Homemade Treasurers Create Christmas Riches
As the season for giving arrives,
thoughts of gifts wrapped in colorful
paper topped with bows come to mind. But for some, homemade treasures that decorate, accentuate
and preserve nature's beauty are
the best gifts of all.
By Fran Sharp
Ask Cindy Kirsch Smith of
Montgomery where she gets her talent,
and she will tell you she took a
dip in the family gene pool. The picture
ornaments Cindy creates are
from a craft idea originated by
Cindy's mom, Sue Kirsch, way back
in the '70s.
Updating Sue's idea through the
modern advent of decorative miniatures
and readily available color
copying machines, Cindy creates
individualized mementos customized
to order and encased in acrylic fillable
ornaments. Themes include pets,
nativity scenes, births, weddings,
birthday celebrations, graduations
and school events. They are limited
only by the customers' wishes and
Cindy's imagination. Grandchildren
are a popular theme, and Cindy has
produced several for her first grandchild,
"They are very easy to do," Cindy
says of her ornaments. "Just remember
to keep a supply of miniatures,
fabric clippings and ribbons around,
and you'll be ready for anything. The
acrylic ornaments are available at any
craft store in balls and hearts, and it's
all put together with a hot glue gun."
Cindy, a data processor at the
Alabama State Troopers office in
Montgomery, says she makes her
ornaments to unwind. "Most of the
time it's relaxing, but it can be tricky
to get the picture into the ornament
without folding it over on itself; you
just have to work with it. I have
thrown many across the room, but
once you do the first one, the second
time is easy."
Ginger Mullins, an administrative
assistant for the Alabama Farmers
Department, has been painting all
her life. Ginger's late mother once
proclaimed that her daughter was just
about born with a paintbrush in her
hand. Ginger said as a young lady,
she thought about studying art, but
never got around to it.
"I fell in love, and you know what
happens when you're in love, you
forget about everything else," she
But Ginger didn't abandon her
love of art. This working mother
with grown children -- one a new
father and the other a special needs
son who lives at home with Ginger
and her husband Ronnie -- unwinds
in the evening with cheerful Santas
and angels. They grin up at her from
a worktable spread with paints, glitter,
wire and polymer clay.
Even though her pins are very
popular, you can't buy them. Ginger,
who wears a contagious smile, prefers
to give them as gifts during the year
and especially at Christmastime.
Word-of-mouth brings her requests
from women's groups and others, but
mostly she makes them for friends.
"Polymer clay is easy to work,"
she says. "You soften it by kneading
it, form it into the shape you want,
and bake it in the oven," she said. "It's
not complicated, and I know how to
use an oven."
For beginners at any craft, Ginger
recommends checking out the classes
at hobby stores or just winging it. "I
experimented with one thing and
then another with my pins. With the
polymer, you make a mistake, just
roll it up, and start over again," she
Some of the pins are painted, but
all are cheerful and come equipped
with a fastener for pinning on a
shoulder, belt or scarf. Little bears,
Christmas trees, Santas, wreaths,
elves, snowmen and candy canes are
decorated with raffia and/or copper
wire for hair, gold rings for halos,
and squiggly ribbons for whiskers.
Each is created with a smile and a
"Some of my fondest Christmas
memories are working on my pins
with my mother and my sister,"
Ginger said. "My mother would make
suggestions about what she thought
it should look like, but she never
really got into making them herself.
She mostly just watched me."
Holiday decorations from the
heart don't have to be expensive.
The only cost is a stroll in
Kitty Ricks' decor is furnished
by Mother Nature, and
experience was her teacher.
"In 39 years of working outside
the home, I learned time
and money-saving tricks each
year as I would decorate for the
holidays," said the former legal
One of her favorite tricks is
walking in the yard or in the
woods near her Mount Olive
home just northwest of
Birmingham. While there, she
gathers fresh greenery to
brighten the rooms in her
"You can use greenery for
any holiday, adding ornaments,
turkeys, jack-o-lanterns or anything
else for a specific theme,"
Kitty decorates with
wreaths, swags and garlands in
most every room of her house.
She trails magnolia
down the center of
a dining room
table, swags mirrors
and mantels and
places limbs or cuttings
"I might or
might not add a
bow or other decoration
just the simple
enough," she said.
A little imagination
goes a long
way in decorating.
take on new
dressed in a tiny
boxwood wreath or
holding a miniature
bouquet of green.
Swag a chandelier
with ivy, cover a
frame with eucalyptus
and hang in a conspicuous spot
for a fresh look at the view. Display
fruits and vegetables; attach holly
sprigs to packages, and use berries,
pine cones, sweetgum balls and small
toys to brighten a boxwood wreath
or cluster of pine.
"I'm lucky in that we have a lot of
shrubs and trees, but here's a hint: A
good place to look for greenery if
you don't have shrubs or nearby
woods are scraps from Christmas tree
lots or retail stores," she said. "They
will give the scraps to you free, or
you can purchase a small tree and
harvest what you need."
Kitty says no matter your expertise
or lack of it, a little fresh greenery
will brighten your holiday decorations
if it's no more than laying pine
boughs in the windowsills or tying
some mistletoe to the kitchen doorway.
"Homemade puts you in a holiday
mood, too," she said. "And it's much
less expensive, which can make you