How Christmas Ornament Storage Boxes Came To Be

Posted by kathy stanton on

Of course most collectors know Christopher Radko and his gorgeous ornaments, but not everyone knows the interesting story of how he started his hugely successful Christmas Ornament business. The New York times dubbed Mr. Radko, The Czar of Christmas Present, with well over 18 million hand blown glass ornaments in almost as many homes, the name suits him perfectly!

In an interview with Melissa Parker of Smashing Interviews Magazine Christopher said, “For me, home base was always under the Christmas tree. I loved the magic fantasy of it, the blinking lights and the shiny ornaments. It was just something that really inspired me. It seeded in me this love for color and décor and put me in good stead when our 12-foot family tree finally did fall over.” Apparently Christopher felt some responsibility for losing all of his family's Christmas ornaments when the family tree fell over and broke all the vintage ornaments. He tried to replace them but soon realized that those old European hand-blown glass ornaments could not be replaced.

“I set about looking for glass blowers to replace our ornaments and ended up having to design them myself. Back in the 1980s, everything was plastic and Styrofoam. Nobody was making glass ornaments. My love for Christmas from my earlier years helped inspire me, as I brought back some finely painted ornaments that I recalled growing up.” Thankfully for my own family Christopher was successful - very successful - in making those gorgeous old-world ornaments available for all!

Around the same time my husband Steve pulled out the old ornaments that he’d inherited from his Mother, and Grandmother and combined them with some newly purchased Radko ornaments. Maybe he was inspired by that sparkling Christmas tree or by watching his baby daughter’s joy around the tree, but he knew that he had to find a way to protect those shiny little treasures for her, forever. And the idea of creating Christmas ornament storage boxes was born. Steve is a natural problem solver and tinkerer so this new Christmas ornament storage box idea was another fun challenge for him.

Steve had noticed that some of his oldest treasured Christmas ornaments had a slightly dingy tarnish and brown spots. Researching this he found that the naturally occurring acid in most materials (especially cardboard boxes) would leach the vibrant colors and tarnish the silvered interior of the glass Christmas ornaments over time. The logical solution was to use an acid-free material, which he learned is used exclusively by museums and archives. There was also the problem of crowding. Fragile Christmas ornaments touching can easily cause breakage; individual cubbies would solve that. So, he designed a Christmas ornament storage box with dividers and removable trays; always the idea of keeping the ornaments from touching or bumping each other. He made the dividers adjustable so that cubbies could easily be made wider or longer as needed to accommodate a wide variety of Christmas ornaments, which is typical of most people’s own collections. He chose a sturdy, acid-free chipboard to make the boxes. With the beauty of Christmas time decor in mind, he wrapped the Christmas ornament storage box in a gorgeous holiday print. In fact, the fabric also served to make the box even sturdier in addition to creating a vey beautiful box that would become part of the holiday decor.  The original print was called St. Nicholas; many of our customers across the country still have that beautiful print today. The original print had a black background with candy canes, roses, and Jolly St. Nick and glimmering gold foil running throughout.

Just as Christopher Radko single-handedly re-invigorated the antique tradition of hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments, so too Ultimate Christmas Storage created a new segment of ornament storage specialized to the unique requirements of those ornaments and the needs of the clients wishing to preserve them as they would any treasured heirloom.  In fact for a few years we made ornament storage boxes specifically for Radko with a fabric print designed exclusively with his favorite ornaments, but that’s another story, for another day.

Eventually however other companies brought new ornaments to market (often Radko knock offs) and with those inevitably came other options for ornament storage. But all things are not equal and almost no other company has ever made the extra investment of offering acid-free ornament storage box options.

Every year, and starting earlier every year, I see shiny new ornaments displayed on the shelves of almost every store. Funny that you can now buy ornaments almost everywhere - even Starbucks sells ornaments, in fact they are quite popular. Often close by those ornament displays there are new storage options; more often than not they are plastic. I hate to see plastic containers for storing ornaments! Don’t get me wrong, plastic is a great option for storing your outdoor decorations, light strings, garland, etc., but plastic bins and containers are not appropriate for safely storing fragile and expensive hand-blown glass ornaments because plastic can trap moisture inside; something that should be avoided at all costs. Humidity is the primary cause of the brown spots often seen on older and vintage ornaments. If you think back to when you were very young you can probably recall seeing those odd brown spots on your Grandparent’s ornaments. That damage is irreparable and who wants to see that on their own newer ornaments…..which were more than likely a substantial investment.

