Title: Hallmark Artist
Date started at Hallmark: 1995
Date started at Keepsakes: 1995
Hometown: Safford, Arizona
Nello Williams grew up drawing anytime, anyplace, even in school—and not just in art class. His class notes ended up looking more like artwork than a study sheet.The young artist started out sculpting the ships and robots from the television program Lost in Space. Once, he saw a scary dungeon set advertised in a comic book, but like most kids, couldn't afford to buy it. So Nello recreated the toy instead. Popular culture kept on inspiring Nello's art. In high school, he and a friend made masks of characters from Planet of the Apes—a big movie of the day. Now he keeps up on the latest trends for his creations in Keepsake Ornaments. Nello spends much of his outside time nurturing one of his other big interests—music. He designed the album covers (wishful thinking) and T-shirts for his high school garage band. He even designed a guitar for himself, and twenty years later, he actually built it! Nello sees guitar design as a place where his two great loves, sculpture and music, meet.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer®
Growing up in the Arizona desert near the Mexican border, Keepsake Artist Nello Williams didn’t get to jump into a lot of snowbanks. Every so often, if they wanted to throw a snowball or two, they’d make the trip up to Mount Graham in the Pinaleño Range. But snow wasn’t typically part of his daily winter life in the Southwest. “The whole winter wonderland thing wasn’t a big part of my reality,” Nello says.
So what was his biggest hint that Christmas was almost here? The animated holiday specials! Especially the classic claymation TV movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer®, which debuted in 1964 when Nello was about 3 years old.
“That was always one of the signs,” Nello says. “That’s what really made it the season.”
This ornament pays homage to the moment Rudolph and Hermey the Elf® meet, right before they sing “We’re a Couple of Misfits.” Rudolph’s nose lights up, of course!
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
Whenever Nello recreates an iconic character like Winter Warlock, he just has to “put one foot in front of the other” as suggested by the classic song from Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.
In other words, Nello went back to clips of the original animated special many times to be sure he got the angles and movements right. Capturing that movement is a skill he’s been working on since the 1970s.
As a teenager, Nello loved to make 8mm movies. “I did it for the fun of it,” Nello says. “Although at one point I did want to be a Disney animator.” He idolized Ray Harryhausen, the visual-effects legend who created the form of stop-motion animation called Dynamation. Harryhausen’s work spanned several decades, from Mighty Joe Young (1949) to Clash of the Titans (1981).
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