Friday, December 5, 2014

Wreath Decorating: Day 3

Yes, this post is two days late. Things have been hectic around here: we made an offer on a coop apartment and we found out at the last minute that we had to get pre-approved by a new bank. The one we've been working with for the past four years doesn't handle mortgages for coops. Solving that problem took most of today. We'll find out tomorrow morning if our offer is accepted. But it won't be. They only allow one cat or one dog. I wrote as persuasive a letter as I could about why our five won't be a problem but I have grave doubts. But it's a lovely apartment and we had to try.

So, on to Wednesday's wreaths.

Another stash of pinecones arrived that morning from one of the professional gardeners in our club. They were quickly snarfed up, appearing on many glorious wreaths. We had more volunteers decorating this year so all of us were able to work at a more thoughtful pace on fewer wreaths. The results were often amazing. Go to the Garden Club of the Back Bay's website beginning on Sunday and you'll see what I mean. The "Wreath of the Day" feature will begin then and continue through the month.

I found a wad of pine pitch on the top of my head on Tuesday night. My head smelled like a rosined violin bow. I decided to treat it as hair product, working it around in hopes it might add some body. Nothing adds body to my hair but at least it smelled nice. I didn't have time to wash it out until Thursday; no one noticed.

I decorated five wreaths, beginning with a matched pair that was "designer's choice," meaning I could do whatever I wanted, beginning with any ribbon I liked. I get very few of these opportunities; I spend a lot of my time working on all-natural outdoor wreaths with Christmasy red or plaid bows because that's what I seem to do best. Before I got the coveted "designer's choice" order, I'd rejected one that called yet again for plaid bows with all-natural materials and touches of gold. I wanted something different. I chose ivory velvet bows lined with gold:


I'll go through the steps of wreath decorating. First, for a matched pair for a set of double doors, we choose wreaths that look as identical as possible. Some wreaths are larger and fuller than others, and they can have different shapes, thicknesses, colors of balsam, different types of needles, etc. Finding two that look alike can be a challenge. 

Once that's done, we attach wreath hangers with the tags that identify the order and the customer. Then we attack the wreath with our hands to shape and fluff it, and our pliers to trim off the wild parts to make it more symmetrical, with an attractive center opening. 

Then we attach the bows, which are made up for us by a team led by a seasoned professional I used to refer to as Madame Bowvary. I can be annoying, but I'm tolerated because I work fast.


By Wednesday, we're all hoarding some of our favorite materials, like decent pinecones, stored in battered roasting pans or flat baskets that do double duty when we need to spray-paint stuff in the alley. Above, you can see my pinecone stash for the day. We roam around the room, choosing from the wide variety of fresh and dried materials as well as glitzy plastic sprays, glass balls, and so on, mostly from the florist wholesale market.

To attach materials to a wreath, we use scores of small wooden florist's picks with flimsy copper wires that get wrapped around whatever we're sticking onto the wreath. Or we use fine green wire, or flexible velvet-covered wire to attach materials even more securely. 


The first materials I work with are fresh greens. I add sprigs of cedar, white pine, Japanese pine, or whatever I can get my hands on. I tuck it in all over my wreaths to make them fuller and more textured. I will often wire a lot of sprays of the same material at once, so I can add it quickly to the wreath, then move on to the next material.

When I can't identify something green and flat, I call it "cedar." I think this actually is some type of cedar, with contrasting tiny yellow cones, or whatever.  I used a ton of it this year, wiring it to picks:


There is always someone working near me who can identify all the materials, with their Latin names. I have no aptitude for this, so I'm lucky to have the human equivalent of Google at an easel near me.

I like to distribute materials fairly evenly over my wreath. Others work differently. They'll put a bow at 10 or 2 o'clock, and then build an elaborate, asymmetrical "still life" working from the top and bottom of the bow. I found that I also enjoy doing that for single wreaths; it helps me work more freely and creatively. But this time, I was stuck with two bows on the bottom. At least I could create a lot of texture and variety across the wreath:


I also decorate the inner and outer edges of the wreath with greens and pinecones. It makes the wreath look richer and more three-dimensional. 

It's important to attach everything securely — many wreaths hang on doors that get a lot of use and we can't have things falling off. We have to shake our wreaths hard for the quality control ladies when we're finished decorating, before they'll check them off as complete. We also have to make sure that there aren't any sharp wires or pointy picks sticking out of the back of the wreaths so the delivery people or customers don't get stabbed.

To make a matched pair for a set of double doors, I always work on both at the same time, trying to make them mirror images. If I wire a pinecone to the upper right of the bow on one wreath, I'll wire a pinecone to the upper left of the other bow, and so on. I match every single item I use on the other wreath. It's challenging but fun.

So here's one finished wreath:


This wreath has a couple of kinds of "cedar," pinecones, holly (stripped of its curling leaves so it's just berries and stems, which hold up better over time), eucalyptus berries, and gold "pearls" on brown wire "stems." These are my same-old, go-to materials, but when I was finished I didn't like the result at all. It looked okay but it bored me. I realized I had done yet another "all-natural materials with touches of gold" scheme. In fact, I'd followed the order for the plaid bows that I'd rejected earlier in the day. Hmm... No one else had been working on that order, so I grabbed the bows, swapped them with the ivory ones, and switched the customer tags. Now I chance to do something more interesting with those ivory bows.

Here's the result, and as you can see, these wreaths look so much happier with bright, Christmasy plaid bows:


I'll show you my do-over with the ivory bows in my next post.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck with the co-op! The new wreaths are beautiful, as always. Nice pops of red seem celebratory. Snowy and dismal here this morning...probably icy, too. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

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