by Phil Houseal as published in the Kerrville TX Community Journal & Boerne TX Hill Country Weekly Nov 4, 2009
Remember how as a kid you wanted the largest Christmas tree in town? It wasn’t right unless the top scraped the ceiling, and the branches grabbed everyone who ventured near.
Joan Sullivan has captured that spirit of Christmas by going in the opposite direction - creating miniature heirloom trees that are only 18 inches tall, yet are packed with charm and filled with holiday spirit.
The concept of decorating small artificial trees as a theme was her original idea. “I had done themes for family members, people in the military, and folks in retirement homes," she said. “I made the trees 18 inches because many people don't have room for big trees, and you can drop them in a grocery bag to carry.” They make good gifts, especially for out-of-town friends. The trees are lightweight, so they can be shipped easily. “What better to have over in Afghanistan than to have mementos of your family on a Christmas tree?”
Sullivan visualizes her trees as “a three-dimensional scrapbook.” Starting with a raw tree - available in craft stores - she comes up with a theme that reflects the person’s interests or history. She has used sports, fishing, or color as the unifying element. One “piano” tree she created was for a 90-year-old man who insisted on going to nursing homes every week to play piano. For a Texas flavor, she took a plastic cactus and draped it in lights. Another tree featured a nativity theme. “Whatever you can think of can make a tree.”
Next she adds the decoration. She uses photos, ornaments, small toys, jewelry, and personal mementos. She often goes to the doll department looking for miniature furniture. Sullivan once paid $7.50 for miniature handmade leather boots. “I just fell in love with them,” she said. “Anything you put in a scrapbook you can put on a tree. It depends on what I find.”
In her experience, Sullivan knows people can make them for as little as $20 on up to $150.
Her heirloom trees have brought smiles and memories to youngsters as well. Kids can decorate the small ones, and keep them from year to year, adding items as they grow. The trees hold up well and are easy to store.
You may not even need to store them. Sullivan noted the trees make great nightlights and year round decor when placed on a counter or in a guest room.
Of course these miniature heirloom trees are not meant to replace the statuesque Christmas tree.
“They are more like a wreath on door,” Sullivan said. “And every tree is different.”
Joan Sullivan will teach Mini Heirloom Trees on Nov 11 and Nov 18. For information or to sign up, click www.clubed.net, or call 830-895-4386.
Club Ed is the Community Education program of the Kerrville Independent School District. Each year, we offer more than 400 classes throughout the Texas Hill Country, along with online courses, business and individual training, and after-school and summer camps. Comment online at clubedcomments.blogspot.com, or follow us on Twitter @clubedtx.