A Handcrafted Holiday
Some of the most cherished handcrafted holiday treasures are made out of construction paper and pipe cleaners, and there’s nothing sweeter than an ornament constructed by a preschooler. But when the occasion calls for something unique, elegant and exquisitely made, you can’t do better than right here in mid-Missouri. We found six regional artists who are making this holiday season merry, bright and beautiful with their extraordinary artwork.
Wooden Icicle Ornaments
Three decades of woodworking expertise go into each of Chuck Pritchard’s masterful ornaments. The award-winning woodcrafter has spent 30 years honing and polishing his technique, after he first observed a master producing a similar piece at a woodcrafter’s convention.
Dark streaks accentuate the hollowed burl globes, while a tapered cherry icicle dangles delicately beneath. Careful lines and texturing embellish each featherweight ornament with rare detail.
“You have to strike a balance between showing off your talents — when you can make something so fine — and what is practically going to look good,” Pritchard says.
His approach shows in these fine items. A final polish gives each piece a bright sheen, compatible with Christmas lights and holiday décor. The graceful, versatile pieces would highlight any Christmas tree, or extend their cheer far past the holiday season as a gift or year-round household decoration.
“Each one is individual. This isn’t a production item,” Pritchard says. “Someone with care and skill has made it. That makes you proud to give it as a gift.”
Available at Bluestem Missouri Crafts, 13 S. Ninth St., www.bluestemcrafts.com
Blown Glass Ornaments
Nick Seyer’s glass is blowing up in Columbia this holiday season. The Columbia native now lives and works out of Springfield, where he practices the art of glassblowing. His passion for the medium combines the hefty, hands-on craftwork with the motion and color of animation, the two areas that previously captivated his artistic interest. On each ornament, solid smears and globs spread fluid color across delicate, light bases with varying degrees of translucence.
“It’s nice to have a simplistic outlook with just a splash of color,” Seyer says. The ornaments are both unpretentious and mesmerizing in the arrested motion of the glass. Color schemes vary but tend to favor the cool colors of a winter palette. But of course, Mizzou black and gold will be a roaring good option for the rabid Tiger fans out there.
“I really like bright, vibrant colors … different hues and variations,” Seyer says. Artistic inspiration reflects in each of these handcrafted ornaments in a way that manufactured counterparts cannot. “There’s so much fun and love that went into making it,” Seyer says. “That makes it more special.”
Seyer also has other glassware on display at ARTlandish Gallery, and is available for customization consultations.
Available at ARTlandish Gallery, 1019 E. Walnut St., www.artlandishgallery.com.
Engraved Slab Ornaments
Maddie Lock brings country timber to the Columbia area. The idea for these engraved ornaments arose when the trees from her childhood home fell. Lock received a batch of Bradford pear tree slices, and decided to translate her passion for painting acrylics into emblazoned images on the wood.
“A Christmas tree itself is natural,” Lock says. “It’s earth on earth; it complements well.” Deep character in each design distinguishes these pieces from generic decorations; the dark, homey wood harmonizes with soothing winter décor. Unpredictable patterns of moss and bark speckle the perimeter of each ornament.
“It adds a little more touch that you can personalize,” Lock says. “They’re all different.”
The images — snowflakes, buffaloes, arrows and, well, more trees — are both casual and careful, deeply ingrained with a torch pen. For Lock, there is special significance in extending some of her family’s old wood and some of her own artistry into new use for friends and customers.
“Just knowing that other people can relate to even the little things I do, I appreciate that,” Lock says, “I really enjoy that.”
Available at Gidget’s Garage, 906 Alley A.
Glitter Page Wreaths
Not all that glitters is gold with these thrifty paper wreaths. Columbia local Jana Gebhardt doesn’t formally consider herself an artist, though she professionally decorates for her interior design company, Studio J.
“Making things has always been part of my life,” Gebhardt says. “I see the potential in everything and love to rescue a neglected and perhaps unappreciated item and restyle it to give it a new purpose and life.”
