Indulge me in a little diversion from my usual post of providing tips on creativity I’ve learned through interviews with creatives. I’d like to share a family tradition we have here of making borderline-tacky Christmas displays. We draw them onto plywood, jigsaw them out, paint them and display them.
Here’s this year’s entry, a 7′ Christmas tree with four crustacean and shellfish decorations, namely a shrimp, crab, lobster, and clam.
Why the seafood theme? The origin is that my wife grew up on a barrier island on the Jersey shore and likes seafood, but the fact is it’s a tradition now and so we do it without any real logic behind it.
We started in 2008 with Crabby the Christmas Crab. As you can see, he’s not very crabby, at least not in mood. He also is not obviously a Christmas decoration; his wreath and bells aren’t too visible.
Last year I decided to keep the crustacean theme but go for something a bit more Christmas-oriented. Thus the Crustacean Choir was born, our first appearance of a shrimp, lobster and clam, but no Crabby (he went on display again, on the other side of the driveway).
Despite what I thought was an obvious Christmas theme, a lot of folks still just saw a bunch of sea
creatures, large and out of proportion to each other. Also, note that both of these displays were lit with floodlights, which made them stand out a wee bit compared to the pretty tasteful decorations of our neighbors.
This year I sought to do two new things with our Ross family project. 1) It would be an obvious Christmas theme. 2) It would not require a floodlight.
This picture doesn’t quite capture it, but as you can see Christmas lights trim the edges of the tree (green on trees, the color of ornaments where one of the colored balls is on the edge of the tree, gold around the star). I also drilled holes in the four sea creatures and used pink bulbs for Shrimpy, red bulbs for Lobstery and Crabby, and blue lights for Clammy.
Because this tree incorporated all four sea friends, we did not put out the 2008 or 2009 decorations this year, sparing the neighborhood any floods.
The result of our light display is that at night, Shrimpy is quite visible and Clammy almost disappears, but the opposite effect is found during the day due to their relative size differences.
I don’t consider myself a visual artist, so when I conceive and draw these displays, I go pretty simple with the drawings. My fifteen-year-old daughter, who is a visual artist, was assigned the presents at the bottom of the tree. She went all out, really putting to shame my tree!
These are always family projects. All four of us participate in painting, for example. But the annual project is in fact my obsession, so I usually take the lead in developing the idea and moving it forward.
No neighbor has ever told us they find them offensive, but I’m sure some do. Many have been perplexed, which is understandable, and of course we can’t fully explain them. But we have some fans, too, who were eager to see what we produced this year. The biggest fans are the kids in the neighborhood, who don’t try to figure them out, but rather just enjoy them.
Do you have a family creative project you do during the holidays?