Our carefully designed ornament storage boxes with dividers and removable trays start with an acid free chipboard which is treated with a tarnish inhibitor to prevent damage from moisture. For the most humid climates, we also recommend using a dessicant like our Desi-Pak that includes a humidity indicator to place between the box and the zippered vinyl zippered bag; periodically throughout the year you can look at it to check the humidity level. We also always suggest that our customers keep their ornament collections in a climate-controlled environment inside the home. A climate controlled garage is appropriate as well. One thing we remind customers of often is to be very careful and never store ornaments close to the water heater! I’ve had one too many calls from distressed customers saying that their water heater exploded and flooded their home, and they have soggy boxes full of soggy ornaments. Yikes!

Breakage from crowding is another all too common problem, because, “one size fits all” rarely works for your entire ornament collection; there are almost always some extra long or extra wide ornaments. We have designed our ornament organizing storage boxes with removable trays and adjustable dividers. The adjustable dividers come in very handy for those unique and oversized ornaments. The dividers are easy to move around so that cubbies can be adjusted and customized to suit those special sizes.

I was reminded again this year of how efficient our removable trays are and how they make decorating the tree so much easier and organized. I had trays pulled out all over the living room displaying our whole collection; my son and husband taking turns on the ladder would request, “small one please” or “where’s the Coke-a-Cola Bear?”, etc. The trays make It so easy to see all your ornaments; and that comes in super handy for both packing and unpacking Christmas ornaments every year!

After all these years of using my own archival storage boxes, I know firsthand
what a great product we make. There’s no question that our system makes organizing and staying organized a snap. Helping customers organize is also why this year Ultimate Christmas Storage is rolling out limited edition, acid-free storage solutions for additional holidays including Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. For the moment we’ve only chosen the Fourth of July and Halloween, both beautiful options. We are also considering offering these boxes with or without trays and dividers, based on the fact that it isn’t just holiday ornaments that people need to store, but holiday linens, dining table decorations and centerpieces, candles and so much more. We’d love to hear from you! If you have some ideas about what items you might like to store or what other holidays you’d like to see among our new offerings, please let us know, I always love to hear from our customer and potential customers.

A big part of having various ornament collections and decorative themes is organization…it’s key. Ultimate Christmas Storage makes it easy to organize Christmas collections so you can separate by themes or colors and easily identify what you’re looking for without opening each ornament storage box. Our beautiful decorative holiday fabrics are just one of the exclusive features that make our Christmas ornament storage so unique, and helps customers stay organized, and ornament collections safe all year long!

The In addition to our beautiful and decorative ornament storage boxes Ultimate Christmas Storage offers a very popular line of Archival Kraft storage boxes. These ornament storage boxes offer even more flexibility because they have the same protective qualities as our first line of fabric covered boxes, meaning that they are acid-free and archival quality, they are very sturdy and have removable dividers to make customizing cubbies easy. This Archival Kraft Storage line however, has a utilitarian look. The clean, simple look of these ornament storage boxes and a storage system can be easily decorated and used for not only Christmas ornaments but for many holidays, and many other items besides just ornaments. One of the reasons I love our archival, decorative storage boxes is their flexibility. With some stickers, paint or colored tape you can customize our great looking kraft colored boxes to suite your own style, indicate what’s inside, or separate for each member of the family…..even Fido can have a box! My husband likes them stacked in his office and closet just as they are. We also have clients that let their kids decorate our ornament storage boxes for their own rooms to organize their own collections of toys, crafting items, etc.

I love our craft storage boxes for organizing so many items. Yes, they are perfect for ornaments, but they are equally great for organizing your krafts and sewing corner or kid’s toys and collections. They’re also really handy for lingerie, socks, ties, belts, scarves, packing away winter wear, etc. It’s amazing how organizing things also creates more space in your home. Living in an organized environment (or in my case a semi-organized environment) provides a sense of calm. Our craft storage boxes could be the answer to everything….or not, but they come in very handy and they look great neatly stacked on shelves. Of course our craft storage boxes are acid free and archival as well as being sturdy, and the clean surface can be written on or decorated for easy identification….a DIYers dream. You can also pull out the dividers to store all your kid’s artwork and schoolwork, and since we have 5 convenient sizes to choose from the possibilities are endless. No matter which line you choose, the fabric-covered, decorative Archival Ornament Storage or the lower price point of the Archival Kraft Storage you are guaranteed to be getting a superior product back by many years of experience and excellent customer service. In our home we have both lines and use them both in almost every room!

