Merry Christmas, Luca Della Robbia style

delle-robbia-wreath.jpgAn Italian sculptor named Luca Della Robbia produced many charming works in glazed terra cotta from 1400-1475.  Many of his plaques featured frames depicting fruits and vegetables.  This style of decoration still persists centuries later, in a style of Christmas decorating known in this country as the Williamsburg style.  Someday I would like to go there at the holidays, and see all of the wreaths and architectural elements decorated with the fruits of the harvest and holiday season.  Though the Willamsburg decor is traditionally done with real fruits and vegetables, my interpretation of the style makes use of faux fruit.  The fruit in the above wreath is produced from a weighted core, and a rubbery, almost waxy outer layer.  The color and texture is incredibly realistic.  This magnolia della robbia wreath, with proper care thast protects the dry magnolia leaves, will last many years.

holiday lighting.jpgWhy am I thinking about the della robbia style?  Rob made me 2 sets of Christmas lights-one for my tree and one for my mantel.  The red, yellow and green lights have a remarkably jewel like glow.  They so remind me of the Christmas trees I remember from my childhood.  Those big glowing lights on on our Christmas tree were enchanting.  Seeing anything through a child’s eyes is a way of seeing like no other.  How would I decorate my tree to make the most of these extraordinary lights?  It seemed a natural choice to pair this color and texture with a mantel and tree decorated with ornament of a similar feeling.

holiday-lighting.jpgMy holiday tree does not have ornament with an intrinsic history.  No objects which provoke memories, in and of themselves.    I actually like it that way.  I like having the option to decide on a scheme or a theme that is quite different than the previous year. The challenge of creating a display that reflects the immediate sentiments, importance, and aura of the season is an activity I enjoy.  When the seasonal work for clients comes to a close, it is time to go home, and create a little holiday spirit of my own.

trimming-the-tree.jpgThe della robbia tree had a modest beginning.  A Christmas tree, an evergreen garland, plastic ornament balls in lime green, and lots of faux fruit.  Having been laid low by the worst cold in a decade, Steve saw to getting the tree and mantel garland up, and the ornaments on the tree.  Angie stuck the large fruits with floral picks; it is vastly easier to secure a stick than a heavy round slippery fruit. The rest would be up to me.  For the better part of a day, I worried I might not have the strength to decorate our tree.  Funny how once a project captures your interest, troubles fall away.   Early on it became apparent that the big fruits could not go on the tree.  They were much too heavy.  The big fruits would have to go on the mantel.

Christmas-tree.jpgThe mantel garland was secured around a thick bamboo pole, and secured to the weighty metal mantel lights with zip ties.  I managed to find spots in the evergreen garland that would grip the picks.  As for the tree, I had to change gears. A trip to English Gardens yielded 10 boxes of dark red glass ornament balls.  Miniature limes and green apples could easily be fastened to the tree-after Buck wired bag after bag of them for me.  40 red berry picks, when taken apart, yielded 480 individual berries.  Other bits included 6 boxes of shiny lime green mini berry clusters.

Christmas-tree.jpgI like a Christmas tree that still looks like a tree, even after it is decorated.  This involved wiring on many small bits.  Big bits can engulf a Christmas tree.  I favor lots and lots of just a few types of little things.

decorated-tree.jpgI attached the red berry balls to the tips of as many branches as I could.  At the time of this writing, I still have about fifty to go.

holiday-mantel.jpgThe tree and mantel only have 30 lights, but the bulbs are big, and make an impression.  How this feels to me is nostalgic and warm-just how I like to celebrate the season.

holioday-tree.jpgI owe the look to the inspiration provided by Rob’s lights.  May your holiday be just as warm and bright as mine has turned out to be.


  1. Carol Passavant says

    Thank you and Happy Holidays.

  2. Exquisite. Love what you did. Have a wonderful holiday season!

  3. Deborah,
    Your Christmas decorations are incredibly beautiful. I live in the South and have visited Williamsburg many times. You have really captured the style. Thanks and Merry Christmas.

  4. Starr Foster says

    You have so many loyal and devoted friends. A very nice story and a unique and lovely tree!

  5. Yvonne Horton says

    Thank you for the gift of your talents you give us all year. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  6. Deborah: We wish you a Blessed Christmas and say “thank you” for sharing a plethora of personal and gardening inspirations over the past year. We have connected many of our friends to your web site and often your blog is the topic of conversation at our gatherings. What an inspiration you are to us all. Have a Happy New Year and we will continue being cheer leaders for you here in west Michigan. Bill and Jenine Bird

  7. Thank you for the Christmas morning gift of sharing your beautiful decorations. Enjoy the day!

  8. debra phillips @ 5th and state says

    brilliant, in many regards

    thank you deborah for a year of inspiration, wishing you a speedy recovery, and warm days of rest.

  9. Merry Christmas. Thanks for the beautiful Christmas decoration.

  10. Merry Christmas way up there, D. The tree is stunning!

  11. Thank you, Deborah, for sharing everything you know. I drove by your shop tonight – the outside lights are beautiful.

  12. Beautiful decorations. Thanks for sharing!
    Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day.

  13. Lisa Chiappinelli Sutherland says

    Absolutely beautiful! Your work is an inspiration and a joy to look at! I only wish we lived closer…here in northern NJ I can only dream about your shop! Keep the blog going, I look forward to your posts and they are the first thing I read in my inbox!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Lisa, Perhaps you will have occasion to visit the midwest sometime. In the meantime, I’ll try to post about what’s doing at the shop from time to time. Thank you for your letter. Deborah

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