Tom Best

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Keepsake Artist Tom Best

Keepsake Artist Tom Best

Tom Best

Title: Hallmark Artist
Date started at Hallmark: 1982
Date started at Keepsakes: 2003
Hometown: Avon Lake, Ohio

Tom Best grew up on the shores of Lake Erie, just west of Cleveland, Ohio. The youngest of three boys, he was surrounded by creativity. His brothers and father were all accomplished musicians, but Tom says music didn't come naturally to him. It was his artistic abilities that, in grammar school, gave him the reputation as "that kid who can draw."

By his freshman year in high school, he had decided to focus his studies on art. In 1982, he received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Columbus College of Art and Design.

Tom's career at Hallmark started immediately after graduation when he became an illustrator and graphic designer in the greeting card department. He also worked in Hallmark's business-related loyalty marketing department and had a short stint in the licensing studio.

Some 21 years and hundreds of greeting cards later, Tom joined the Keepsake Ornaments department in 2003. He now truly enjoys developing 3-dimensional product for Keepsakes. "It's a thrill seeing your ideas and drawings come off the paper or computer screen and into your hands!"

Outside of work, Tom enjoys running and keeps very busy with his daughter, Madeline; wife, Denise (also a Hallmarker); and three very active dogs.

Santa's Reinbeer Ornament

Santa’s Reinbeer Ornament

Keepsake Artist Tom Best describes his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio as a very blue collar, beer-drinking, rock-and-roll kind of city. So you can appreciate that creating Keepsake Ornaments celebrating those attributes comes pretty naturally to him. “When I started creating beer-themed ornaments, it began with a six-pack. In fact, the bottles in this ornament are the same shape and have the same labels as that original six-pack.”

Tom knows that collectors recognize and appreciate nods to past ornaments. He also makes sure the details add to the fun of the ornament, so everyone can enjoy them, whether they’re a longtime collector or not. “I like combining my love of beer with a sense of humor to tell a visual pun—it enriches the experience for me while I’m working on it and enhances the fun for the people who will enjoy them on their tree.”

Beer Stein Ornament

Beer Stein Ornament

Being three-quarters German probably doesn’t hurt when it comes to creating beer steins as ornaments and collectibles. For Tom, it just feels right, and he loves the Old World, master craftsmen quality. “Not to mention, I love beer! It’s no accident I enjoy making these,” he admits.

It was Tom’s idea to create beer steins as Keepsake Ornaments. “I thought they’d be great for guys, in particular. You can bring in a lot of storytelling and detail to the creation of each one.” Tom especially appreciates the unlimited possibilities for the design. This particular stein is about a dad and his son coming back from cutting down their Christmas tree. They’re accompanied by the family dog and are excited to be bringing the tree home. On the reverse side, Tom drew from his 21 years as a greeting card artist: “You can tell I’ve done some floral designs in my time. I really like the pine and pinecone border around the bottom, too.”

Tom points out that the hinge is an important detail. No matter what the size, big or small, he insists that the hinges work. “The first hinges were elves, and as I’ve continued to work on them I’ve been able to expand the story.” For this stein, Tom chose a woodsman in the act of chopping. “You can see how that action really works as the hinge moves.”

Free Bird Ornament

Free Bird Ornament

As soon as sound technology was available for ornaments, Tom remembers that the Keepsake studio began making guitars that played music. For Tom, coming from a musical family has added to the fun of creating these. “My brothers and my dad all had great musical talent. People assume that I play, too, and I wish I did. But even if I can’t play, I can design these and share my love of music with those who do play. I love doin’ my guitars.”

The guitars Tom creates aren’t fashioned after any particular model. If you look closely, you’ll see that the name on this guitar is Tomco. “That’s me. That’s the logo I put on ornaments I make that need some kind of brand name on them for realism.” The grills, coffee makers and guitars that Tom has created through the years carry that logo.

This year’s guitar plays Free Bird, and Tom knows the song will appeal to a wide audience. A shared love of music, Tom notes, is something that brings people together, and one of his favorite things to do is to walk into any establishment where there’s a live band. Just being in the same room with somebody making music—even if it’s bad!—has his interest. “And when the crowd gets into it, I’m so glad to be there.”

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