I have to say that there is something really special about opening a closet in the middle of summer and catching a glimpse of these beautiful ornament storage boxes stacked safely in the corner protecting special holiday memories, and I am always excited when our customers share their enthusiasm of all things Christmas, and praise for our ornament storage and craft storage boxes. Time and again we hear from happy customers with 5, 10, 20+ of our archival storage boxes for their large ornament collections to decorate one or multiple trees. We have one client that puts up 9 themed trees including one in the garage that is decorated with little tool ornaments! We have clients that put up trees in each kids room decorated with their own chosen theme, think Disney Princesses, Thomas the Train, Dora the Explorer or Pink Flamingos. We have one client whose collection consists
of over 700 ornaments that are only Hearts and Sheep! Yet some of the most
treasured ornaments don’t even come from a store, they are crafts made by
children’s tiny hands! Preserving these keepsake holiday crafts and ornaments in archival storage boxes is top priority for families.

We are so fortunate after so many years to have loyal customers that call in every so often to chat and give suggestions or just to tell us about something new they’ve discovered. Many clients and friends like to share how they keep their collections organized. Everyone seems to have their own system for organizing their ornament collections and various themes, some as simple as taking pictures of each layer in each ornament storage box and sticking the images on the outside of their storage boxes for easy identification. Others sort and store ornaments by theme or color, but however they organize their ornament storage, it’s clear that our fabric-covered Archival Ornament Storage, Archival Kraft Storage and Archival Packing Supplies are an important part of their plan and technique.

We are proud to provide archival ornament storage boxes that help clients
protect their family memories for future generations. This is what Patricia from Lakeville, MN told us:

“Each year since I discovered your boxes 12 years ago, I have added 2 or 3 new boxes to my collection, until I now have 19 of your stunning boxes. But these containers do more than safely store my precious ornaments; they have become part of my Christmas decorations and are delightfully displayed under my many Christmas trees. I have recommended Ultimate Christmas Storage to several friends who have also become extremely satisfied customers. The boxes are of excellent quality and look as good now as they did when I began purchasing them many years ago. But excellent quality isn't limited to the boxes; your company also delivers excellent customer service and prompt delivery. I know I will be buying more of your boxes and look forward to seeing your new designs. Thank you for adding beauty to my Christmas decorations.”

Thank you Patricia!

Since that first ornament storage box, Ultimate Christmas Storage has been very successful in helping clients preserve their ornaments and other treasures. I’m grateful and proud to say that we have many loyal customers all over the country that continue to buy our Christmas storage boxes. Many of our customers buy for children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Some families buy a box for each child and every year as the kids are growing up. They buy them for newlyweds and Christmas weddings, for friends and family, I even have several realtors that buy them as housewarming gifts. The common theme heard from all our customers is a desire to preserve and pass along precious ornaments which are considered invaluable family heirlooms. 

Being organized is easier with Ultimate Christmas Storage boxes and storage systems, but I don’t believe that organizing comes naturally to everyone. It doesn’t come naturally to me and I always feel it’s an ongoing process, but I do think that we all appreciate an organized space because it creates more room and can have a calming effect in your day-to-day life. It may seem like a daunting task, but the truth is it’s not all.

Organizing is as easy as separating all like-things and collecting them together in one place. In a closet for instance, you’ve got sweaters, tee-shirts, exercise clothes, purses, scarves, etc. The separating step is important because it helps you visualize how much storage space you need for each group. It can be surprising to see all these items piled together, you may even realize you have too much of one item or that certain items haven’t been used or worn in a long time and can be donated. Voila - you’re already making more room!

The same goes for your office, craft or wrapping closet, garage, etc., you start by separating all like-items in piles. After separating you’ll get an accurate idea of how much you have of each type of item and a better sense of what size containers you need. Now on to the fun part - shopping for containers! The possibilities for decorative storage boxes and decorative storage containers are endless. You can find our decorative storage boxes online, or at THE CONTAINER STORE. You may want a decorative storage box in your closet, but might not want that same look for your garage. You’ll probably want a different decorative storage box, (or maybe baskets) for your kids rooms and toys.

