When Wisconsin native Brenda J. Schodt flew into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport before she started college at Arizona State University in 1980, she was captivated by the sunset outside the window. That glimpse led to her career as an ornament maker – many of her creations feature Southwest landscapes and skylines.
“I just love an Arizona sunset. That was my first design. It’s still my favorite and other people’s favorite,” Schodt says. “If they’re buying it and loving it, I’ll keep doing it.”
The fine arts major started her ornament journey creating duplicates for another maker. The seeds for her company were planted. After making pieces for her friends and family, she officially launched her business in 1997.
Under her company name Southwest Ornaments, Schodt hand-paints glass ornaments in a studio behind her Chandler home, releasing about three new designs every year. Although the holiday season is her busiest, she creates ornaments year-round for wholesale clients including Desert Botanical Garden and the Arizona Biltmore Resort.
“I am so grateful that, over all these years, people find a deep connection with my art. This gives me such inspiration to keep going,” she says. “I receive many messages, phone calls and emails letting me know how much that particular painting meant to them. I truly feel I owe it to them to do the best I can with each piece.”
Visit southwestornaments.com to learn more.
1 Canvas Prints
Schodt now issues canvas prints of her signature desert landscapes. Her “Art of the Desert” collection also includes original paintings.
2 Acrylic Paints
Schodt mixes her own colors and uses mainly acrylic paints to make her ornaments. “I just started with acrylic, and I never stopped,” she says. “I do love it, though, because it dries fast.”
3 Glass Bulbs
She hand-paints each of her designs on round glass bulbs.
4 Magnifying Glass
She uses a magnifying glass to help create finer details on her ornaments like beads that represent flowers.
Schodt listens to music throughout her workday. One of her favorites? “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen, whom she’s seen in concert six times.