Photos by Marcy Stamper
Mia Libby, Layla Mortland, Audrey Roman and Ruby Culpsmith, left to right, work on block prints for the ornaments.

Creations by Methow Valley kids will adorn state’s tree at White House

By Marcy Stamper

The creativity of Methow Valley kids — and depictions of plants native to the Methow — will lend a local touch to a Christmas tree display at the White House this holiday season.

Methow Arts was selected to create ornaments for Washington’s tree on the White House grounds, part of America Celebrates, a display of 56 trees — one for every state and territory — that surrounds the national tree in the annual holiday exhibit on the Pathway of Peace.

The after school art club at Methow Valley Elementary School worked on the projects with Methow Arts’ teaching artist Bruce Morrison over several weeks in October. Morrison worked with third- through fifth-graders in the club to create block prints featuring native plants for the tree ornaments.

Starting with leaves, berries, flowers and tufted grasses that Morrison had gathered, kids in the club sketched their designs on rubber printing blocks. Then the students carved the blocks, inked them, and transferred the images to paper by hand using a bamboo baren.

The block prints were then fitted into 5 1/2-inch clear plastic globes. Methow Arts added a touch of sparkly red tinsel at the bottom of each globe.

Lucy Collier, who made a leaf print, said she has always liked to draw, but this was her first time making block prints. Ruby Culpsmith was also using the carving tools for the first time, cutting an intricate pattern to depict delicate tufts of grass.

Depending on the pressure and the amount of ink they’d applied, some prints were deep black and others came out more mottled. Pointing to a print of a leaf with white specks showing through, Morrison said, “That little bit of snowy stuff — I like that in a print. It adds texture.”

Hollis Johnson, who was using a combination of thick and thin carving tools to accent different lines in her image, said, “I’ve done this before — carving the blocks is really fun.”

After they’d finished the prints for the tree ornaments, students had a chance to do other prints. Johnson was hoping to create prints of animals, her favorite subject. “Mostly foxes — I love foxes,” she said.

Because block printing enables you to make multiple images, the kids could also take some of their art home.

Methow Arts chose black and white because of its traditional use in block printing. Amanda Jackson Mott, executive director of Methow Arts, said she also liked the idea of using black and white because the bold graphics would stand out among the brightly colored ornaments from other states. All the trees will be decorated with clear globes adorned with original art from each state.

The America Celebrates display is a collaboration between the National Park Service, which manages President’s Park on the White House grounds; the National Park Foundation; and the National Endowment for the Arts, said Jackson Mott.

Artists were told to highlight some aspect of nature or parks for the ornaments, but otherwise had the freedom to choose their own subject and medium, said Jackson Mott.

An arts group in each state was asked to select an artist. The Washington State Arts Commission chose Methow Arts. “It’s neat — I think it’s an honor to be represented out of Washington state,” said Jackson Mott.

While participation is an honor, it doesn’t come with any special funding. Methow Arts paid for Morrison’s time and supplied the materials. Names of the participants will be posted in the White House park. “It wasn’t a grant, but it was a beautiful opportunity,” said Jackson Mott.

The ornaments are donated to the National Park Foundation, which supports the national parks, for use in future holiday displays.

The handcrafted ornaments will be on view from Dec. 1 through Jan. 1.

Participating artists are invited to attend the tree lighting. Other tickets for the event are distributed through a lottery. “I kind of wish I could go see what it looks like,” said Jackson Mott. There is a chance to see the celebration from afar when it’s broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on Dec. 4.

Participating artists are Lucy Collier, Ruby Culpsmith, Keira Dainwood, Hollis Johnson, Mia Libby, Teague Monahan, Layla Mortland, Audrey Roman, Camille Roman and Gretta Schumacher.