Dwight’s painting of “MERRY CHRISTMAS” depicts a lovely variety of Christmas ornaments as seem very familiar now, but Christmas ornaments have a long history dating back to the 16th century in Germany where apples and nuts were used to decorate the evergreens. It was more of a community practice at that time, but Christmas trees moved inside around the 18th century and pears were also added. In 1605 paper roses and candles were added to the indoor setting with the high point coming from the added tinsel, or “icicles” in 1610, which was originally made with pure silver. Their German creators called them “angel hair”. In the 1800’s the tradition of Christmas trees began to penetrate American homes. Americans used long strands of popcorn or cranberries to encircle their trees.
Tree with popcorn and cranberries & tree with tinsel
In the mid 1800’s, Germans mass-produced ornaments that were strictly for Christmas. The area surrounding Lauscha was the center of the glass making and Germany soon captured the world market in glass Christmas ornaments. The earliest ones were natural shapes, but it was not long that the round glass ball took over as more popular. In 1840 in the UK, Queen Victoria put up a decorated tree in the royal palace as a gift to Prince Albert, her German-born husband. This caused great excitement in England and America.
The founder of Woolworth’s Five and Dime stores, F.W. Woolworth, imported German glass ornaments into the States in the 1880’s and in ten years, it is said, he was selling $25 million worth of them! It should be noted that up until WWI almost all glass Christmas ornaments were made in Germany. But with anti-German sentiment in the States, the German monopoly over this market was broken. Japan and the Czech Republic entered the competition. In the late 30’s and with WWII looming, F.W. Woolworth, together with businessman Max Eckhardt, persuaded the Corning Company of New York to make American glass ornaments and by 1940 Corning was making 300,000 a day!
For baby boomers like me, the main sources for ornaments were still F.W. Woolworth and its competitors Kresge and Neisner’s. There were other places, like Macy’s and Gimbel’s, but they didn’t have the purchasing power of Woolworth’s who could sell them for 10 or 20 cents. After WWII, production of baubles in Lauscha stopped. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall only 20 glass-blowing firms are still active today there.
Injection molding allowed formerly round ornaments to have indentations, allowing shapes of movie stars to be greatly sold. Hallmark began its Keepsake Collection in 1973 and soon after came the flood of ornaments from national chains, like McDonald’s.
I personally love the type of round glass ornament that THASC artist Dwight Hamsley has painted. Among my “thousand” souvenirs resurrected from my basement is my favorite ornament passed down from my Mom and Dad’s trees from the 50’s and 60’s and used for decades after that. It’s a bright fuchsia color, which simply says “Merry Christmas “ on it. It already has taken its prime position right up front on my tree. They don’t make them like that anymore!
Hope you are all busy with Holiday shopping and decorating this weekend as we draw closer and closer to our special celebrations.
I want to thank the THASC family and my editor for allowing me to share my blogs about these precious artists with you every week. I’m wishing you all Happy Holidays and a peaceful 2016
I am more than delighted to have my friend, THASC artist, Joyce Nielsen, adorn the pages of my blog once again. I often correspond with Joyce and she was very happy and proud to hear that I would be writing about her painting this week. Holly is commonly seen at holiday time, especially as a Christmas decoration used in wreaths and Christmas cards, like Joyce’s. The origin of the name “holly” means “prickly” and its use goes back to ancient times. The Druids hung it over doorways to ward off evil spirits. They regarded holly as the symbol of fertility and eternal life. They also believed that cutting down a holly tree would bring bad luck. The Romans identified holly with Saturn, the god of harvest, and during the feast of Saturnalia, they “decked the halls with boughs of holly.”
Holly bushes in front of my house
Holly leaves have sharp ends and a waxy texture and have male and female reproductive entities on separate plants. Only female plants can produce berries and it can only happen if a male plant is near to fulfill the process of pollination. Bees help transfer the pollen from male to female plants. Although the berries are toxic to humans, birds like thrushes thrive on them and scatter their seeds for the new holly plants to grow. Holly wood (NOT Hollywood!) is hard and excellent for carving chess pieces. Holly is known for its vivid red berries but it is also supposed to bring males good luck and protection. Ivy is the female counterpart to holly.
holly and mistletoe
You can also notice white berries and mistletoe in Joyce’s painting. The mistletoe, common to North America and used as a Christmas decoration, grows as a parasite on trees. In Europe it was also hung above house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. Like holly, it was considered to bestow fertility. Kissing under mistletoe is first found with the festival of Saturnalia and with primitive marriage rites. The English invented the “kissing ball” under which a young lady could not refuse to be kissed because it could signify deep romance. Otherwise she could not expect to marry the next year. In France, mistletoe was reserved for the New Year, but today kissing is done throughout the holiday season.
