HER Profile: Ornaments for Keeps

Featured Sliders / HER Profile / Lifestyle / Stories / November 16, 2015
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Linda Henderson with her daughters Kim Jourdon and Kayla Case

What began as a side business for the stay-at-home mom to spend more time with her children has grown into a family operation that now involves her daughters Kim Jourdon and Kayla Case. Together, they work throughout the year making personalized handmade ornaments for many loyal customers, both locally and throughout the U.S.—with many orders shipped internationally.

Born and raised in Troy, Missouri, Henderson, 62, attended Hannibal LaGrange College and received her associate of arts degree in business. After her children were in school, she worked for the Missouri Department of Transportation and retired in 2010. She now runs the business full time.

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Ornaments for Keeps has several different Mizzou ornaments in their line.
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Jourdon came on in 2011 and has designed several ornaments, works with social media and handles the website. Her 11-year-old Pug, Sydney, born on Christmas Day is the company’s unofficial mascot. Kayla, who has four children, also recently joined the company. Even Henderson’s husband, Keith, who’s retired from the army after 26 years, helps out, particularly in those months leading up to Christmas.

“We start working each January but 85 percent of our sales come between September and December,” Henderson said.

The business has definitely evolved from its early days when she started making Christmas ornaments in her kitchen. Back then the company was called Dough Creations. She changed the name of the company in 2006 when she expanded her product line to include other types of ornaments. While still home-based, she has renovated her basement for their shop, which has work space and shelves for paints and materials.

Today 60 percent of the ornaments sold either on their website, www.ornamentsforkeeps.com, or at craft shows are handmade, using her bread dough that’s baked, decorated and glazed. In 2006 she started designing for Rudolph & Me, a wholesale ornament company. She designs the ornaments and the company mass produces them, and then they’re sold by owners of mall kiosks.

SHE LOVES THE HOLIDAYS

and embodies the Christmas spirit. “Both of my daughters were born around the holidays – Kayla on December 22 and Kim on Christmas Day. I love making homemade caramels, decorating sugar cookies and setting up the toy train around the Christmas tree with my grandchildren. My family are members of Faith Lutheran Church and we definitely celebrate the religious meaning of Christmas. I have a passion for Christmas ornaments and I love making them, feeling the bread dough in my hands and seeing what forms.”

THEY START WITH FLOUR, GROUND SALT AND WARM WATER

in the food processor and then shape the ornaments that are baked on cookie sheets. Then they sit and harden. They hand paint and decorate the faces and then they’re dipped in a resin so they have a seal on them. The entire process takes five days.

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Henderson’s process starts with sculpting the bread dough, often dyed in various colors.
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“THE SECRET ISN’T IN THE DOUGH, IT’S YOU—YOUR CREATIVITY.

We do what we like but we also go to the market in Atlanta every year to see the trends and what’s popular.  Snowmen always go over and penguins are hot right now. I also learn a lot from going to the craft shows and seeing what people are asking for or what they buy.”

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was the first craft show she attended. That was back in 1982, not long after she and her husband moved to Jefferson City and she started the business. “Since then I’ve only missed that show once. A lot of people make their orders ahead of time and come to my booth to pick them up.”

THE HANDMADE ORNAMENTS ARE STILL THE BIGGEST SELLERS.

“Many people like the look and feel of the handmade ornaments, because they puff up while baking and have a different texture and appearance.” Henderson expanded their product line to include glass ornaments from Coton Color and ceramic ones from Sullivans.

IT’S ALL IN THE EYES.

“Some people in the business can tell which ornaments are mine because of the way I do my eyes. The eyes are drawn on with a drafting pen in a three layer process and then the cheeks are put on in chalk. “My daughter Kim knows how to do them just like I do.”

MAKING MEMORIES ONE ORNAMENT AT A TIME

is their motto. Henderson’s creations are family keepsakes and part of many milestones-from “new baby,” “first day of school” to “graduation.” A former co-worker collects her snowmen and several families have a whole tree of just her ornaments.

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The snowman, one of Henderson’s first ornaments, and wreath show some of the themes that have persisted through the years.

HER HUSBAND KEITH IS THE GRUMPY ELF

and he wears many hats—cookie cutter, head of sales, shipping and even assistant ornament painter— especially those last two months before Christmas. During HER’s visit, they had a big order, 80 ornaments, going out. One box was on its way to Mexico City, Mexico and the other to Oregon.

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“I AM SURPRISED AT HOW MUCH WE HAVE GROWN.

When I first started this business, my mom, who is 90 years old, thought it would only last a few years. But we were able to change with the times, keep up with the colors and trends.  It helps to be at the shows and have direct contact with people to know what they want. Whatever the reason, we just keep growing. We really care about our customers and provide personal service. When we receive compliments that’s very meaningful to us.”

THE BUSINESS IS IN GOOD HANDS.

Now that her daughters are both working in the business, she feels that eventually she’ll be able  to step back a bit. “I love to travel and spend time with my grandchildren and we have a lake house, too. I would like to do volunteer work with my grandchildren’s school, Trinity Lutheran and Calvary Lutheran High School. Kim has been here for 4 years and she can lead on without me. Kayla is now able to join the company. When they were little they loved playing with the dough and now that they’ve grown up and come back it’s really special. I hope that they will one day carry on the business.”

Check out Ornaments for Keeps on Facebook and at www.ornamentsforkeeps.com.

Story by Shelley Gabert | Photographs by Leah Beane

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