The Family Tree
During my childhood my parents would put up an artificial Christmas tree. The trunk was a wooden post with holes for the metal branches to be inserted. The branches were twisted wire with long metal needles. It was my father’s job to get it out from the attic and assemble it. He would keep the top half assembled to save time. It looked like a short tree sitting up in the attic.
There was no mistaking it for a natural tree. The branches looked like they could be used to clean chimneys. The tree had to be a descendant of the Addis Brush Company’s brush bristle trees. (See the Geek Factor section below for more about the Addis Brush Company.)
Every year it was the same tree. The decorations varied from year to year. My brothers and I would create decorations if craft classes that would be hung. My mother received some of her family’s heirloom ornaments that were added. For a few years mom took ceramic classes and painted her own ornaments. And there was the unfortunate but inevitable breakage of ornaments.
The tree itself wasn’t bad. It had balance and form. But once the layers of multicolored lights, garland, ornaments, and tinsel (what my mother called icicles) were added it was not a work of art. But that wasn’t the idea. It was our family Christmas tree. And to be honest, as children my brothers and I were more interested in the presents to be found underneath.
A Tree of My Own
When I had moved into my own apartment and Christmas season arrived I went to the local Kmart for a tree. I purchased a traditional artificial Christmas tree, two 150-light strings of clear mini bulbs, several boxes of shiny red and green baubles (a.k.a. balls), an angel tree topper and some ribbon.
It was a basic tree design that remained unchanged for a good number of years. Since I worked during the day I really only saw the tree when I came home at night. Therefore it was the lights that I enjoyed the most.
The tree moved with me until I settled down in Washington, DC. During my first year in town some friends gave me a gift certificate to Crate & Barrel. During the after Christmas sale I picked up some icicles and other ornaments for use the following year. Then the following year I picked up a set of gold ornaments in two sizes at Macy’s to replace the plain green baubles. In later years I would pick up various red dominant ornaments to replace the plain red baubles. I prefer the red and gold decorations on the green tree.
While pretty, the tree became one of happenstance. Ornaments were gathered over the years with no unifying theme other than color. Since I still saw the tree at night, I didn’t have enough ornaments to fill the tree when viewed in full daylight. As nice as the lights were, with only 300 of them the six foot tree didn’t truly glow or make the ornaments sparkle.
Inspiration and Catalyst
It was when I met Marlene Buckner that my interest in Christmas trees was expanded. Marlene is a spectacular interior designer by trade and creates beautiful Christmas trees for a charity fundraiser every season.
One year Marlene was experimenting with display trees, artificial trees designed for use in stores to show off ornaments. I helped her pull out some of the ornaments in her collection to put on these trees. She had an impressive collection of ornaments to choose from packed away in her garage.
It was Marlene who taught me that Christmas trees, or more generically any decorative tree, could take any form and convey any meaning. For me, my tree had been a pretty source of light during the dark winter nights and a reminder of the family tree.
From Marlene I learned one could combine the logical thought of engineering with the beauty of emotion. The results of doing so could be breathtaking.
Inspire, Enable, and Engage
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. – Aristotle, Metaphysica
I wanted to create a better tree for myself. As I explored the Internet researching Christmas trees and decorations I found information scattered about in disarray. Almost everything about Christmas decorating was seasonal, wedged in between Thanksgiving decorations and New Year’s Eve party favors. What did exist about trees was limited as it competed with wreaths, gift wrapping, and other decorations.
I decided there was an opportunity here- an opportunity to focus on Christmas, and other decorative trees. I have always viewed creative work as being a collaborative endeavor. To quote Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Therefore I decided that I wanted to help others with their trees and that together we would all benefit.
I choose to found The Tree Topper on three key principles; to inspire, enable, and engage.
- Inspire you to think creatively. Let go of preconceptions. Have fun. Take chances. Play.
- Enable you to create great works of art by providing you with useful information. Sharing with you lessons others have learned and other valuable information.
- Engage with you and others. Together we will share stories, information, ideas, and enjoy the beauty of each other’s creations.
Thank you for making the time to join me on this journey.
In 1930 the U.S.-based Addis Brush Company created the first artificial Christmas tree made from brush bristles. The company used the same machinery that it used to manufacture toilet brushes. The trees were made from the same animal-hair bristles used in the brushes, save they were dyed green. For a time, the brush trees were immensely popular, with large numbers exported to Great Britain, where the trees also became popular.] These brush trees offered advantages over the earlier feather trees. They could accept heavier ornamentation, and were not nearly as flammable.
Source: Artificial Christmas Tree, Wikipedia
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