There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

retromodern redux

NOT ALL TREES need to speak directly to nature. They can take their cues from cherished ornaments you've inherited and be combined with newer interpretations of retro ornaments to strike a carefully-conceived balance of the memory of past holidays with new ones made every year. A colorfully decorated "retromodern" tree can be achieved by decorating it with inherited treasures or collecting the from online auctions where people often sell treasures from someone's attic. The secret to making it modern lies in combining retro heirlooms with modern ornaments. Reproductions of old ornaments are also increasingly being found in the marketplace. Fresh color combinations can be found anywhere, but two immediate sources are antique ornaments or in the whimsical textile designs of Tammis Keefe. There are plenty of ornaments on the market today that push the concept of color further than tradition. And rather than an evergreen tree, try a German-style feather tree (made from dyed or bleached goose feathers wrapped around wire branches). The sparseness of the branches make plenty of room for ornaments to be composed carefully. Some newer tinsel trees also get their cues from feather trees. One great thing about these types of artificial trees is that there are no dropped needles to clean up!

IF CHOOSING a real tree, pay careful attention to trimming it properly before decorating. Modern Christmas tree farms fill the market with too-perfect conical trees that are packed full of branches because that's what the market usually demands. It's rare to find a tree with a natural shape anymore, but if every other row of branches is trimmed out of the tree, it will give your ornaments room to hang freely. Leave any branches that give natural character and protrude from the conical shape. Some tree farms are getting the clue and not shearing their trees so fastidiously. The good thing about tree farms is that you're not cutting down a tree that wasn't grown specifically for the season, so they are still more ecologically sound than plastic trees made from petroleum products. There's nothing like the smell of a fresh evergreen at Christmas. And you can use the trimmings to make garland or a wreath!

MY COLLECTING obsession has its roots in college when I came up with concepts for a hypothetical store that sold holiday decorations as one of my graphic identity projects. I found these classic red ornaments made by the Krebs family at Kmart then (in the early 1980's—years before the once stellar selections from Martha Stewart Everyday were sold there). It was the finish and ornament caps on these German-origin ornaments that sold me. Rather than the silver lined shiny ornaments, these had a beautiful rich painted finish that has held up to the test of time (I haven't seen any quite like them since). I rarely use a purely red and green color combination for my tree (or trees). Even back then, I combined the red ornaments with several shades of pink, cream and clear ornaments. It seems that I try for a new color theme nearly every year and my friends have come to expect it from me, so I see it as a creative challenge, much like that college project.

ONE CAN FIND unusual colors in the market more readily these days. I credit Martha Stewart with filling the market with modern, more subtle colors—based on antiques (especially in her earlier collections for Kmart). Thankfully, other companies have also followed suit. Manufacturers have been a lot more conservative with the economic downturn, so they are marketing the "safe" colors that sell at Christmas. Those red ornaments I found back in college were fixtures on my parent's tree for years after I had moved onto other themes and my ornament collecting turned into an obsession. Now they are treasured "heirlooms."

IT'S FUN to make something old new again. All it takes is a bit of imagination and a willingness to find your inspiration in fresh color combinations. Don't be afraid to stray away from the traditional. You might be surprised that a unique interpretation of the holiday color scheme becomes your new favorite . . . this year, at least! 

RETROMODERN TREE | Combining antique striped bells and mica-coated ornaments with modern Christopher Radko reproductions of Shiny Brite ornaments; new, brightly striped and patterned interpretations by Isaac Mizrahi for Target along with brightly-striped balls from the Garnet Hill catalog and polka dotted and nubbed ornaments from Martha Stewart Everyday at Kmart, this traditional German feather tree comes alive with interest. It is topped with a Moravian star ornament made into a tree topper from Martha Stewart Everyday at Kmart that I glittered with teal German glass glitter (above, right). The chartreuse painted pedestal it sits atop is filled with reproduction "Shiny Brite" indent ornaments from the Smithsonian catalog. The rustic-modern table that holds it all is a match with chartreuse and cream striped boards on top. 

OBSESSIVE ORIGINS | These rich red German-origin ornaments with fancy gold caps (traditionally, ornament caps are distinctive to a particular family company) are from Christmas by Krebs. These are the first ornaments I bought when my collecting adventure began in college—over 25 years ago. The whimsical 1940's(?) linen Christmas handkerchief is signed by Tammis Keefe, and serves as a modern inspiration for a fresh holiday palette. Even if you have traditionally-colored ornaments, you can freshen the look with rickrack or other ribbon ornament ties in a bright hue to set off a vibration of color, (above, left). 

collecting and styling by Darryl Moland, 
photography by Claudia Lopez (above, right) 
and Darryl Moland (above, left)

No comments:

Post a Comment