Home for the Holidays

Vol. XII No. 3 - WINTER 2001

By: Kathy Gemperle

This year the White House Christmas decorations were based on a theme, “Home for the Holidays”. To my surprise I was called by the Illinois Artisan Program (I am a member) and invited to send an ornament for the Christmas tree. There were size and weight specifications. What they wanted was an ornament of an historic home from each of the fifty states- two per state. I agreed to do it but was told that someone would tell me which house they wanted to send from Illinois. That was in July.

In August I began thinking about which house I would create in porcelain clay. I received a letter from the White House with all the details and the deadline. Then came September 11th and all the activities that followed. In October I decided that they were not going to call me about which house to do. So I chose the Henry B. Clark House in the Prairie Avenue Historic District.

I took pictures of the house and paced out the sides of the building. After working on some proportions I went to my workshop to begin. I made the main area of the building. A second session involved creating the shingled roof. Once that was finished I constructed the front and back porches. The last detail was the rather large cupola on the roof. All these parts were carefully detailed before assembly. The ornament was overweight so I carved out some areas of the bottom and then signed it. After the firing the ornament was ready for shipping.

I chose Mailboxes Etc. on Devon Avenue. They have donated to the EHS Home Tour so I was happy to have their help and give them my patronage They double boxed the ornament and it was sent out four days before the deadline. Simple, right… except it was on October 28 and the Post Office that serves the White House was closed because of the anthrax letters. I figured that UPS would be a better bet. The people at Mailboxes Etc. sought information on the delivery every day for a week. After 7 days they called me to report that UPS was not allowed to deliver to the White House.

I called my White House contact who reported that she had arranged to have all the ornaments held by UPS delivered to a National Park Service office. Mailboxes Etc. made sure that my ornament reached the National Park Service building. What a relief!

A week before the White House reception to the tree trimming I received an invitation by phone to attend. Since it was on a Monday, and a school day, there was no chance I could attend. The actual invitation was mailed to me on December 4th. a day after the reception. I hope to get a picture of it hanging on the White House Christmas tree.