At the White House
December 4, 2002, Mark & Mindy Gardner attended a reception hosted
by First Lady Laura Bush at the White House in Washington, D.C.
The White House
In early August 2002 I received a letter from the office of the wife of the Illinois Governor Ryan inviting me to represent the State of Illinois in creating a handcrafted ornament for the White House Christmas tree. The letter went on to say, "This year, First Lady Laura Bush is continuing the rich tradition of adorning the White House Christmas tree with local ornaments from each of the 50 states. Mrs. Bush has selected the theme of the event to be "All Creatures Great and Small."
Along with the invitation to participate was a list of guidelines for the artists and requirements for participation. Included were subject matter of the ornament, weight and height restrictions, and how the ornament was to hang or sit on the tree. The ornament, if you chose to participate, would become part of the White House's permanent ornament collection and cannot be reproduced or replicated for sale or advertised as "designed for the White House."
Artists were not to speak to the media until after Mrs. Bush made the holiday theme announcement the first week of December. Each artist would receive an invitation to a reception at the White House and would be allowed to bring one guest.
The ornament was to depict any bird indigenous to the state you were chose to represent. I chose to make an indigo bunting for a number of reasons. The bird is native to Illinois and and a few days after receiving the letter, I saw one in the backyard and was able to watch it for quite awhile. His coloring was perfect since I use tempering colors to color my work.
Illinois, being the Prairie State and having a reestablished prairie behind our house, helped for models for my design. The indigo bunting is sitting on a purple coneflower with a yellow coneflower and prairie grass in the background, all of which are native to Illinois.
The ornament is made of 18-gauge mild steel and is egg shaped. The holder for the gold cord is a steel feather that is folded over toward the front of the ornament. I used a combination of chasing and repousse`, the majority of which was done on the treadle hammer. The scale was removed with sandpaper and wire brush. A propane torch was used to heat different areas of the ornament to the required temperatures to achieve the colors that I wanted. The grass and stems of the flowers were brushed with a small brass brush and also heated with the torch. The piece is coated with a linseed oil, spar varnish, and wax finish.