Tom Best

Shop Now
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.

A Reel Keeper 2016 Keepsake Ornament

A Reel Keeper

Growing up in Ohio, Tom Best vividly remembers fishing on Lake Erie.

“Basically everybody fished in my hometown, especially kids,” Tom says. “We’d catch night crawlers for bait, or we’d find crayfish in the creek behind our house.”

He grew up in Avon, a Cleveland suburb about 18 miles west of the city on Interstate 90. Tom and his brothers, who were Eagle Scouts, spent many summers along the lake on camping and fishing trips.

“We’d always pack our Zebco spin-cast reel and a travel-size tackle box,” he says. Other times they’d just head down to the water with a stringer line and a bucket—whatever worked. The lucky kids caught walleye, but mostly they caught perch, white bass and carp.

“If you visit anywhere along the shoreline, you’ll want to have perch or walleye for dinner,” Tom says. “Just wonderful, classic, mild white fish.” Just don’t eat the carp: “They were fun to catch. It was fun to fight ’em as long as they didn’t break your line,” Tom says. “But you certainly wouldn’t want to keep one.”

Tom described designing this ornament as setting up a still life of sorts. “I composed it like a still life painting but with the elements of fishing,” Tom says. “I needed to combine them into a form that worked, that had a nice visual structure and that protected all the pieces.” That's why the straps from the wicker-style creel basket overlap nicely with the fishing poles. And by including a spin-cast reel as well as a classic fly-fishing reel, Tom paid tribute to as many different kinds of a-fish-ionados as he could.

Hoppy Holidays Beer Stein Keepsake Ornament

Hoppy Holidays!

Keepsake Premium

You can’t miss Tom Best’s space in the Keepsake Studio—just look for the beer wall.

He’d been collecting bottle caps for a while when he turned one of his favorites, from Leinenkugel, into a pushpin for his bulletin board. Soon after that, the caps began to turn into an artistic statement.

“Pretty soon people started bringing them to me,” Tom says. “They’d ask, ‘Do you have this one? Do you have that one?’ It just kept going.”

Tom designed his first Keepsake Ornament stein in 2012. His fondness for malted hops comes through once again in this premium version, which depicts an elf transporting newly brewed beer from the brewhouse by sleigh. Porcelain gives the mug its heft, as does the die-cast metal of the lid and its elf-shaped hinge.

“It feels substantial, like a real mug,” Tom says.

Tom’s first steins featured traditional Santa scenes. Since then he’s been able to branch out a bit and take a new perspective, as he did with this distinctively imagined elf brewery.

Ring In the Season 2016 Keepsake Ornament

Santa's Sleigh Bell

2nd in the series

Tom’s dad inspires his work, sometimes in unexpected ways. When Tom starting working on this sleigh bell last year, he remembered a clipping from a Cleveland newspaper his dad sent him years ago.

“He’s pretty antitechnology and still loves the newspaper,” Tom says. “He tears things out and sends them to me and my brother.”

The clipping featured a large, color photo of a piece of Austrian armor, a breastplate, with dynamic, flowing lines. And because Tom’s college illustration professor once advised him to never throw out any research that had a profound impact, Tom held onto it for almost a decade.

“I’ve seen medieval tapestries like this,” Tom says. “And years ago Hallmark made gift wrap that also had a bit of this tone but with holly, greenery and deer. That was the germ of the idea.”

The bell features six vignettes with a deer in each scene. This stamped-metal sleigh bell series, with each ornament a working bell, will continue in 2017 with a different designer taking a turn.

Find Keepsakes at your local Hallmark Gold Crown store.


Buy Keepsake Ornaments online.

Shop Now

Adobe Reader icon

You will need Adobe® Acrobat® Reader to view all downloads. If you don't already have it, click on the icon to download a free copy.