From Conception To Completion | Bronner’s Annual Design Series

“The years teach much the days never knew.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

1974. That was the inception of Bronner’s annual-design ornament series. Twenty-nine years after Wally’s start in the business and 43 years later, the collection is still growing strong. And the process? The history? Take a look …


Part Of Bronner's Annual Ornament Collection On Display In The Program Center.
Some of our annual ornament collection is on display in Bronner’s program center in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

It’s no secret that styles, techniques and technology advance as the years go on. But I had NO IDEA what wonderful history I was about to unveil as I sought out the expertise of our ornament designers to help me put together this post.

My mind is still whirling.

WHERE TO BEGIN?

Perhaps at the start? And that’s where she was taking me. Connie Larsen (one of our original ornament artists) brought me to a room, and as she flipped on the light switch, my jaw dropped. I’d never seen the ornament history that hung before my eyes!

To just look at it all was a little overwhelming, honestly. But Connie’s eyes lit up as she grabbed an ornament from the wall and began to tell me about it … One by one she selected certain ornaments and came alive as she explained the memories attached to them. (Speaking with Connie about the history of how the ornaments were designed was captivating … and for another post!)
With similar sentiments, Shannon McGinnis, another of our ornament artists, summed it up this way:

“The annual design is unique because, unlike most of our other designs now, the annual starts and ends with a one-of-a-kind hand painting. It’s more personal this way. I hope that the people who receive these ornaments get a sense that we really put our time and hearts into these designs. I consider it a truly special honor to have such a part in making a design that will, hopefully, become part of someone else’s Christmas memories and traditions.”We really put our time and hearts into these designs.

A LITTLE Q&A

I asked Shannon a few questions about Bronner’s exclusive annual ornament collection. Here’s what she had to share:

Q| How do you come up with ideas?

A| I get ideas everywhere – from displays in windows and stores to old books and art boards on Pinterest. I make sure to pay attention to popular trends, too, but I really end up choosing a final design based on how it makes me feel. Christmas is such a sentimental time; I love thinking back on memories and traditions I’ve shared with my family and using those moments and emotions as inspiration for a piece.

Bronner's Ornament Artist Shannon McGinnis Painting Our 2014 Exclusive Art Church Scene.

Q| What do you enjoy most about the process?


A| 
I LOVE GETTING AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER! … at least for a little while. Painting these pieces gives me a break from the digital world and takes me back to where I started with drawing and painting. You have to switch your mindset from fast-paced clicking and Ctrl+Z to calmer, more patient methods. It’s very therapeutic to simply let yourself forget everything else and just get lost in the act of painting. It’s a wonderful reminder of why I fell in love with art in the first place!

 

Q| Are there any challenges?

A| Always! I hate to say it, but it’s so frustrating not to be able to hit a couple buttons and have a mistake undone! When you make a mistake while painting, you have to live with it. Luckily they’re usually happy accidents and can be incorporated with no problem. But again, it’s a lesson in slowing down, remembering the different techniques, and that it’s okay not to be so rigid and in total control all the time.

 

Q| Which is your favorite design? Why?

A| My favorite design is the lamppost from 2016. I definitely felt more confident while creating this piece than I did with the two previous years’ pieces. I love how simple it is, yet it’s so warm, too. The formed glass piece that accompanies the painted version is unique in that it’s more organic and natural and not as hard-edged and boxy as the church and gingerbread house.

AFTER THE ART

Going back two years to our 2015 design, Shannon explains the creative process in bringing the art to life.

GROWING A CRAFT … AND COLLECTION

Bronner's Ornament Artist Connie Larsen With 10 Years Of Her Designs For Our Exclusive Annual Ornament Collection.I also inquired which was Connie’s favorite from our annual collection. But having designed pieces spanning almost four decades, she found it hard to choose just one.

“I was proud of all of them and tried to maintain a high standard of quality year after year. The beginning of the full-color printing in 2000 encouraged me to begin painting, which opened a whole new avenue of artistic expression that I still love to do.”

Inspired by the expanding capabilities of printing (from a time when only line art was needed and artisans filled in color by hand), Connie explains how she evolved to explore new mediums over time with Bronner’s annual ornament art:

“The first several full-color annual ornaments were done mostly in pencil crayon, which I found to be a little limiting. I gradually began to try gouache paint, which I had been using on some sketches (along with pencil crayons) to help the commercial salesmen show customers how their decorations would look in their locations. The first art that was completely painted was the 2005 St. Nicholas. So having to create full-color art for the annual ornament really was the catalyst to my first try painting. It really set the tone for my style, too, because the art needs to be very crisp and colorful to reproduce well at such a small size – 3 inches in diameter. Tiny details are lost at that size.”

Bronner's Christmas Wonderland's Exclusive Annual Glass Christmas Ornament Designs 2000-2017

Tammy Hall is one of Bronner’s buyers and a part of the design committee that works diligently to make sure the final product reflects the vision our talented artists have cast. (You can meet Tammy in this past post.)

“Many guests come back annually to get the yearly ornament,” she said.

 

All of Bronner’s annual ornaments are exclusively designed and crafted for us. Many are only available a short time, making them a cherished collectible. (Only a few continue to be offered a bit longer.)

DO YOU REMEMBER ANY OF THESE?

Do you have any of Bronner’s annual designs hanging on your tree at Christmas? We’d LOVE to see a photo! Please tag us; @BronnersChristmas on Facebook and Instagram, or @BronnersXmas on Twitter.

THIS CHRISTMAS, I GAVE YOU MY HEARTH …

Bronner’s exclusive, 2017 Annual Christmas design features Santa Claus nestled up in a red and green quilt beside the warmth of a decorated fireplace.

Masterfully crafted from glass by artisans in Poland; find our 2017 formed glass ornament here.

Proudly made in the USA; find our 2017 round ornament here.

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