The Art of Christmas Ornaments

Christmas ornaments first emerged in the early 1800s in the form of fruit, a tradition representing the certainty that life would return in the spring.

To this day, most of us who grew up celebrating Christmas have experienced and developed our own traditions associated with the tree, whether it be ornaments, angels or tinsel. The decorations we choose often evoke emotions or have special meaning.

Even for those who don’t consider themselves collectors, the gift of an ornament can help conjure the spirit of Christmas. Nothing is more special than a handmade ornament, and Kansas City is home to several inspired artist-makers.

Irma Starr

Artist Irma Starr first fell in love with 17th-century slipware pottery in 1963 while still a student at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Starr dedicated her time to learning 85 lost techniques used to create slipware pottery, which involves using a feather to create patterns in the glaze, and gained the attention of the White House, the Smithsonian, collectors and museums.

About 30 years ago, she began creating Christmas ornaments. The tradition stuck, and since then, she has made snowflakes, Santas, angels, snowmen and more. Wizard of Oz fans will enjoy a full collection of ornaments based on characters in the movie. Those wishing to show some Kansas City pride on their trees will admire the 13 ornaments created in the image of each of the iconic towers at the Country Club Plaza.

Starr said she is humbled to know that she is a part of so many families’ holiday traditions.

“I’m very grateful,” she said. “I’m glad I can make them happy. It makes me happy.”

Starr’s ornaments and holiday-themed pottery are available at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art store, where she will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 3, to talk with visitors and sign pieces as part of the museum’s The Artist is IN! series. Starr’s work can also be found at Halls department store and online at www.irmastarr.com.

Alexia Lang

Alexia Lang is a multimedia journalist who has worked in newspapers, magazines, radio and blogs. She holds a journalism degree from UMKC and her Master’s work is in Leadership.

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