The Christopher Radko brand was born after the Radko family’s Christmas tree crashed to the ground, destroying hundreds of keepsake ornaments. Radko promised his mother he would replace them all, but quickly learned there were very few high-quality commercial ornaments available. Thus, he began to design his own in 1986. And although Radko sold his multi-million-dollar company some years back, his legacy lives on. LN recently talked to Radko artist Joseph Walden about the fine art of designing keepsake glass ornaments and his upcoming visit to Christopher’s in Kirkwood on Nov. 24.
LN: How are the ornaments made?
JW: Every ornament is hand-illustrated, then digitally rendered into what we call 'flat art.' They are then produced in Europe (primarily in Poland), where artisans make a three-dimensional sculpture, from which a metal 'mother mold' is cast using centuries-old techniques. Our glass blowers use this mother mold to mouth-blow each piece of a certain style. Before it is painted, every single ornament is dipped in liquid silver to give it extra sparkle and shine. This is part of what gives Christopher Radko ornaments their particular sparkle. Many people don’t realize that it’s the silver below the lacquer that reflects all those twinkling lights on your tree.
LN: Does the Christopher Radko Partridge in a Pear Tree ornament, which sold at auction for more than $2,000, still bear the distinction of being the single-most valuable ornament in the Radko collection, or has it been surpassed?
JW: Amazing, isn’t it? You never know which ornament will go on to have legendary status like Partridge in a Pear Tree. Only a limited number of each style is ever produced. Sometimes that means a design, such as Partridge in a Pear Tree, becomes very rare as time goes by, as there are only a certain number in existence. Once we retire an ornament, that design will not be created again.
LN: How many new ornaments do you introduce each year, and how many do you retire?
JW: The 2012 Collection includes more than 650 unique styles. Roughly 500 of those are new, the rest are carried over from the previous year, based on popularity. We retire more than 75 percent of our annual line after one year on sale.
LN: Is there one ornament for Christmas 2012 that collectors should know about?
JW: My fellow Radko artist, Mario Taré, and I choose one design each year that we feel has best captured the detail and craftsmanship that makes the Christopher Radko brand so special. The Perfect Scene, a beautiful piece depicting Santa posing next to a tree overflowing with garland and candy canes, is the Designers’ Choice piece for 2012. It’s not to be missed.
LN: What's in store for people attending the Radko event at Christopher’s next week?
JW: We’ve designed a special ornament: Worth the Wait will be available only at signing events this year. I’m so happy and very honored to be able to sign Worth the Wait and other ornaments for customers at Christopher’s. And you never know, I may just pick up some great inspiration while we chat!