Hannah Kiddoo 2015-11-25 16:58:23
The State Preservation Board releases its 20th Capitol ornament. Since 1996, a Capitol ornament has graced many Texas Christmas trees and winter wreaths, becoming a holiday staple that embraces our state’s rich history. The idea to produce and sell the gold-plated decorations—featuring everything from door hinges to the state seal—was hatched up by Nelda Laney, the wife of then-Speaker of the House Pete Laney, to fund the maintenance and preservation of the building without using tax dollars. Each year, a newly designed ornament is released and remains available for purchase for the next 10 years. More than one million units have been sold since the program’s debut, and retired pieces have become collectors’ items. Derek Lemons, interim director of retail for the State Preservation Board, has been a part of the process for six years. Here, he reflects on the design process, challenges, and the 20th edition of the ornament. What considerations go into designing each ornament? The Capitol is an iconic structure, and our first duty is to ensure that we do justice to the building. We want to convey not only a visual connection to the Capitol but also relay the history and importance of the specific components that are embodied in the design of the ornament. What was the inspiration behind the 2015 design? It felt like it was time that the most iconic symbol of Texas was represented. The Lone Star is in many aspects of the Capitol. It’s just one of those elements that shows up so much that it might be overlooked. How are the themes selected? Each Capitol ornament is developed through a collaborative review process of folks inside and outside the State Preservation Board. Some themes, such as the 2014 blue oculus, take multiple years to tweak, adjust, and finalize. Other ornaments have been proposed and adopted in the same year. Which took the most time to create? The 2009 ornament was a departure from past designs, both in construction and appearance, and it took a while to perfect. We learned it isn’t easy to represent a doorknob. What has been the best-selling ornament? That is a difficult question to answer because many of them are so close in sales. Some of the earlier designs had terrific sales right up until they were retired. Those ornaments really helped develop the massive audience we enjoy today. Among the designs that have been retired, the 2000 [state seal] and 2005 [Capitol dome] were huge hits. It is too early to tell which of the currently available designs will rival those, but the much-beloved 2008 [terrazzo rotunda flooring] and 2014 [blue oculus window] ornaments are strong contenders. Have any unexpected challenges ever arisen during the process? People had long asked for a depiction of the Goddess of Liberty that crowns the dome of the Capitol, and in 2006 we presented a design that did just that. Due to the delicate components that allow her to spin within the frame, the rigors of shipping presented a challenge. Incidentally, this is the last year the 2006 model will be available for purchase. Saying goodbye to a Capitol ornament is difficult, but maintaining 10 years’ worth of inventory presents its own challenges. What would you like more people to know about the ornament program? Every year, the Capitol Visitors Center has a wonderful exhibit that shows how the ornaments are created and how they evolve in the design process. My favorite part of that is seeing the alternate interpretations that didn’t quite make the cut. Several of them are very beautiful, and I’m sure many Texans would be happy to have those on their trees as well. For more information about the 2015 ornament and its predecessors, to go texascapitolgiftshop.com. The 10 most recent ornaments are available for $20 each at the website or in the gift shop. 1999 The fourth ornament in the series is truly Texan with its inclusion of the state shape, signature stars, and red, white, and blue hues. 2000 The 2000 ornament—one of the most collected—depicts the reverse side of the state seal, which features the Alamo and the six flags that have flown over Texas. 2003 The gates that greet visitors entering the Capitol grounds by way of Congress Avenue inspired this piece. 2004 The ninth ornament in the series is a scaled-down version of the Capitol rotunda’s impressive interior dome. 2010 The State Preservation Board celebrated 15 years of the ornament campaign with this design, which captures an amalgam of the Capitol’s prominent architectural elements. 2014 Inspired by the blue oculus windows on the north wing of the building, the 19th ornament took multiple years to plan and finalize. 2015 This year’s design highlights an iconic item that can be spotted all around the Capitol—the Lone Star. It also includes scrollwork and detailing similar to that found in window transoms throughout the building.
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