By Rebecca Petrie, Retail Manager, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
IT seems that everyone likes Christmas ornaments and visitors especially like to take home a bit of their vacation to be appreciated over the holidays. With that in mind in the fall of 2011 the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Store decided to create a Seminole patchwork inspired Christmas ornament. Although this seemed like a simple task it wasn’t. We discovered that although there are companies who can print on round ornaments, most could only do a patch, not what we wanted- a band of patchwork design circling the glass ball. Finally we found The Stocking Factory in of all place the Florida Keys. Known for their personalized Christmas stockings and ornaments, they could also do printing all around an ornament.
Our first attempt was a huge success incorporating three types of patchwork: Man on a Horse, Fire and Crawdad. Over the next few years everything went smoothly, and then we decided to hold a contest to pick the 2014 patchwork pattern. We didn’t verify the patterns before holding the contest and it turned out that the winning design couldn’t be done as we had in the past. The design wouldn’t line up or was “out of register” (the same thing that happens when a newspaper prints in color and the various images aren’t precisely on top of each other). As always the folks at The Stocking Factory came through. They provided the ornament with the design (but no glitter) and we bribed (with donuts) the Museum staff to help hand glitter 600 plus ornaments. Another success was achieved.
We have often been asked why we don’t do more elaborate styles of patchwork. The answer is in the printing. With the surround printing process we are only able to print two colors, one being glitter, so the ornament’s color becomes a part of the design element. We are limited, but the results haven’t been; every year the ornaments have been beautiful. This year’s ornament is no exception. If history is any indicator, it will sell out by the end of the year!
WITH the success of the Seminole patchwork inspired ornaments we thought to go BIG as in an ornament inspired by the iconic Seminole doll. We talked to several companies that could do custom mouth blown “old world” ornaments. Mia Kaplan’s Mia’s Polish Treasures was chosen as their design was a full-sized, detailed Seminole doll.
The ornament itself was designed in a months-long process throughout 2013. Images flew back and forth over the internet between the Museum, Mia’s office in New York City and Poland where the ornaments are actually manufactured. The metal mold, unique to the medium of glass, was made from an original clay sculpture which represented a Seminole palmetto fiber doll. With the design and the mold completed the intensive work of creating these works of art began.
The first step in a process that takes weeks to complete is to mold glass into the correct shape. To that end a glass tube is heated repeatedly until the correct temperature is reached, it is then inserted into the two piece mold. The artisan blows a puff of air through the cool end of the tube inflating the glass into the shape of the mold. The mold is then opened and the raw ornament is removed and set aside to fully harden and cool. The next step is to pour a milky white liquid into the hollow ornament, the liquid is swirled to coat the interior and the ornament is then dipped in a bath of warm soapy water. Magic happens when the ornament is removed from the bath- the milky liquid has turned the interior chrome silver. Another drying period is needed before the painting can begin. Each ornament is hand painted in the approved design with more drying time as each color is allowed to dry. Once our doll is fully painted the final step is apply the glitter. Once again each color is added layer by layer with drying time between each coating. When looking at these ornaments it is easy to appreciate the many, many hours of hand work that goes into each one and to grasp the fact that at any point in the process the delicate ornament could be shattered!
This year we will offer two options, the first was inspired by a cape and skirt in the Museum’s collection (accession #2007.9.71) in a limited edition of 250. This version is beautifully dressed in garnet, gold, black and cream- familiar colors of a certain state university- and decorated with the famous Man on a Horse patchwork pattern. Our second option is limited to 200 and features a more fancifully colored outfit of turquoise and bold pink with a combination of Telephone Pole and Crawdad patchwork patterns. Either, or both, will look striking on a Christmas tree or hung on display year round. If past year’s sales are any indication customers will need to order this family heirloom today as they may well be sold out tomorrow and once gone they are gone for good.
Once the ornaments are in the Store they will also be available online at http://www.seminole-store.com/.