Ornaments that capture the imagination

An ornament designed by Curtis Posuniak features a sweater with an Orchard Lake St. Mary’s logo.
Photos by Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

Bloomfield Hills — It’s hard not to think of Christmas when you walk into Curtis Posuniak’s home.

Sure, his Bloomfield Hills dwelling is decorated like most homes this Advent. But Christmas decorations are a year-round thing for Posuniak, the owner of Klassics by Kurtis, a Christmas ornament company that facilitates the design and manufacture of unique Christmas ornaments he ships across the United States.

Posuniak, director of music at Orchard Lake Schools and SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, started his foray into Christmas ornaments in 1996, when he was organizing the Michigan Bach Festival on the Orchard Lake campus.

More than 200 people attended the festival, where a glass designer was selling ornaments.

“The two women I asked to chair the festival said I should be designing ornaments of the composers,” Posuniak told The Michigan Catholic. “So that April I went to Poland with my mother, and we got started taking the busts of composers to glass ornament makers in Poland.”

With Posuniak’s mother translating, he described to the glass makers what he wanted the ornaments to look like.

“It was a huge hit at music festivals around the country, at Bronner’s (CHRISTmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth) and other Christmas markets,” Posuniak said.

Twenty-one years later, Posuniak’s home is filled with Christmas ornaments depicting saints, popes, local parishes, company logos, famous Michigan landmarks.

“When someone approaches me about doing an ornament, it can be a round bulb with a picture on it or a hand painting, or it can be a decal, or even a replica of a statue,” said Posuniak, who also designs magnets.

Using prayer cards or images of churches, Posuniak makes simple sketches in his notebook of what he wants the ornament to look like before sending the design to the glassmakers in Krakow, Poland.

St. Patrick Church in Carleton is depicted on another ornament.

“When the glassmakers receive the sketch in Poland and we receive a sample of the design by email,” Posuniak said. “Then the client approves the design, and I tell the glassmaker to go ahead with the process.”

Once the design is approved, the ornament makers make a clay replica. Using the same techniques the manufacturers have been using for centuries, they then blow the molten glass into the metal cast, and silver is inserted into the glass ornament before it is painted — turning Posuniak’s designs into one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted Christmas ornaments.

“The bulbs are freely blown with a long tube, and no bulbs will ever be the same because it is by the eye,” Posuniak said.

That’s when Posuniak gives the final OK before they are mass produced, anywhere from 200 to 500 usually for a popular design.

Posuniak wakes up at 4:30 a.m. nearly every morning to talk to the manufacturers in Poland, a six-hour time difference, to discuss modifications and updates to the designs. He goes to Poland every February to inspect the prototypes and watch them be hand-painted.

“Seeing something on a picture and then seeing it an ornament, it’s just incredible to know you can replicate that as an ornament,” Posuniak said.

Curtis Posuniak, owner of Klassics by Kurtis, holds an ornament he designed depicting Sweetest Heart of Mary Church in Detroit. Over the years, Posuniak has designed ornaments depicting saints, popes, company and school logos, local parishes and famous Michigan landmarks, all of which are manufactured in Poland and shipped back to Michigan.
Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

After Posuniak inspects the ornaments — he keeps a supply of paint and glitter in his home to do touch-up work — he either ships them to stores and Catholic shops or packages them for individual buyers.

“This business is all year long,” Posuniak explained, in his home full or ornaments. “For ornaments they sell at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac (Island), they need them by April 15 for the first Sunday of May. Every day is Christmas at Bronner’s, and they want their orniments by June or July.

“All of the ornaments are done by hand, and they have so many people, so the earlier people order, the better,” Posuniak added.

This year, Klassics by Kurtis is featuring a special commemorative ornament celebrating the beatification of Blessed Solanus Casey and one for the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.

“One of the most special ones that gives me real pride this year has been the one of Our Lady of Fatima, because it turned out spectacular,” Posuniak said. “We had to tweak it, because you always see the children facing Our Lady. What we did was turn it so you could see the children facing you.”

Posuniak credits the artists in Poland for capturing the design and look of the ornament from the picture, including the faces of the children, which aren’t depicted in the original image.

“What we did was go to the Fatima shrine (in Riverview) and took pictures of the statue of Our Lady from the front, side and back, sent them to the factory in Poland, so the artist could see exactly what we wanted.”

Posuniak adds Our Lady of Fatima is one of the more comprehensive designs he’s worked with, since it is actually two ornaments.

“Our Lady is one ornament, and the bottom is another ornament,” Posuniak explains. “When the clay was made, the top is by itself as one piece of clay. Then the bottom is made with the children.”

Posuniak admits his ornaments are a little pricier than most, but are intended to be collectables or to be that “special ornament” on the tree.

A musician by trade, Posuniak never thought this side business of his would involve into what it is now.

Curtis Posuniak holds a Christmas ornament he designed commemorating the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

“I never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d be doing this,” Posuniak said. “I’ve learned so much over the years. When I started, I didn’t know a thing. My mother was my interpreter and found this factory in the basement of a home. It was two painters and one glassblower.

“I think one of the most joyous parts is having completed an ornament, when you’ve been able to replicate something the client has asked for,” Posuniak said. “When they get it in their hand, seeing how pleased they are to have it, that’s when all the design, the work with the glassblower, dealing with shipping, that’s when it’s all worth it.”

Klassics by Kurtis

Shoppers can view and purchase Posuniak’s gallery of Klassics by Kurtis ornaments by visiting stores.klasssicsbykurtis.com.