When we think of certain iconic brands, the creator or originator often comes immediately to mind. Say Disney, and you can’t help but think of Walt Disney, think of Apple and Steve Jobs comes to mind, McDonald’s and we think of Ray Kroc. The list could go on and on.
In the giftware industry, when you think of the Snowbabies brand, we immediately think of Kristi Jensen Pierro.
Kristi came to Department 56 back in the mid to late 1980s as a freelance artist who had experience in the giftware industry. She shared with us that she had previously designed cookie jars and other kitchen items for another company. The creative director for Department 56 at the time, Bill Kirschner, had an idea that he wanted her to work on to create a new figurine series inspired by some pieces he had found in a local antique shop. These would be made of porcelain and would use a unique system of adding tiny porcelain crystals to the “snowsuits” to simulate fresh fallen snow.
The Snowbabies figurines were introduced in 1986 with 6 distinctive designs. Each told a story of young children playing in the snow. The line has grown and changed over the years with Kristi adding bits of color to some, animals, angel wings to some and stories to every piece that keep the collector engage with the series. Some famous guests have visited the Snowbabies in “Frosty Frolicland” – Barbie, Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Dorothy from the “Wizard of Oz” and Tinker Bell.
Once the Snowbabies were established as a popular giftware line, Kristi went on to create and design other giftware lines that many of you are sure to remember: the Silhouettes, “All Through the House”, “Merry Makers”, “Carrot Patch”, “General Store Rabbits”, “Hideaway Hollow”, “Snowbunnies” the annual Spring/Easter collectible baby animals, and “Snowpinions”.
And did you know that Kristi even designed some of the first North Pole accessories?
Kristi’s contributions to Department 56 are too numerous to mention here. One of the things everyone remembers is that Kristi always came into the office with a smile on her face and an idea that would end up in a design she was working on, or a product that another artist was creating. She said that she had so many ideas for Snowbabies that the series could go on forever, in fact, designs are in the books through 2025. With a solid foundation for the story of Snowbabies she will put the design of this popular series into the hands of a new artist, the series will go on, but after 34 years, Kristi has decided to clean her brushes and put away the drawing tablet. While we at Department 56 will miss her terribly, we sincerely wish her much happiness in the next phase of her life!