News Letter: Fall, 2002 (or, Jack Goes to Washington)

It all started out with "The Bird". Back in July the Longmont Council for the Arts let us know that Governor Owens' wife was selecting artists that wanted to make an ornament for the White House Christmas Tree. I called and said yes, I would like to make one.

The rules were rather specific: Requirements for ornament construction: -A replica of any bird indigenous to the state you have been selected to represent -Constructed of any medium which meets the weight/height restrictions/Weight: 6-8 ounces/Height: 6-10 inches -To hang from branch, attach gold cord to top of ornament OR to sit on branch, attach supporting wire to bottom or feet -Name of artist may be placed discreetly on ornament

I decided to make a Broadtailed Humming Bird, as we feed so many of them all summer long, and they do nest all around us in the pine trees. I didn't lack for inspiration, nor models to look at!

Of course I wanted to make it out our sheep's wool. But I hadn't made birds of any sort before, so had to work out how I might do that.

The hardest part was to figure out how to make a beak (a prominent feature of a hummer) and attach it to the wool body. I decided to work from the inside out.
Detailed description of the making of the bird would be too long a subject here. You can find a separate page on the web site with all of the gory details.

We turned the ornaments in back in September and they were collectively sent off to the White House. We had been told that we would receive an invitation to attend the reception for the Christmas Tree along with all of the other Bird Artists from around the country.

Finally in mid November the invitation came and my daughter and I prepared to make the trip to Washington D.C.

All of this is done on a volunteer basis ... there is no compensation other than the opportunity to go and visit the historic House that belongs to us all, and attend the reception and meet the First Lady.

broatailed humming bird ornament

The Reception was held on December 4th, at noon. There were some 400 guests. Each artist was allowed to bring one guest, so that would mean that there were about 200 bird artists attending. We entered through security checkpoints into the East Wing of the White House.

Jane at the east doors

the main entrance into the Blue Room

This is Jane standing at the East doors. The photo on the right is in the great hall, looking into the Blue Room, where the large Christmas Tree with all of the bird ornaments was set up. As there were so many people at the reception it was very difficult to get photos that didn't have many people in them. We had the use of six large halls and rooms ... all had beautiful Christmas trees, poinsettia trees, garlands, and beautiful lights and balls.

There were great tables of food in two of the largest rooms, with staff constantly serving and bringing in more food and dishes; beautifully made "finger foods" of all sorts.

The theme for this year is "All Creatures Great & Small". In addition to the Bird Tree, there were miniature replicas of the animals that have made their home at the White House with the various Presidents. These included dogs, cats, birds, horses, sheep, and even alligators and raccoons.

I thought it only fitting that one of our flock should attend with me, so to speak. Some years ago I lost my dear old ram, Jack, not long after shearing. When his pelt came back from the furrier it was soft short curls like a lamb fleece. I have made it into a vest, with his wool on the front panels and the back sewn out of hand made felt from his last fleece. I added hanging beads as accents where the pieces are pieced together. So, Jack went to Washington with us, after all.

Here I stand in front of the mantle with the sheep of President Woodrow Wilson, wearing my vest from Jack.

I DO look like a polar bear, but that can't be helped now.

There were many different sorts of outfits worn by the artists ... not at all the customary "business attire".

in front of the sheep

main entrance hall portrait of President Kennedy

On the right side of the Entrance Hall was the grand piano and on the left side a staircase and this wonderful portrait of President Kennedy. There are in fact many presidential portraits hung in the rooms and halls. All are striking in their workmanship and beauty.

Here is the official White House Christmas Tree ... the Bird Tree. Our little hummer is near the bottom in the center to the right of a large red ball.

After the holidays, the birds will be packed away and someday find their way to crates in the presidential library basement.

It's a shame they aren't donated to some worthy cause: a children's hospital or some other thing where they could be enjoyed for more than just the season?

Well, it seems unlikely that we will ever be honored in such a way as this again. After the beauty of the portraits and decorations in the halls, the next most enjoyable thing was talking with the young men and women of the military, who were there serving as our guides. They were nothing but kind, patient and helpful in every way. They smiled and kept us happily in our lines while we waited to have our picture taken with the First Lady. They answered our questions about the rooms and protocols and kept us from getting into too much trouble.

Additionally, our farm, sheep and the making of the bird ornament will be featured with other participating artists in a special program on Home & Garden TV airing in December .
AIR TIMES: (Modern Masters: White House Artisans)
December 15, 2002 8:00 PM
December 20, 2002 7:00 PM
December 25, 2002 12:00 noon

On the whole it's been quite an experience for a shepherd that doesn't like to travel and rarely ever leaves the farm!

the bird tree

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