Many many…many years ago, while thumbing through a Good Housekeeping magazine, I stumbled across THE most beautiful photo of a Christmas tree. I looked at it and thought, “Now that’s what a Christmas tree should look like!” It was covered in angels that melted from the top to the bottom where resided the most gorgeous Nativity scene I had ever witnessed/seen. The whole thing was crowned with a Star of Bethlehem. It literally took my breath away. I sat there and thought. And plotted. And wondered. “What if I found a bunch of angels….?” I had just started learning how to trim greenware (unfired ceramics) and was about to embark on the fine painting of my first work of art! What IF I could do a whole tree of ceramic angels and somehow find time to make a Nativity set?!!! What an idea! Of course, mine wouldn’t be as grand as the one I was looking at, but maybe I could turn out something close to it?
Bear in mind that what I was contemplating was the annual Christmas tree at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, consisting of Neapolitan figurines that decorate a 20 foot Blue Spruce tree. Gulp. When I aim, I aim high! OK so my angels wouldn’t be made of paper mache and dressed with fine fabrics sewn by hand. And no gold gilding would be found on my works of art. BUT, a ceramic paint company had just come out with a great gold paint that might pass muster?
So, off I went to my ceramic lady’s shop, found the perfect angels and a great Nativity set that she said she’d pour for me. After waiting a week, I picked up around 25 angels and your basic 3 piece Nativity figures and happily set about scraping the seams and smoothing them down. Then my ceramic lady fired them for me so I could start painting them. It’s important to note that at the time I had a 6 month old baby boy and a 3 yr old . Timing was key. Naps and midnight oil proved to be my arteest time! But I got them done just in time for Christmas! Expecting a great work of art, I hung the angels with care and holy cow (no pun intended), I needed about 50 more to fill up the tree! We got by with what I had made that year, but the next year I added more angels. And shepherds. Then wise men found the tree a couple of years later, along with some cows and sheep. Slowly through the years, I filled up the tree.
My Angel Tree, as the Big Boss dubbed it, now has many, many little people and animals surveying the Baby Jesus. Amazingly enough, no little hands have ever accidentally dropped any of them! Oh there are cow horn tips missing, a couple of shepherds have lost hands/fingers and an angel wing or two have chipped a bit, but I just slap a little paint over them and no one seems to notice. It makes the tree all the more “charming”…more real. Like us flesh and blood “angels”, the chipped decorations just keep hanging in there.