For two decades, artists, businesses and community members have created holiday wreaths out of every manner of material, from classic branches to steel, to CDs to everything in between. This year the circle is broken for the event’s 20th anniversary, as the Carroll County Arts Council has expanded the annual silent auction to include non-wreath visual art as part of the display.
The Festival, which runs from Friday, Nov. 24 through Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster is the council’s second-biggest fundraiser of the year, having been overtaken by the PEEPshow in 2012, and features more than 150 decorated holiday pieces from creators throughout the county. The display has more than doubled since the initial year, held back in 1998 with 67 wreaths on display.
The first Festival of Wreaths brought in $5,000 in support to the council’s educational programs, a figure that has increased to an average take of $25,000 each year.
Unique wreaths this year include a piece made entirely from bottle caps, a two-dimensional horse head made from tree branches and a green bicycle wheel loaded with gift cards to Starbucks, Boscov’s, Panera Bread, Amazon and more.
Kathleen Clancy is one of the former wreath artists who has embraced the expansion into two-dimensional art this year. For the Festival, Clancy created a small watercolor painting of a winter landscape blanketed in snow.
Clancy said she has created wreaths in the past, but was excited to transition to her specialty of creating watercolors.
“I enjoy doing this every year because it’s a great organization,” Clancy said. “I like supporting the council. The people are so great there, and it’s just a good cause.”
For Candy Aaron, planning her watercolor of sleds in the snow, took a surprising amount of preparation.
“I wanted to do a painting of the sleds I used to use when I was a little girl, so last winter, I put all of these sleds out on the garage and waited for it to snow,” Aaron said. “If you remember, we didn’t get much snow, so they had to wait out there a few months.”
Aaron said when two inches finally dropped, she ran out in the middle of the day to take a photograph of the sleds before it all melted. This is her first watercolor for the Festival after years of creating wreaths out of lace, candy canes, wrapping paper and old books.
Unlike so many returning artists, this is Mary Ellen Jackle’s first year of participating in the Festival of Wreaths. She said it was the transition to other forms of art that made her feel confident enough to want to submit.
“I’ve always wanted to participate, but I’ve been really busy and I know that decorating a wreath, for me, would take up too much time,” Jackle said. “I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from adding things and constantly changing it.”
Jackle’s piece features three children dressed as the wise men, carrying gifts through the snow, with a fourth small child struggling to carry his large present a distance behind them.
The two sets of children are separated by the matting in the frame, which creates two separate images in the same space. According to Jackle, what seems like a bold artistic statement began life as a simple mistake.
“I was almost finished with the drawing, and I stupidly had a bottle of water next to it,” Jackle said. “My cat jumped on the table, and didn’t hit it, but I overreacted and knocked it over in a big splash right onto the drawing.”
Jackle said she was lucky the water didn’t hit any of the children, but instead landed in the wide space between them. Despite her luck, she knew she needed to fix the issue as the water began warping and eating through the paper. It was the staff at Ain’t That A Frame that came up with the idea to use a special matte to hide the water, and separate the children.
Jackle said these kinds of mistakes are a part of being a creator, and some of her favorite wreaths to see at the festival are the simple ones made by children.
“There was one year, I bought something like eight wreaths,” Jackle said. “A lot of people got wreaths from me that year. It’s been fun watching it grow. I love that it gives an opportunity to a lot of great artists in the area. I’m just happy to have a piece of mine in there with them.”