Today we’re talking with Dorr and Stephanie Eddy, the Makers behind the adorable custom clay ornaments from Calliope Designs. Take a look to see how their idea went from a holiday party craft to a hit in major stores like Neiman Marcus and Macy’s!
Tell us the story of Calliope Designs!
The year was 1971 and the times were a-changing! Dorr Eddy, an advertising agency art director, and Stephanie Eddy, an advertising agency account executive, left San Francisco and moved to a small town in Sonoma County, California. Still working freelance in advertising, they spent an autumn making “dough” Christmas ornaments as gifts for family and friends. Little did they know that a few short years later they would be hiring dozens of employees to help fill orders for their unique ornaments from gift shops and department stores.
The Eddys say that to their knowledge, they were the first in the world to manufacture dough ornaments and to personalize those ornaments with names, corporate logos, and places! Orders for ornaments from stores like Neiman Marcus and Macy’s New York launched the Eddy’s cottage ornament business into the mainstream of gift shows, advertising specialty distributors, and the ornaments souvenir industry.
Stephanie and Dorr’s first taste of the coming popularity of their cute little handcrafted dough ornaments was at the Great Dickens Faire in San Francisco in 1972. The following spring came a huge order for all Macy’s New York and Macy’s New Jersey stores. The first souvenir ornaments account for Calliope Designs was Yellowstone National Park, and one of the first corporations ordering their personalized bread dough ornaments is still ordering ornaments today. Southwest Airlines has ordered a unique ornament each year to donate to the Ronald MacDonald Houses in the southeastern United States.
Some of the most popular Christmas ornaments at Calliope Designs are the styles relating to “first” occasions in a customer’s life: a new baby or adopted child, a new home, or first anniversaries. Whatever the “first” is, Stephanie & Dorr love having their customers create their own special greetings for the ornaments – some of their best phrases have come directly from the creativity of their customers!
What is your background as a Maker? What got you started making or creating?
Artist Ruth Azawa was, unknowingly, an inspiring force in the development of our products for Calliope Designs. She had completed her famous fountain sculpture of the streets of San Francisco which was made of cast metal poured into a mold. The interesting thing to us was that the mold itself was originally made of “baker’s clay” or “bread dough”. A magazine article about Ruth’s “baker’s clay” recipe as well as how she made some of the figurines inspired our friends, John and Kathleen Holmes, to have a fun party at their home to make our own “sculptures” – and since it was close to Christmas, we later thought of this as a way to make Christmas gifts!
That year we made many of these little figurines, and gave them away at Christmas time. With the positive response we received from family and friends, we were encouraged the following year to join the Great Dickens Faire of San Francisco to sell the wares from a tiny cart, which started our path to success.
Tell us a fun or interesting story behind one of the Christmas ornaments you’ve made.
Our designs are whimsical and adorable, but what really makes them special is the personalization aspect. Most of our customers select a style that has a meaningful connection to the year just past: a baby’s birth, an engagement, a wedding, a new home or a new pet. We receive so many wonderful emails and letters from customers expressing how much they loved their purchase. One particular customer stands out in our history: Somewhat close to Christmas we received an ornament order for four ornaments featuring a penguin family of 5. When we called to check with the customer on the best shipping arrangement, this wonderful story unfolded. Our customer was purchasing four ornaments for her siblings. There had been five of them, but sadly, one had passed away. Our customer was in her 70’s at this time, and she explained that when they were children ranging in age from 2-10, the five of them had been put up for adoption and separated for over 60 years. She had made it her mission to find her siblings, and she had been successful. They were all meeting for the first time at Christmas that year, and the ornament was a gift for each one to celebrate this reunion of the four remaining siblings. We were so honored to be a part of their celebration!
What is your favorite part about being a Maker?
Each of us has a favorite part of this process. For Dorr, it is the creation of the whimsical designs that customers enjoy year after year. An artist with an “old fashioned” approach, he draws each design by hand prior to having a sample created for approval. No cookie cutters, molds, or computer graphics are used – it’s just his way of making each product unique. And it has worked! Stephanie loves the marketing and customer service aspects of Calliope Designs. She works to be the best at keeping our customers well-served in all ways. Will, our son, is the master of operations, and when the orders start flowing in you can be sure he is organized and knows how to get things done in the best way possible.
How do you see growing your product lines in the future?
Our product lines are a mixture of product design and personalization opportunities. Our growth will come in the realm of helping the customer design their own product – one that suits their family, friends, home and pets.
Do you have any advice for any would-be Zazzle Makers?
Go for it! Make something people can use. Make it better than anyone else. And give great customer service – always.