The beautiful aura of candlelight in Joyce’s painting has not been extinguished. Especially in these times of uncertainty in the world, it gives great significance to all of us that hope is alive and well and living among us. Thank you for another meaningful painting, my friend.
This greeting card and other holiday cards are available at www.thasc.com.
Continue to enjoy your holiday season and I’ll see you next Tuesday when we take a look at “HOLIDAY LIGHTS.”
Rabbit, Rabbit, everyone! The beginning of another month and the last of this year, 2015. Incredible how the year has flown and now we enter the thick of Holiday season and what better represents Christmas: the diverse Nutcrackers so beautifully designed by THASC artist Janice Peroni. When most of us think about the Nutcracker, we think about the novel “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” by E.T. Amadeus Hoffman. It was rewritten for children by French novelist Alexandre Dumas in 1851 and this lighter version became the basis of Tchaikovsky’s outstanding “Nutcracker Suite” which debuted as a ballet in 1892. This was a more optimistic story of a little girl named Clara who dreams of being rescued by the German nutcracker Prince who saves her from the evil Mouse King by killing the King and taking Clara to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy where they are crowned the rulers of the Land of Sweets. The Nutcracker wasn’t widely performed until the mid-twentieth century, when it became a distinctly American hit. It also helped that the ballet’s appeal as a story that has nothing to do with theology, or Baby Jesus, but the Christmas themes have to do with the festivities of the holiday.
According to German legend, it was a puppet maker who helped a farmer to crack walnuts on his tree by making a wooden puppet painted with bright colors and had strong jaws to crack the walnuts. According to the folklore, he was rewarded with his own workshop. It is said that nutcrackers bring good luck and protect the house. The origin of the nutcrackers comes from the Erzgebirge region of Germany starting in the 1700’s due to the metal depletion in mines and the over abundance of wood. It takes 130 steps to create this piece of art including cutting, shaping, hand-turning, automatic lathe, polishing and drilling, priming and spraying, carving and painting.
All the painting is done freehand and each color dries before the next is applied. The German nutcracker is a unique craft because they were designed after the ruling class and authoritative figures that existed throughout Europe and Germany for centuries. This was unusual because German nutcrackers represented the people’s dissatisfaction with the ruling class.
Military, King, and Police Nutcrackers
One wonders why they don’t have smiles on their face? The reason was because the people who made them put their everyday hardships into their creations: their hard lives, their bad working conditions and their poor pay. Common people enjoyed them because it reduced the rulers to nothing more than crackers of nuts than powerful officials with teeth-bearing grins. The most popular nutcrackers still remain in the form of kings and soldiers although today some represent the playful forms of the common man.
Collecting nutcrackers in the U.S. began in the early 1950’s, when soldiers who returned home from World War II brought these figures of protection to their families. For over 200 years, the Steinbach family has been producing these fine wooden figures. Herr Christian Steinbach was responsible for raising the nutcracker to a different level by introducing nutcrackers from different areas of the world. He also developed a limited edition of 3000 pieces of King Ludwig II, which greatly increased their value.
It should be mentioned that THASC artist Janice Peroni captures the “cycle of life” in her painting NUTCRACKERS, showing the nuts and their seeds falling to the ground, which will eventually grow into strong trees. These trees would nourish the woodcrafters for hundreds of years and ultimately pass their seeds on to the collectors of these extraordinarily designed wooden pieces for eternity.
Enjoy the season!
