Christmas decorating always brings out the best in me. It goes back to my childhood. My mother went all out for the holidays and my father also enjoyed the festive preparations. It became a tradition in itself, always occurring on the day school let out for Christmas vacation. We had 12-foot ceilings at the townhome in Maysville and when we got home, Dad would have already wired three Scotch Pines together to create one giant tree for us to decorate. My mother loved bright reds, greens, yellows and blues and they remain my preferred Christmas colors to use in both the gallery and at home.
One special exhibit which is a delight to decorate for the holidays is a double room box created by William Bowen in 1980, entitled Harrietta Plantation. It is a lovely combination of a parlor and a dining room with an archway between the two rooms. To me, these scenes have the feel of an impending mid-1900’s celebration. The lighting outside the windows suggests dusk. Inside the parlor, the harp, music stand and stool are set up awaiting the musician who will provide soft background music while guests mingle.
The palette of this scene is one of my favorites with which to work. The golds, greens and blues combined with warm wood tones create an elegant, yet comfortable, sitting room and all it needed to set it off for the holidays was one of Jo Bevilacqua’s wonderful Christmas trees. She created this one with teal ornaments and white lights especially for this room. The silver and teal enameled compote by Jens Torp and the sleigh, reindeer and Santa by Pete Acquisto complement the scene beautifully. They are two of my most beloved pieces to bring out for the holidays. The Christmas Village on the mantle is by Sylvia Mobley with holly surrounding the mantle by Shelly Norris.
Other artisan credits: Painting: John Hodgson. Harp: Ken Manning. Rug: Classic Carpets. Center table: Tony Jones Miniatures. Music stool: Alan McKirdy. Globes: Keith Bougourd of Small Time Miniatures. Cabinet: Mark Gooch. Console table (not pictured): Denis Hillman
In the dining room, I envision more party preparation with wrapped gifts ready to go home with guests. I continued the theme of the snow village over the mantle with another of Sylvia’s Christmas villages with lighted houses, a church and Christmas trees.
The Christmas villages in the two rooms actually represent two different styles of architecture. The one in the parlor depicts an old-fashioned Christmas with Tudor structures. The other looks more like Maysville in the 1950s. Linda Young lit both villages in this exhibit and put together their snowy scenes. The villages are amazing works of handpainted hollowed-out porcelain with some of the buildings being less than one inch high. Many of Sylvia’s villages reflect international influences and various time periods as can be seen here. The talented IGMA Fellow from California has a BFA in Ceramics and Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design and also makes fine art dolls and animals.
More of Sylvia’s work is displayed over the doorways. Her trees were perfect for those spaces to add interest in an unsuspecting way. The teal colored ornaments in the table centerpiece offer a visual connection to the holiday décor in the adjoining room.
Other artisan credits: Dining room table and chairs: Roger Gutheil. “Tree of Life” Carpet: Classic Carpets. Painting over the mantle: Johannes Landman.
As I mentioned, this is one of my favorite pieces to embellish for Christmas, but it was also one which gave me great pleasure to decorate when I first acquired it. When I bought it at auction in 2006, it was quite damaged from flooding that had occurred in the South Carolina museum in which it had been displayed. The only furniture that survived was the Hillman console table in the parlor, and my knowledge of the piece was just as sparse—simply that it may have once reflected the 1807 plantation house for which it was named. I wanted to save this room box because I have always admired William’s work which reflects a lived-in, yet formal, atmosphere from times gone by. Resurrecting this special William Bowen room box with pieces from the collection has been a gift for me, especially when I see it come to life at Christmas when it brings back so many of my own holiday memories. Joyous Christmas to everyone!