While many of us are just now entering full Christmas mode, a couple of county residents have been up to their eyeballs in the holiday all year long. That’s what happens when you’re a senior designer for high-end ornament manufacturer Christopher Radko.
Talented Tandem: Westchester craftsmen Joseph Walden and Mario M. Taré work all year long to create the ornamental masterpieces that become holiday household traditions around the US.
Like Santa’s elves, Joseph Walden of Valhalla and Mario M. Taré of Buchanan have been working their fingers to the bone 12 months a year to make sure your space glimmers with yuletide magic from every strategic nook, cranny, and pine needle.
Radko’s home base has shifted over the years — with stops in Elmsford, Tarrytown, and Irvington — before settling in Manhattan, following a merger with the company’s showroom. Walden and Taré create around 450 new ornaments each season, with each handcrafted, painstakingly detailed piece practically becoming a status symbol. Typically, their creations retail for between $50 and $100 each. This fall, Walden and Taré even toured the nation, autographing their handiwork for eager collectors.
Taré’s style is Old World Europe, while Walden’s is more whimsical. “We complement each other, so there’s something for everyone,” says Taré.
A great ornament, adds Walden, “captures a moment in time.” A Radko ornament differs from a mass-market one, he adds, in its detail, with every aspect of it helping to tell its story.
“People say, ‘You must get sick of Christmas,’” says Walden with a laugh, “but you can’t get tired of it if what you work on makes people feel good and brings them happiness.”
It takes more than a week for a Christopher Radko ornament to come to life. Mario Taré and Joseph Walden sketch out an idea on paper, then digitally “paint” it on their computers. That image is emailed to Poland, where a three-dimensional statue of the design is created.
Next, glass is blown into a cast-iron “mother” mold, followed by a “silver bath,” in which silver is injected into the piece, to give the ornament its opacity and help the paint job stand out. After two layers of lacquer, the ornament is hand-painted. That can take several days, with a single color — say, Santa’s red coat — painted and set out to dry before the next color is applied.