What a magnificent painting THASC artist Eddie Two Bulls has given us. The powerful pinnacles of the Teton Mountain Range form a perfect backdrop for the beautiful teepees at their base and the serenity of Jenny Lake, which surrounds them. The Tetons are a range of the Rocky Mountains which lie on the Wyoming western border with Idaho, just south of Yellowstone National Park. The Range, which is 40 miles long, is the youngest range in the Rockies and perhaps some of the youngest in the world. While granite comprises many of the central peaks, the geological process, which led to their current composition of the oldest rocks found there, began about 2.5 billion years ago. Eddie Two Bulls’ dramatic precision in depicting the pinnacles of the Tetons main summit, referred to at times as the Cathedral Group, gives credence to the range once being called “Teewinot”, or “many pinnacles”, by the Shoshone people. The Grand Teton, or highest peak, soars to 13, 770 feet. Unlike many mountain ranges, the east side of the Tetons lacks lower peaks, which can obstruct the view.
Grand Teton National Park is located just 10 miles south of Yellowstone and encompasses 310,000 acres. In 1929 President Calvin Coolidge approved the original smaller park (96,000 acres), which protected the Teton Range and six glacial lakes, but not Jackson Hole.
Ignoring public approval to expand the national park, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943. After many years of fighting over the proclamation, finally in 1950, the national monument was added to the original park and it was finally re-established in 1950.
Glaciers have given the Grand Tetons their unparalleled character and there are still twelve small glaciers in the Grand Tetons as well as six lakes: Phelps, Taggart, Jenny, Bradley, Leigh and Jackson. The largest glacier is Teton Glacier found on the north side of the Grand Teton peak. The powerful Snake River originates in Yellowstone Park and takes a rest in Jackson Lake where you can find abundant birdlife and wildlife including elk, moose, bison antelope, black bear, and grizzly. Bald Eagles, Trumpeter Swans (the largest waterfowl in America) and the smallest bird in North America, (the hummingbird) can both be seen throughout the area. Marmots, beaver and coyotes are also numerous.
Wildlife and wildflowers along Snake River
The first recorded American to see the Tetons was America’s first mountain man, John Colter, a member of the Louis and Clark expedition, in 1807. A human head-shaped stone found in Idaho in 1931 is engraved with “John Colter” and “1808”. Colter was also the first American to see the Yellowstone. The Grand Tetons served as helpful landmarks for the region during the mountain men era because they are visible from so far away.
The Grand Teton National Park ranks with ten other national parks by welcoming over 2.5 million people each year. Eddie Two Bulls majestic painting attests to the fact that in spite of its size, in comparison to Yellowstone, and Yellowstone’s historic significance, seeing the Tetons rise out of Jackson Hole, makes you realize how nothing dominates these soaring peaks. What a beautiful vision of our abundant country on this Thanksgiving Day!
Have a wonderful holiday and weekend!
See you Tuesday.
Once again THASC artist Donna Cushman graces this blog with another spectacular painting. Her work is even more astounding when you think that she paints with a brush in her mouth. This card has the elements of Thanksgiving and Christmas with the cornucopia overflowing with fresh fruit and surrounded by holly and holly berries, all depicted in captivating bright colors.
The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, comes from two Latin words: Cornu meaning “horn” and Copiae meaning “abundance or plenty.” We usually associate the cornucopia as the symbol of Thanksgiving in North America. In olden times, it referred to a horn-shaped basket filled with vegetables and fruits and sometimes garnished with flowers, as we see the poinsettias in Donna’s painting. The origins of the horn are found in two legends of Greek mythology. One version is the legend of Amalthea and Zeus, the powerful god who from infancy was raised on the milk of the goat Amalthea (“Nourishing Goddess”). One day, the strong, future king of the gods, accidentally broke off one of her horns. Regretfully, he ensured her to always fill the horn with whatever she wished: eternal abundance. Zeus also placed Amalthea among the constellations in the heavens.
Another version of the legend is that of Hercules, son of Zeus, who battles Achelous, the river god, to win the river nymph Deianira, daughter of King Oeneus. To win the contest, Achelous transformed himself into a bull, but Hercules was too strong and ripped off one of his horns. Deianira and Hercules kept Achelous’s horn and filled it with flowers and fruits at their own wedding.
Today the cornucopia is usually a horn-shaped wicker basket filled with festive fruits, vegetables and nuts. In the book and film series The Hunger Games, the cornucopia is filled with weapons and marks the starting point of the Games. The Cornucopia is also used today as a symbol on the Idaho, Wisconsin and Peru flags. Donna Cushman reminds us that the cornucopia is much more than a pretty decoration at Holiday time, but also a reminder of America’s gratitude for the good things life has given us.
