Beaded Tree Ornament, late C20

This is another work from way way back, last century in fact. In 1994 about 3,500 artisans and craftsmen around the USA, (we were living there at the time) – were invited to submit an original and totally hand made Christmas tree ornament to go on the trees in the White House to celebrate the year of American Craft which also happened to be the Clintons’ first Christmas in residence.

I have been meaning to put this pic up for some time, as beading is so popular in textile crafts at the moment – several friends of mine are making bead jewellery and doing quite well selling it. Beading is everywhere on all kinds of womens’ clothing; beads and other ’embellishments’ have been appearing on quilts in the past few years, although for perhaps the past 15 years at least several prominent contemporary quilters such as Jane Birch Cochoran and Terri Mangat among others have applied beads as an integral part of their artistic voice in their quilted works.

I guess my invitation to submit an ornament came as having been a Quilt National exhibitor in 1993 and at the time being resident in Denver CO. The specifications were few, as I recall to be no larger than 15″ across and weigh no more than 12oz, any technique or material could be used. Coming as I did from a long embroidery background and adoring sparkle and glitter, I envisaged something that would catch the undoubted downlights and glow and glitter over there in the White House. So, it didn’t take me too long to settle on a silk poinsettia with beaded petals and other flower parts. Those who know me know that I jump in boots and all and then find I really have a challenge on my hands once I get down to basics – so of course, with no pattern around for anything like this I had to work it out for myself. The leaves are double sided, and on the underlayer I sewed in a couple of lines of covered florist wire so that I could shape the leaves once they were sewn. The stamen thingies up the middle were challenging – rolls of green silk with beaded ends turned out reasonably well I thought. Then all the leaves and stamen bits were gathered in a bundle and sewn together by hand and finished off tidily. I don’t recall whether I had not resolved the hanging mode at the time of this pic or whether the photographer and I agreed not to show it – anyway it was a lovely gold cord loop long enough to go over any reasonable size branch. The final dimensions were about 10″ across, and about 4″ depth taking into account the splayed leaves and including approx. 1″ deep bundle of stems unit. When I began the project I thought I’d make one for them and one for us – but by the completion of this one, I can assure you I had decided it was to be unique.

The blurbs that came with the paperwork included the information that after the christmas period the ornaments would go to the Smithsonian . I suppose they did….and wonder if they are still there. A couple of years back I tried to enquire but my phone calls, letters and emails went unanswered. I lost interest. If any reader either saw the christmas decorations in the White House that year or has since heard or knows of their ‘fate’ I’d be interested in hearing from you. I also contributed the Colorado panel to a tree skirt under the tree in the Blue room. That was used, at least once – going by the full colour large photo I and other contributors received. That one tree was positively bristling with ornaments, with barely a spruce needle showing. I did read somewhere of 7,500 odd ornaments turning up !!.. and it was probably almost too much for the 15 large trees traditionally placed in the house. it just occurred to me – I could email Hillary’s campaign to see if they can find me the information ….

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