A Brief History of the Hand Blown Glass Christmas Ornament, Edited from surfnetkids.com

Unknown artisans brought about the craft of glass blowing, eventually evolving into the fine art of Christmas glass ornaments we know today. Christoph Muller and Hans Greiner set up the first glassworks in 1597 in Lauscha, Germany; located in a river valley they had several elements needed for glass making including timber for firing the glass ovens and sand. Soon other glassworks were established in the town, producing drinking glasses, flasks, glass bowls, glass beads and even glass eyes.

In 1847 descendents of Hans Greiner began producing glass ornaments in the shape of fruits and nuts, these were made in a very unique hand-blown process combined with molds. Greiner’s sons and grandsons carried on the Christmas ornament tradition. They were also responsible for another ingenious product: glass marbles.

Glass ornaments became popular in 1846 when an illustration of Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree was printed in a London newspaper. The royal tree was lavishly decorated with glass ornaments from Prince Albert’s native land of Germany; suddenly everyone wanted their own beautiful and unique glass Christmas ornaments. To meet the rapidly growing demand Christmas ornaments were being exported to England and other parts of Europe.

In the 1880s American dime-store magnate F. W. Woolworth who discovered Lauscha’s glassworks during a visit to Germany. Despite his initial reluctance to stock the glass ornaments, he later made a fortune by importing the German glass ornaments to the U.S. In fact by 1890 Woolworth’s stores were selling an estimated 25 million dollars worth of ornaments at nickel and dime prices! Some collectors still have those original Woolworths purchased ornaments.

Germany continued manufacturing ornaments and dominating that market, until 1925 when Japan and Czechoslovakia began producing ornaments in large quantities for export to the U.S. which was presumably the largest customer. By 1935, more then 250 million Christmas tree ornaments were being imported to the United States.

The work of the German glass blowers and the distribution of the German ornaments remained virtually unchanged from the middle of the 19th century through World War ll. Sadly, the tolls of war destroyed many of the old world family molds that had been passed down for generations among all the families in Lauscha. Families were splintered when craftsmen fled their homeland to settle in Neustadt. One group, the Muller-Blech family was able to stay behind and smuggle the molds out covertly.

The Muller-Blech family continued to practice the craft of ornament blowing in the same workshops in Lauscha Germany for thirteen generations. In the 1960s Klaus Muller-Blech, a 14th generation descendant, and Birgit Eichhorn Jeremias-Sohn, descendant of the Eichhorn family, joined forces by marriage and combined their familys’ tradition. Today their collection includes more than 6000 antique blown glass ornament molds that date from the 1850s. In addition, many new ornaments are created each year to represent the traditions of today.

To find out if you own any original Inge-glass ornaments, look for the authentic star crown ornament holder. The Inge-glass ornaments are recognizable as one of the oldest generational German Christmas ornament makers and in 2000 Inge-glass established their own distribution site in the United States. It was not until 1939 and the outbreak of World War II did an American company significantly enter the ornament business. Using a machine that was designed to make light bulbs, Corning engineers produced more than 2,000 ornament balls a minute. In 1973 a new tradition of Christmas decorating was started when Hallmark introduced six glass ball ornaments and twelve yarn figures as the first collection of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments. Since this humble beginning Hallmark has introduced more than 3,000 different Keepsakes Ornaments and more than one hundred ornament series.

Just imagine if in 1850 there had been Ultimate Christmas Storage for safekeeping those beautiful, original designs. The fact that there are still examples of those original ornaments is a testament that even though these treasures are so fragile, with proper care they will last for future generations. At Ultimate Christmas Storage our goal is to help our customers preserve their Christmas ornaments, heirlooms and treasures for their children, grandchildren and far beyond. What could be more special than to enjoy the same ornaments you saw hanging in your grandparent’s home, hanging on your own tree many years later. My ornaments are my pride and joy and a true heirloom!

To see both lines of ornament storage boxes and packing supplies please visit www.ultimatechristmas.com. We have three beautiful new prints coming in September and remember all our products are always 100% acid free. For additional information please contact me directly kathy@iwfla.com  or 310-625-6025


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