Wisconsin and Idaho State Flags
See you on Thursday.
Who doesn’t LOVE gingerbread? A gingerbread house can be anything from a castle to a small cabin, as depicted in THASC artist Melfred Teller’s decorative painting of his happy house in the mountains. The roof tiles usually consist of frosting (snow) or candy. His has both including peppermint stick window shutters. His yard is also decorated with sparkling icing, and candy even rises to the sky!
Gingerbread dates back to 11th century Europe when crusaders brought back the spice from the Middle East. Because it seemed to have preservative qualities, ginger was used to prolong shelf life in breads.
Some people believe that the actual gingerbread house is connected to the popular fairy tale started in the 1800’s in Germany called “Hansel and Gretel” by the Brothers Grimm in which a brother and sister, hungry and lost in a forest, find a gingerbread house and, after nibbling on the edible house, are caught by the witch who lived there. They finally escape and bake the witch who wanted first to bake them. After the book was published, the Germans are credited with bringing gingerbread to America and the tradition of making gingerbread houses in the United States began.
Gingerbread today contains ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom and is sweetened with a combination of molasses, brown sugar and honey. They are generally served around Christmas time. It should be noted that in England, the gingerbread biscuits, which commonly take the form of a gingerbread man, were first credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who had the gingerbread figures made into the images of important guests and dignitaries who came to her court.
Making gingerbread houses is still a way of celebrating Christmas in many families. Other sweets made with ginger survived in colonial North America and even today are called ginger snap cookies which you can still find on your grocer’s shelves.
THASC artist Melfred Teller has created a lovely greeting card which is sure to whet our appetite for sweets this holiday season. Even William Shakespeare in his “Love’s Labor’s Lost” says, “And I had but one penny in the world, thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.”
See you on Thursday.
The Pintail duck, as you can guess, gets its name from the male’s long tail feathers, which has central feathers up to four inches long. Male pintails, or drakes, have much more elaborately colored feathers than their female counterparts, called hens. The northern pintail is a graceful water bird with long, narrow wings and a long, elegant neck. A northern pintail is very nimble on land, but is particularly graceful in flight. THASC artist Richard Whitehead depicts them perfectly in his painting which shows the birds reach great speeds while flying, and thus have earned the nickname “The Greyhound of the Air”. The Northern Pintail is one of the most numerous species worldwide, after the Mallard. Even today their worldwide population is between 5 and 5.5 million birds. They have been found on every continent except Antarctica. In his painting Richard shows their wide wingspan, which is between 30-38 inches. Drakes measure from 20 to 30 inches long, while hens measure 20 to 25 inches. To see Richard’s ducks in flight, would one imagine that they are enduring fliers capable of flying up to 65 miles per hour? In fact, birds tagged in North America have been known to make trans-Atlantic flights and have been found in Europe days later!
Pintail ducks chose new mates every year when they breed between April and June. Several males often court one female. Female hens will primp their desired drakes. Male pintails make sounds like a whistle whereas females sound like a husky “quack”. The hen will lay between 5-10 pale olive eggs which are incubated between 21-25 days. Soon after the ducklings hatch the female leads them to the water to feed on dead insects until they grow their plumage about 45 days later. Interestingly enough, the drakes usually leave the breeding areas before the hens to go to moulting locations where they do not fly for four weeks so they may shed their feathers. They then migrate to wintering places from mid-August forward.
The long necks of the pintails allow them to bob for food in shallow waters up to one foot (usually at night) and they can eat everything from aquatic grasses and plants to frogs, insects and small fish. Since the Northern Pintail is heavily exploited by hunters in North America, it may also fall prey to feral cats and rats on a few islands and in addition is vulnerable to outbreaks of bird flu. Because they breed in grasslands near freshwater or salty lakes, rivers, and ponds where it builds its nests, a treaty between Canada, the United States, and Mexico has encouraged private landowners to be working with the governments to protect wetlands important to the Northern Pintail. The number of Northern Pintails hunted each year has been reduced and hunting off-season is illegal and can lead to a fine or jail.
Richard Whitehead’s love of nature, and especially of birds, has given us a flawless representation of this graceful, elegant duck. We can admire them mostly everywhere we find water be it in a small pond or a beautiful park like I did last week. There is nothing as precious as watching little ducklings waddling after their Mom to feed and certainly nothing as precise as watching the greyhounds of the air take flight. Hope you enjoy another lovely part of the season.
