Sidebar Sidebar Sidebar
In the Workshop: The Making of our 2022 Annual Ornament

In the Workshop: The Making of our 2022 Annual Ornament

Sep 15th 2022

Have you ever wondered how our Annual Ornaments get made?

Like all the ornaments we sell, they’re designed in-house, carved by hand, then cast in fine pewter in our workshop. In fact, it’s how all our jewelry, frames, and netsukes, are made, too.

But our Annuals have always been a little bit different.

Since our 2022 Annual Ornament, Santa’s Workshop, is proving to be one of the most popular ones yet, we thought we’d give you a peek behind the curtain of how it came to be.

Step 1: Casting Around for Ideas

Tim Copeland, our lead designer since 2016, got the ball rolling in October 2021. (Yes, he has to think pretty far ahead!)

He started by putting out a call for ideas to the whole company. He wanted to hear from Cookie, who’s been in charge of production since 1994; Carla, who began carving molds under Judi Danforth's tutelage in the 1980s; from our retail managers, who interact with customers every day. What did our leadership team think? What did Customer Service want in an Annual? Did Marketing have any good ideas?

Since this company is made up of very creative people, and since people love sharing their ideas, Tim was flooded with suggestions.

Step 2: Choosing the Right Idea

Gingerbread cookies...a snowy Vermont countryside...the bells of Christmas Eve. There was no shortage of images to choose from.

One idea that quickly rose to the top came from Cookie. She described the church she drives by every day to and from Danforth—a white façade with a red door, a wreath, a bell up in the belfry. A simple, poignant image that captures the spirit of the holidays. It would be in keeping with our much-loved designs A Good Night and A Keeper. Peaceful, rustic, quiet: the epitome of a New England Christmas.

But as Tim got to work designing that, though, another idea was bubbling under the surface.

If you’re a creative soul, you probably know that feeling of being called toward an idea. You might be focusing on one project, but another idea creeps in and doesn’t let go. It nags at you, surprises you when you’re not expecting it, grabs onto your ankle and doesn’t let go.

That’s what happened with Tim. As he created a mold for the church ornament, another scene kept coming back: Santa’s Workshop.

On some level, he felt a kinship with the place. The heart of Danforth is a bustling workshop, and especially around Christmas, we’re working nonstop to make and ship those gifts to you.

It also captured his imagination, sparkling with a sense of wonder and magic. What does it actually look like? Could we bring it to life in pewter?

It also captured his imagination, sparkling with a sense of wonder and magic. What does it actually look like? Could we bring it to life in pewter?

And when he asked around, he found that many of us staff had the same reaction. “What do you think about Santa’s Workshop as the Annual?” he asked, and people responded with smiles and laughter and excitement. If the purpose of the Annual is to capture a moment of magic and holiday joy, he thought, then maybe this was it.

And so he got to drawing.

Step3: Drafting the Design

Pencil sketch of a Santa's Workshop ornament

"It was a lot of fun to sketch out," says Tim. "To draw the building but make it special, to give it depth, to show it in a way that captures all these fine details in a very small composition. I sketched all those details on pencil and paper to show that image and capture all the important elements that are going to make it visual, iconic, yet still simple."

This took dozens of drafts, sketched in pencil on paper, spending hours to get each line, angle, and shape just right. And, a few weeks in, he did.

Step 4: Putting it in Pewter

Next, Tim cut models to see how it would look in pewter—and though the drawings looked good, none of the models seemed right. So he went back (literally) to the drawing board, made some tweaks, and tried again. And again. And again.

Side view of ornaments being made

One issue was that the North Pole looked too much like a lighthouse, and he couldn’t figure out why. Finally, he mentioned the issues to Carla, and she suggested he model it on our Candy Cane Ornament. Inspired, he repurposed that design, and found that that particular style of red-and-white stripes made it look exactly how he envisioned the North Pole.

Finally, after the fifth pewter model, it was right.

Step 5: Adding Color

Santa's Workshop Ornament in production

"Santa’s Workshop" has five colors—the first ever Danforth five-color annual ornament!

Each color needs to be mixed specially, and then every stroke of color is added by hand—on each individual ornament, one at a time. It’s a big commitment to build five different colors into a design, and it adds a significant amount of time and effort on the part of our artisans in the workshop. This is a big consideration for our top-selling ornament!

But enough of us loved it with all five colors, and felt strongly that that design warranted it. We traded images back and forth, weighing on which color combination seemed the most Santa’s Workshop-like. This stage didn’t take too long—in fact, most people agreed within a day on the best colors.

A lot more work went into making this Annual than most of the others!

Step 6: Production

In November, Santa’s Workshop went to the Danforth workshop.

We’ve been producing them ever since, which means our elves are getting a big head start on the launch. Historically, the Annual has sent our workshop into overdrive, and we’re aiming for zero issues in fulfillment this year.

On the back of Santa’s Workshop is inscribed this message:

May you never be too grown up to stop searching the skies on Christmas Eve.

That is our hope for you. That is why we do what we do—to bring smiles to your loved ones’ faces, to inspire joy around the holidays, and to help you and your family carry on beautiful traditions for a lifetime.

Santa's Workshop Christmas Ornament made of pewter