That ability to repurpose the old into the new has yielded these distinguished wreaths, both classy and snazzy. Gebhardt folds old pages, extracted from unused and neglected books, into elaborate wreath designs. The notes scrawling across every sheet, in this case from a hymnal, only increase the intricacy and detail. Gebhardt then embellishes each wreath with German glass glitter.
The German glitter, prepared by traditional techniques in Germany, outshines its generic competition and can sprinkle some flash onto any holiday style. The embellishments are often, but not always, holiday-specific; the cryptic, aged paper delivers timeless class and intrigue.
“The appeal of the wreath is the simplicity of material, the beauty and sparkle or, for me, the charm of making something old into something new,” Gebhardt says.
Gebhardt teaches classes on how to construct the wreaths and how to bedazzle items with German glass glitter. Students of all levels and artistic backgrounds are welcome. The next German Glass Glitter class is on Dec. 5 at Plume.
Available at Plume, 165 E. Hoe Down Drive (just off Route K), www.somethingplume.com.
Vintage Ornament Wreaths
Stacia Schaefer started piecing together these glitzy wreaths last year, but she’s been scrounging vintage and antique items for a lifetime.
“Collecting is a huge part of my job,” Schaefer says. “We’ve always collected mid-century stuff.”
Her hoard, recently bolstered by a trove of inherited ornaments, yielded these nostalgically flashy arrangements of ornaments and holiday items. Each element revives the palette and memories of a different time, often in gaudy pinks and yellows and chromes.
Schaeffer recalls the joy of her friends and family seeing fond Christmas memories resurrected in new wreaths. Each individualized wreath centers around major items — stars, candles, angels, elves and whatever Schaeffer stumbles upon. The remaining ornaments add contrast in size, texture and wear, with pleasing color themes running throughout the bright motley.
“You need a lot of rhythm and repetition,” Schaefer says. “I believe the key to my wreaths is variety.” Her pieces reflect both the metallic, industrial efficiency of the mid-20th century, and the wear and aging of personal use and touch.
“Juxtapositions are what make it fascinating, what keeps you looking at it,” Schaefer says. “A piece of art should make you feel lots of things. You shouldn’t look at it once and your feelings should be done.”
Schaefer’s wreaths will surely keep guests coming back for repeated viewing, but the paints on the ornaments will not tolerate outdoor weathering, so they’ll be more likely to deck your halls.
Available at Helmi’s Garden, 7201 S. Nursery Road, www.helmisgardens.com, and through Schaefer’s profile on Etsy.com under Hester, Maude & Nancy. Customization is available on request.
Paper Floral Pieces
Lili Johnstone has a penchant for creating.
“I’ve always been the kind that can’t sit still and watch movies,” Johnstone says, “My hands are always busy.” So when her friend requested peonies for her wedding, Johnstone’s next project was born. With some paper and wire, some odds and some ends, and a knack for creating, Johnstone fully adorned the reception with paper flowers.
Now, Johnstone crafts an array of imitation paper plants and flowers that are lively with imagination and convincing detail, without requiring the fuss and maintenance of a wilting plant fixture. The pieces — evergreen sprouts, flower bouquets, mistletoe hangers and more — merge into a blend of natural realism and subtle, imaginative variation. Her products are so detailed that bewildered bees have buzzed up to inspect her work, she says. But with the challenges of material construction and the whimsy of artistic inspiration, the final product is distinct from nature’s exact blueprint.
“My work is still a collaboration with Mother Nature and what the materials allow me to do,” Johnstone says. “I think it gives all my stuff a very specific flavor and essence. I’m not so hung up on creating exact realism.”
Though each arrangement boasts remarkable detail, technique and resourcefulness, Johnstone’s craft doesn’t emerge from teaching, instruction or even general guidelines. “I’ve never been one to follow instructions,” she says. Instead, she crafts from intuition and a passion for creativity.
“The main reward for me is having a vision in my head and being able to re-create it three-dimensionally,” Johnstone says.
The pieces, featuring timely hollies and evergreens, pair nicely with winter themes, yet their manmade elements and vivid flowers can spruce up décor yearlong.
Available at Poppy, 920 E. Broadway. Johnstone is available for customization requests at Poppy or on Instagram and Facebook, under her company title D’fy.