cows or horses to enter at the fair. Instead, she entered things she’d sewn, sculpted or baked. There was also a pet category, and she entered her cat. “I think I still have that ribbon somewhere.”

“And since she’s meant to be really summery, I gave her the pigtails and overalls-type short pants.” Did she wear pigtails as a kid? “Oh yes! Mostly when I was really little.” And why does that look mean summer to you? “Because it’s hot!”

Ornament of Month March #2 Friendly Fairies - Good Luck Fairy

Shamrock | Good Luck Fairy

The March fairy posed a different dilemma. Kris thought a 4-leaf clover would be a lovely way to honor St. Patrick’s Day, right? Not so fast! She checked with her husband, who’s half-Irish, and he said to use shamrocks instead.

As the legend goes, the patron saint of Ireland used a shamrock as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity. The tale of the lucky, 4-leaf clover stretches all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

“I always thought 4-leaf clovers fit right in with St. Patrick’s Day,” Kris said. “But they don’t.”

Like the Fairy Messengers, the Friendly Fairies all have touches of glitter in varying shades. This one features a green glitter to play off the shamrocks. She wanted the dress to pay homage to the simple white flowers that bloom from shamrocks.

This was the first time Kris designed a fairy with her eyes closed in a sort of laughing expression.

Originally, she wanted the face to reflect the lighthearted, surprising discovery of a 4-leaf clover. When she switched to shamrocks, she kept the fairy’s expression, “because I loved it so much.”

May Flowers

May Day Basket | May Flowers Fairy

May 1st was always a special day for Kris when she was little. Growing up in Osceola, Iowa, she and her best friend Susan would make May Day baskets together and deliver them up and down the street.

“We’d go collecting little wildflowers and make little baskets to put on front steps and porches,” Kris said.

“Mostly for people in our neighborhood, but for each other as well.”

She chose the daisy for the Friendly Fairies May version because it’s a classic, familiar flower that blooms right around that time of year. She settled on the fairy’s expression because, “I just wanted something sweet that would say, ‘Thinking of you.’”

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