The History of Christopher Radko Designer, Joseph Walden

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Joseph Walden was one of the first originally hired Christmas ornament designers for Christopher Radko. We chatted with him to hear about how he got his start with the company, what's up and coming for the Radko world, and his greatest source of inspiration.

CRG: As one of the first original hired Christmas ornament designers who worked with Christopher, how have you seen the brand evolve over time? What changes have you enjoyed seeing implemented?

JOE: I’m just about to celebrate my 20th year designing Christopher Radko ornaments this February – time flies when you’re doing what you love! How has the brand evolved? Well, we have been fortunate enough that our artisans in Poland, as well as the rest of us in product development, have just become ‘better with age’ – LOL! I feel that the ornaments are just more detailed, the lacquers we have to work from have expanded, and the creative options we have just continue to grow. We like to deliver something new each year that still ‘feels’ like Christopher Radko. We like each new line of ornaments to ‘harmonize’ with everything that has come before it…we’re like a musical group creating a new album – the album has new songs and we will try new ideas, but it still sounds like us!

CRG: Can you give us an overview on how you got to where you are today? How did you first get involved with the Radko team and how did you start designing?

JOE: As a graduate of the School of Visual Arts and with a Master's Degree in Art Education, I thought my path was headed towards teaching while pursuing a variety of artistic projects as a dedicated freelance artist…following wherever the creative winds take me, LOL! At the School of Visual Arts, I studied with some of the most talented professional illustrators in the industry, they really pushed students to think boldly and creatively, and provided us with a strong formal foundation in the practical skills that every artist needs. Once I graduated I went on to pursue a degree in Art Education, it was then that I began taking on a variety of projects such as editorial illustration, comic strip illustration, and even writing and illustrating my very own children’s book. It was while I was teaching that I came across an advertisement in a professional trade journal about a Christmas designer that was looking for artists to join him…it was my wife who encouraged me to pursue it, and thank goodness I listened to her because it was a perfect fit for me. Looking back I realize that I couldn’t ask for a better career, as I get to be creative and use my imagination each and every day! This position really allows me to push my creative abilities and tell new stories through the characters in hundreds of ornaments year after year.

CRG: We’ve recently been excited to see a resurgence of the Shiny Brite ornaments. What inspired the Christopher Radko team to bring them back?

JOE: Christopher bought the rights to produce Shiny Brite back about 1999/2000 - he remembered the original Shiny Brite ornaments from his childhood that his own grandparents had collected. The Shiny Brite brand was synonymous with post war America and had been an integral part to many American’s holidays through the generations. The brand Shiny Brite had been missing from store shelves here in the States for years, but many people had grown up seeing them on their trees through their family collections. Chris believed a new generation of collector would welcome back a brand they had already been familiar with, and he was right! Shiny Brite has been a tremendous success and proves to be popular year after year!

CRG: What would you credit as your greatest source of inspiration?

JOE: We work very closely with our Product Development team (led by Brooke Burnette) who coordinate how many new designs we would like to create for the new year and within that, specifically how many Santas, Snowmen, Animals, Candy, etc. designs we think would make for a well-balanced line. From there, it’s keeping your eyes and ears open – always seeing inspiration in the world around you…whether it’s an ad in a window, a story I’m reading with my kids, a suggestion from our development team, or a conversation I may have with a collector – you never know what will trigger an idea, but you always have to be looking and listening to allow yourself the opportunity to be open to inspiration when it occurs. I like to walk around the high-end furniture stores in our neighborhood and see what they have, how their displays are put together…the palette of colors they are working in. Sometimes I come across an antique store filled with unusual items that give a jolt of inspiration. Often the new clothing lines on display along 5th Avenue can predict where home décor is headed and can sometimes offer a few fresh ideas for color combinations. Otherwise we like to look back on the year’s previous collection and say “where can we go next?”

CRG: Could you give us a few of your favorite designs from the past?

JOE: Would you ever say which child is your favorite??? LOL!!! I really find it hard to say what my personal favorites are (sooooooo many!)…I much prefer to hear why a collector picks up an ornament, what is it that appeals to them? After all, it is our collectors that allow us to keep doing what we love to do year after year, so I like to see what they love and know what brings them joy, and what keeps them coming back (thankfully) to Christopher Radko each Christmas!

CRG: What can we expect to see in the upcoming year?

JOE: Hmmm….well I don’t want to give you any spoilers…but we are continuing to grow our partnerships with new licensees and have some very exciting things coming up in 2020!!! As far as what is now available – again, I’m constantly impressed by what our artisans in Poland are able to do, the incredible amount of detail in our new designs, and the way our ornaments feel like they could practically come to life! Each year I feel like “this is the best we’ve ever done!” So here’s to the future and the best that’s yet to come! Thank you to everyone who continues to collect Christopher Radko and makes all of what we do possible!


For more of our 2019 ornaments:


We love every single Christopher Radko ever made. This year's collection contains plenty of options for any occasion! Shop The 2019 Radko Christmas Ornaments now at radko-christmas.com!


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