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Troy Art Club ornaments an amazing success
December 2, 2017
Members of the Troy Art Club and Troy Schools Art Director Mrs. Jeanie Palmer. sitting at far left. Hunter Lighty, holding the ornament set and standing next to Mrs. Palmer, and Abby Osborn, holding the set on the right, went above and beyond in the club's ongoing Capitol Christmas Tree ornament project.
By Mike Weland

When she first learned that the 2017 National Christmas Tree was going to be harvested on the Kootenai National Forest (KNF), U.S. Forest Service National Environmental Policy Act coordinator Lisa Osborn knew that the tree wouldn't be complete without ornaments, so she put out a call for artists from throughout the KNF to bring forth their best work.

And she was well pleased with the response, sending around 5,000 locally crafted pieces of art along with the 79 foot tall Engelmann Spruce on its trip the Washington DC, where, next Wednesday, December 6, that glorious tree, with its myriad ornaments, will be lit up in a ceremony on the West Lawn. A contingent from Troy will be heading east on Monday.

Of those 5,000 ornaments,
each a whopping 10-inches tall minimum to fit the grandeur of the tree, around 200 of them were made by members of the Troy Art Club, comprised of 22 Troy junior high and high school students, working under the guidance of district art director Jeanie Palmer.

Surprisingly, very few of their ornaments, fired and glazed clay images of the three species of trout; cutthroat, rainbow and bull trout, will adorn the tree. Instead, the entire project took on an unimagined life of its own.

"We started working on our ornaments last spring," Mrs. Palmer said, "learning by trial and error. We came up with the idea and the design, then worked out how to make 200 of them, through the cutting and pressing to the first firing to the glazing and coloring and finally the second firing. It started out to be labor intensive and time consuming, as only a few ornaments could fit in our kiln at one time, but eventually we worked out a system."

Before long, all 200 were finished, and, along with all the other ornaments that were submitted, went through an informal judging process.

"With the Capitol Christmas Tree, traditionally the best ornaments are picked out to be sent to the offices of U.S. Senators and Congressmen as invitations to the tree lighting ceremony," Mrs. Palmer said, "and it turns out most of ours, instead of going on the tree, went to several offices."

Thinking the project was done and thinking of new projects they might turn their hand to, and, as is almost always the case for groups such as the Troy Art Club, someone made the comment how nice those ornaments would look scaled down to fit their own Christmas Trees. With an arts and craft fair coming up, they developed a smaller version of their national tree ornaments, each four inches long. Thinking big, they made 100.

And sold out at amazing speed.

"People were excited, it's artistic and the kids were having fun, making it a great fund raising project," Mrs. Palmer said, "and it just ballooned!"

With help from community volunteers, including those enrolled in an adult education pottery class, students in the Troy Art Club began turning them out. On the back of each is written the species the ornament represents and

"Almost every year, we rely on fundraisers for art materials for different projects, an annual scholarship and we try to save up for one art retreat so students can experience art and culture beyond our remote area," Mrs. Palmer said. "We usually go somewhere not too far away, like Portland. Once they saw how successful the ornaments were, and having no seniors in the club, members decided to postpone a trip this school year in hopes of going someplace really special next year!"

The effort has reached the status of a community project and they've already made more than 800 ornaments. Members will be at the Christmas Craft Bazaar from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at W.F. Morrison Elementary, E501 Kalispell Street, Troy, selling ornament that will likely be heirlooms for those who own them, gracing Christmas trees for years, and then passed on to future generations.

The ornaments can be bought singly for $5 or in sets of three, with one of each species displayed on heavy wool cloth, for $12. Each ornament is complete with metal hook so it can go straight on your Christmas tree.

And if you can't make it to the bazaar, you can order them and have them shipped. Shipping fee for one ornament or one set of three is $6; for two sets it's $7 and $8 for three sets. To order yours or to find out more, contact Mrs. Palmer by email to, stop by Troy School District Superintendent's office, 218 Spokane Avenue, Troy, or send your order, with check payable to The Art Club, to P.O. Box 867, Troy, MT 59935.
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