Matt Johnson

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Keepsake Artist Matt Johnson

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Matt Johnson

Title: Hallmark Designer
Date started at Hallmark: 2012
Date started at Keepsakes: 2012
Hometown: Fresno, California

Matt has designed for companies all over the United States, but his appreciation of toys has stuck with him since childhood. Toys play an especially important role in Christmas, a holiday that gives Matt the inspiration he needs when it comes to crafting tree-worthy trimmings in the Keepsake Studio. He admits "there's just so many people around here that make it feel like Christmas all the time!"

Matt graduated with an Industrial Design degree from the University of Kansas, and continues to be a student of product design as he follows his passion for ornaments, toys and games. As someone who appreciates fun, creative and offbeat entertainment for kids, the Keepsake Studio was just the place for Matt to work, but an opening wasn’t so easy to come by. After a few years of working in the Midwest and along the East Coast, Matt made the move back to Kansas City with his family—and, as luck would have it, an opening in Keepsakes was waiting for him.

The work of a Keepsakes designer is a challenge, but Matt is happy to see his designs inspire wonder for kids and kids at heart.


See Matt’s 2018 ornaments

Mini Tiny Teapot Metal Ornament, 0.91

Tiny Teapot Keepsake Ornament

“People love to collect the minis,” Keepsake Artist Matt Johnson said with a smile, holding up some early sketches of this tiny snowman teapot. “They’re affordable, they’re cute and they don’t take up much storage space!”

When coming up with mini ornament concepts, Matt draws inspiration from what people post about their holiday celebrations on the web, or from his own experiences. “We’ll come up with our own ideas, go online and realize someone’s already thought of it,” Matt said with a smile.

He noticed a lot of enthusiasm online for snowmen, and the design took off from there. “People love teapots and snowmen, so there you go!” The chill of winter meets the warmth of a hot pot of tea, made all the more whimsical with the smiling snowman face.

Made of metal, this little teapot is adorable, durable and surprisingly “sign-able,” despite having a surface area that’s smaller than a penny. When he described signing miniatures, Matt scrunched up his shoulders and mimed bringing the ornament close to his face to scrawl a few loops of his name. He added that he always enjoys meeting the range of Keepsake Ornament fans at signing events.

Blue Snowflake Stocking Blown Glass Ornament

Blue Snowflake Stocking Heritage Ornament

With all the subtle beauty in this blown-glass ornament, you might not guess that Matt used to design action figures! His experience in the toy industry makes him no stranger to taking an idea from drawing to product.

He started by searching through the Hallmark Archives, eventually finding a surface pattern from the ’60s or ’70s. “I just loved the look, of how it felt really hand-knit, so the idea of something that’s done in glass but has a lot of texture and surface design makes it feel a little bit more.” Matt designed a stocking with a character in it last year, so he reimagined that same form with a new stocking pattern and a new character.

When it came to deciding the color palette, he said “I really like the differences of the colors—the silver, gold and red with the teal. It felt really rich and beautiful.” It helps that his wife loves this particular shade of teal—making this ornament a must for their family tree.

This stocking, part of the Hallmark Heritage ornament collection, is hand-blown, hand-painted, and hand-glittered in Poland. Hallmark artists collaborate with expert artisans in Poland to make each ornament a masterful work of art. Matt says the Heritage Collection is all about distinctive visual icons, layering and honoring “the rich history of the artwork that’s in our archive.”

Merriest House in Town Musical Ornament With Light

Merriest House in Town Keepsake Ornament

You know those houses: the ones lit up with spectacular Christmas displays from roof to lawn, all perfectly timed to music.

Thanks to Matt, you can enjoy this kind of over-the-top Christmas experience in the comfort of your own living room, no ladders required! Last year, Matt designed a Christmas camper with light and sound galore. Before he begins designing these multi-sensory ornaments, Matt asks, “How can we take light, sound and architecture to make a really fun, unique experience?”

Christmas-decorating enthusiasts inspired his design this year. “We love the fact that people will get up on their roof and put messages up, so the idea started there. I really love the idea that Santa’s parked up on the roof.” Mix those elements with a classic, Cape Cod-style house, a triumphant version of “Joy to the World,” and lights throughout the design, and you’ve got a Christmas extravaganza to rival any life-size house.

When asked if he decorated his own house as elaborately, Matt said, “I don’t know if my wife would like it, she’s more into classic beautiful.” But he said that he might like to have a coordinated light show someday. For now, the rest of us can enjoy what that might look like on a smaller scale.

Find Keepsakes at your local Hallmark Gold Crown store.

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