by Tim Cronkhite, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

It's the time of year that we designers are gearing up for the upcoming busy Christmas season of craft shows. Have you thought about what you're going to be selling?

Chris Freedman, co-owner of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, decided in 2014 that she wanted to work with one of her favorite local charities in Grants Pass, the Rogue Winterfest. What is that you ask? Well sit back and grab your favorite beverage as I paint the picture for you. It's one of Josephine County's largest holiday charity festivals held at Evergreen Federal Bank's Bear Hotel Artworks Museum. Each year the ''Hotel'' is transformed into a winter wonderland and brings the community together to support Josephine County's nonprofit mental health organizations.

Winterfest 2019 Winterfest 2019 Winterfest 2019

Winterfest 2019

In 2014, when we donated our tree, the funds went to Family Solutions, Kairos, and Options for Southern Oregon. Chris Freedman thought that this would be a fun and different way for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads to give back. So, Chris and I met and discussed her vision and proceeded to put it into action! She wanted a Christmas tree completely decorated with finished jewelry pieces.

That's when Stephanie G. got busy putting together a decorating crew and lists of jewelry we could use to hang on the tree. We had regular evening meetings with the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads tree design team to plan the 115 individual pieces of jewelry for the tree. While Stephanie and the decorating crew were busy planning, I had to figure out how we could attach jewelry to the tree and make sure it was secure. I searched the internet and racked my brain trying to come up with a GREAT solution. Then I remembered we sell glass ornaments.

Stephanie G. deciding which decorations are the perfect choice

Item Number H20-2883GF Glass Ornament

Item Number H20-2883GF

I was trying to figure out how to attach the jewelry to the glass ornaments when Stephanie and the design crew suggested gluing the jewelry to the ornaments. Then the problem was how would the person that bought the tree get the jewelry off the ornaments? Chris wanted to make sure whoever purchased the tree would be able to take the jewelry off and wear it. How to make this work; the wheels in my head were whirling. I started searching the web and found the perfect answer. Clear plastic ornaments that come apart in the middle. They were available in three sizes, Large, Medium and Small. BAM! These were perfect for what we needed. From there we got really creative and figured out how to hang earrings, bracelets and some necklaces on the inside of the ornaments.

Phil S. Painting The Backdrop For The Vignette

Phil S. painting the backdrop for the vignette

Tim C. Adding Some Final Touches To The Tree

Tim C. adding some final touches to the tree

Phil S. became our set designer and drew a sketch of the vignette. Our vision was to make it look like a vintage dressing room. We wanted a 5'x5' hardwood floor, two walls (one with a window), a dressing room table with a mirror topped with lovely perfume bottles and of course, jewelry. The rules state you must stay in a 5'x5' area of space to conserve room for the 20 plus trees entered by the other design teams in the event.

The team setting up the Christmas Tree at the Bear Hotel, Grants Pass, Oregon

All the decorations must be securely attached to the tree. We had to wire down all the lights, ribbons and ornaments so nothing would move or fall off in transit. We used E6000® to connect all the tree sections and the legs on the rotating base.

The decorating crew consisting of Chris, Stephanie, Phil, Tom, Laura Lynn, Linda, Sophie, Kati, Rebekah, Rose, Jude and Jay, worked day and night on this for about 2 months. We had to complete the tree and have it delivered to the Bear Hotel by December 2nd. Let's just say we were in panic mode the last few days. Finally the tree was ready, and it was time to transport everything. That caused some major anxiety for us all.

Tom T., Adding the Topper to the Tree

Tom T., adding the topper to the tree

The Finished Tree Vignette

The Finished Tree Vignette

Phil worked with Jay to design the 5'x5' hardwood floor to split down the middle so we could more easily transport it and the person that purchased it could do the same. Monday, December 1st, we did our last minute touches and got it ready for delivery. In a past life, I was a supervisor for a moving company and those skills came in handy when determining how we were going to move this 7 foot, fully decorated tree weighing in at 30 pounds.

Peanuts Tree

Peanuts Tree

Mickey Tree

Mickey Tree

I purchased a queen size mattress bag and the plastic bags for Christmas tree disposal and securely wrapped the tree in a cocoon. Phil found a small 4 wheel dolly made for putting under heavy planters which worked perfectly to move the tree. The tree was easily lifted into a pickup truck and moved to the hotel. The Winterfest Christmas event team was super excited when we delivered it. We told them they had to wait until the next day to see us unwrap it and they were very disappointed. On December 3rd, we were excited when we started unwrapping the tree because we didn't lose a single ornament; everything was still holding strong and right in place. Then we fluffed the tree up some and added the tree topper designed by Jude, our internal jewelry designer. Jude wanted to take something near and dear to Fire Mountain Gems and Beads and chose our tagline "uniting the world, one bead at a time." She made the people out of shrinkable plastic and added Swarovski® crystals to them. Make sure to watch the video so you can see the spectacular tree topper. We staged the vignette by adding all the jewelry to the rolling jewelry case, set up the puppy in his bed and put finishing touches on the vanity.

"Everything is Better with Jewelry"

We worked the next 5 hours finishing up the tree for the big event to be held on the evening of December 4th. The night of the event was here and we could all breathe; we made it on time--delivered, set up and ready for judging. Our tree WON the most traditional tree! The team was very excited to win something from our peers in town and for an event that means so much to those in our area. As you can see in the pictures, the Bear Hotel had lights hanging all over the place. The lighting was dim and it was so beautiful. There were 22 entries that year, which means at the end of the day the fundraiser was a huge success. It really got me thinking how fun would it be to throw a Christmas party at my house, have a tree full of jewelry and have your guest pick off the jewelry they wanted for their gifts. I know times are hard and if you're like me with a busy schedule year round, you could buy some of the finished jewelry we have to help you--fill up the spots on your tree.

I was asked if I would do this again and the answer is YES! It's a great way to do something I love, which is make jewelry, and it's a great way to give back to the community. Maybe you have always been trying to figure something out for you to do in your community and my hope is I've passed some thoughts on to you to make the holidays brighter. Have a great YEAR!
- Tim

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