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Ornament puts city on tree

Christine Lush–Rodriguez makes Christmas ornaments with the city skyline on them. The ornaments are sold at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center and Heather Boutique. / Photos by Suzanne Carr Rossi

Tourists stopping at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center often ask if there’s a Fredericksburg Christmas ornament.

This year, the center’s manager and the owner of a downtown boutique held a contest to create one. The winner is a blue pottery ornament that Christine Lush–Rodriguez based on a photograph she took of the Fredericksburg skyline.

“We really wanted one that is artist quality and made here,” said Julie Perry, who manages the visitors center. “Historic Fredericksburg Foundation has had one for years, but it doesn’t say Fredericksburg on it.”

Perry and Heather Stapleton, who co-owns Heather Boutique at 721 Caroline St., got the idea for the contest last July while discussing ways they could team up. They sent out an open call for artists to compete for the project, and got about 10 submissions, including some that were hand-painted or etched into glass.

“It was our first time doing it, and we were not sure who would be interested,” Perry said. “We were pleased.”

A selection committee was formed and asked to pick the submission that was unique, best represented Fredericksburg and would sell at a price that would enable the Visitor Center and Stapleton to make a small profit.

And, oh yes, it would have to be fairly easy to reproduce because they would need about 200 copies by November.

The five-member committee voted unanimously for Lush–Rodriguez’s ornament, although Stapleton said there were three other artists whose submissions came close.

Lush–Rodriquez teaches at Holy Cross Academy in Fredericksburg and is a founding member and the president of Artful Dimensions Gallery in Fredericksburg. She said she based her ornament on a photograph of downtown Fredericksburg that she took from Chatham Manor.

“I drew the majority of the buildings that I could see and made sure that the three [church] steeples were there,” she said.

Lush–Rodriquez made a carving based on the drawing, and then used that to create a plaster mold for the ornaments. There are 21 steps involved in making each one—from cutting out each piece of clay to pressing it on the mold to glazing and firing the final product.

“It’s a very Williamsburg blue,” Lush–Rodriquez said. “I didn’t want it to be red or green because that would scream Christmas. I wanted it to be hung year-round.”

Her ornaments sell for $27.50 each and have been available at Heather Boutique and the Fredericksburg Visitor Center since Nov. 9, the first day of downtown Fredericksburg’s annual Holiday Open House weekend.

Response so far has been favorable. About 40 percent of the inventory sold that first weekend, and more have been ordered. Lush–Rodriquez will sign the ornaments at a reception to be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday Dec. 6 at Heather Boutique.

“I’m really proud of this product,” said Perry. “There are so many artists doing ornaments. I think sometimes that when people go to an art gallery they think it’s going to be a large purchase. I want them to know that they can get something small.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407