Local family creating Kentucky Christmas history

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Father and son Stapps make official state Christmas ornament

By Calen McKinney



Those who buy this year’s official state ornament will get a creation designed and handmade in Campbellsville.

The ornaments, made by a father and son team, were handcrafted in a workshop downtown.

On Friday, there was sawdust in the air as Morgan Stapp and his son, Jordan, worked to complete the state’s order of 400 ornaments.

Last Monday, the state Finance and Administration Cabinet’s Division of Historic Properties announced the release of this year’s Kentucky State Capitol ornament, the tenth in this limited-edition series. The ornament is a handcrafted replica of the Old Governor’s Mansion carved in Kentucky maple and cherry wood. This is the third state Christmas ornament made by the K&M Crafts team in Campbellsville, named after Kathy and Morgan Stapp.

The ornaments are available at the state capitol or online and are individually signed and numbered by Morgan Stapp.

The three-dimensional ornament also features the signatures of Gov. Steve and Jane Beshear and the Commonwealth seal.

To make this year’s state ornament, Morgan and Jordan designed a rendering of the old governor’s mansion, made a model of it and then had the image scanned.

The image is carved into wood with a machine and the Stapps then hand carve the finishing touches on the ornaments.

The Stapps have sold the ornaments to the state. The state is now offering the ornaments as gifts, and also sells them.

Ornaments cost $25 plus the cost of shipping, with proceeds benefiting the state’s Division of Historic Properties’ endowment fund to support preserving the old governor’s mansion for future generations.

Morgan says that’s what makes the long hours - sometimes entire days before sleeping - to make the ornaments worthwhile.

“We’re not making much,” she said. “It’s going to a worthy cause.”

The opportunity to make the state’s ornaments came in 2010 when the Stapps were talking with David Buchta, director of the Division of Historic Properties.

Jordan said he told Buchta that he believed he and his father could make better ornaments than the ones the state had been commissioning. Buchta asked the Stapps to propose a design. After that was approved, the Stapps went to work.

They finalized this year’s ornament design in November. Last Monday, the Stapps delivered the first 80 ornaments to state officials. This past week was spent making more, working toward completing the 400 ornament order.

“I’m signing 400,” Morgan said. “Order them quickly.”

K&M began in 1986. At age 26, Morgan had a large woodworking company in Louisville with 125 employees. Business was good. That soon changed.

“At 28, I didn’t have anything,” he said.

Later, after Jordan finished school, the Stapps decided to expand the K&M company. Since then, they say the company has had several successes, but also failures.

“But this little company has always plugged along,” Morgan said.

From selling their items to companies like Lands End and on television’s QVC, the Stapps have created a name for themselves.

“There wasn’t anything out there like it,” Morgan said.

They have built the official pool table for a professional tournament, made the official ornament for the World Equestrian Games and have recently begun making rifle stocks for military officials, and are receiving rave reviews.

The Stapps say there is demand for their wooden ornaments and other items, though much of their business is tourism-driven. And, with the downturn in the economy, Jordan said, people haven’t been traveling as much.

But the Stapps have been busy making Christmas ornaments for various catalogs and other suppliers. Their snowman and nativity scenes are the most popular.

They say their inventory is a bit low right now. Those who would like to order ornaments likely won’t be able to get them before Christmas.

Getting the opportunity to make the state’s ornament is exciting, Jordan said, but also means they have little time to fill the order, while also working on other projects and making deals for products to make next year.

Morgan said being chosen to make something that will be used to represent the state of Kentucky means a lot.

“It’s an honor, no doubt about it,” he said.

And even though Morgan says the ornaments won’t make the company as much as some other jobs, helping the state of Kentucky is important to him.

“The state has helped so many crafters,” he said. “I’m proud of the fact that they asked us to do it.”

Morgan said he is proud to know that those who collect the ornaments will have something he and his son made.

“It’s a humbling thing.”

Jordan said knowing that people are buying ornaments he made to create Christmas memories with family and friends is meaningful.

“That still moves you, no matter how often it happens.”

Morgan said he once made an ornament for a family in honor of a loved one who had died. He said that was a true honor.

“Boy, was that humbling,” he said.

Though mass producing handmade ornaments can be hard work and involve long hours, the Stapps say they enjoy it.

“I love to design and make stuff,” Morgan said. “I make stuff. That’s what I am. And I’m good at it.”

Jordan says he likely could make more money working other jobs, but wouldn’t give up woodworking.

“This is mine,” he said. “These are my projects. It’s my success or my failure.” To buy this year’s state ornament online, visit historicproperties.ky.gov and click on the Historic Properties eBay store.

Ornaments are also sold at the capitol tour desk and the Frankfort/Franklin County Tourism and Convention Commission.

To order by phone, call (502) 564-3449 or (502) 564-0900.

The Stapps say the state ornament must be purchased from Kentucky officials and can’t be bought directly from them. For more information about K&M Crafts, or to see photos of the Stapps’ ornaments, visit www.kandmcraftsofkentucky.com.