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Women's ornaments hanging in White House

December 20, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - It's not every day that an artist's work gets national exposure.

That's why Hagerstown's E. Marie McCafferty said she let out a "big scream" after receiving a letter from the White House informing her that her hand-painted holiday ornament was selected to decorate this year's official White House Christmas tree.

"I yelled, 'Oh, wow! I've been accepted.' I bounced up and down like a little 2-year-old," McCafferty said.

She was one of 313 members of the Society of Decorative Painters whose ornaments were chosen to decorate this year's tree. McCafferty, who painted and decorated a wooden harp, was one of three local society members whose ornaments were selected to represent this year's White House holiday theme, "Merriment and Melody," she said.

Rebecca Baer, also of Hagerstown, and Debby Roberts of Chambersburg, Pa., painted winning musical Christmas ornaments.

Roberts said she spent about four days painting and decorating her ornament, a pair of papier-mch maracas.

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"The actual painting didn't take as long as trying to come up with a design," Roberts said.

Earlier this month, McCafferty and Roberts attended an invitation-only White House reception honoring winning painters representing each of the 50 states. Baer, who was out of the country, was not able to attend.

"It was like a winter wonderland," said McCafferty, describing the White House's Christmas decorations.

"It was just awesome. I felt like a little girl looking at all the chandeliers. And the drapery was just beautiful, as well as the crown molding," Roberts said.

To add to the excitement of their White House visit, both women said they nearly got a glimpse of President Bush, who landed in a helicopter on the White House lawn during the reception.

The Society of Decorative Painters, an international art organization, has 26,000 members worldwide and 23,000 in the United States. In August, the society was selected by first lady Laura Bush to provide ornaments for this year's White House Christmas tree, said Teri Mott, the society's communications coordinator.

To determine which artists' ornaments would be selected, the organization held a contest among its membership. Competition was stiff, with about 500 members vying for a spot on one of America's most famous Christmas trees. Only 313 painters made the cut, Mott said.

It took about three weeks to select the winners, who were required to apply paint to each ornament using a specific stroke-work painting technique, she added.

"It's an old-fashioned style of painting that involves a pattern of strokes that vary based on the amount of pressure applied to the brush by the artist," Mott said.

The 18-foot, 6-inch White House tree's branches are adorned with 350 brightly colored ornaments made by members of the Society of Decorative Painters, Mott said. The tree towers into the ceiling of the White House's Blue Room, where McCafferty said a chandelier was removed to accommodate its height.

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