See you on Thursday.
I remember waking up last summer to notice that there was a large white-tail deer (doe) lying under one of my evergreen trees in the back yard. At first I didn’t notice her baby fawn who soon after came bouncing out from under the tree. I immediately became fascinated with its white tail. Now that we see them more and more in gardens and on lawns, they are found also everywhere else like forests, fields, streams and meadows. They generally keep to forests in winter. Adult white tails have reddish-brown coats with a white belly and tail in summer and in winter they fade to a grayish-brown color.
Male deer, called bucks, have large antlers in summer and fall. They mark their territory by rubbing their antlers on trees. The antlers have sharp points which fall off in winter after the breeding season. These antlers are perfectly seen in Billy R. Harpers painting “WHITE TAIL”. Billy’s painting captures the quintessential male buck, which can be up to four feet tall and weigh up to 300 pounds.
Female deer are called does and may give birth to up to 3 fawns, or baby deer, at a time in May or June after a pregnancy of 7 months. The number depends on how old they are and how much they eat. After a year of staying with their mother, she sends them away before reproducing again. A doe hides her fawns in the brush while she feeds. Her fawns have many white spots on their coat, which help them blend in with the forest.
Female doe & Baby fawn
If the mother doe is alarmed, her white tail automatically is raised while she runs so her young can follow her. White tails can run very fast (up to 30 miles per hour). They can leap up to 10 feet high and 30 feet long in a single leap. White tails eat mostly plant foods in summer, but can digest various foods like acorns, fruits, and nuts in fall and twigs in winter. For those of you like me, who find deer in your backyard, BEWARE! Deer eat a lot of garden plants, vegetables and small trees from your yard! It is noteworthy to mention, however, that white-tailed deer are primarily nocturnal. They have few predators, and are mostly killed by hunters or cars.
Billy R. Harper’s depiction of an alert white tailed deer in his painting reminds us that when you startle this deer, all you see is a flash of white vanishing into the woods.
See you on Thursday: almost time for Hallowe’en!
I figured that this would be the last blast of autumn foliage until next autumn, but this greeting card is too gorgeous and fiery to leave it out of our autumn collection. I actually saw a friend of mine on Facebook who made a comment about being in a town called Wrentham, MA (not very far from Boston) and her comment was, “It’s snowing here.” That was enough for me. So we still have some time to think of this wonderful season, which seems more like this wonderful month!
Have you ever thought of why leaves change color in Autumn or why maple trees turn bright red? I did some research and have a few answers that may interest you. Leaves are nature’s food factories. They use sunlight and chlorophyll to give plants their green color through a process called photosynthesis. When summer ends and winter approaches and the days get shorter, trees “know” it’s time to get ready for winter.
The leaf has actually been preparing for autumn since it started to grow in the spring. Without fresh water to renew the leaf, the chlorophyll begins to disappear. As the bright green fades, we begin to see yellow and orange colors like we see in THASC artist’s Jim Mesick’s painting above. Some of these colors have been in the leaves all along but we can’t see them in summer because they are covered by chlorophyll. The bright reds and purples however are made mostly in the fall. In maple trees like we have in the northeast, the sun and cool autumn nights (when the chlorophyll disappears from the leaves) cause the glucose left in these leaves to turn to a red color. Orange colors come from carotene and the yellows from xanthophylls which are common pigments found in flowers and foods like carrots, bananas and egg yolks.
Jim Mesick’s painting is most definitely the eastern United States where trees like maples, oaks and elms shed all their leaves in the fall in preparation for winter. Other trees like “Evergreens” keep most of their leaves during winter because their special leaves are resistant to cold and moisture loss. They continue to photosynthesize during the winter. We see this evergreen tree as well in Jim’s painting on the left side in contrast to the bright colors of the deciduous trees along the lake. Although these brightly colored trees shed their leaves after a short while, I would prefer to live in the glory of their short life span rather than no color at all as in many parts of our world. Jim Mesick affords us through his precious painting to live this brief love affair with Fall every year. For that, I thank him.
Enjoy the last weekend of Daylight Savings Time,
as we shall FALL BACK on Sunday, November 1.
See you again on Tuesday.