Monday, December 28, 2009

Mimi Novak's White House Christmas Story

Mimi Novak's 1996 White House Christmas StockingEvery year in early December, Mimi Novak shares with her Kinnelon first graders her White House Christmas story. It's a marvelous tale. Have you heard it?

She sets the stage for the Kiel School students by reading them A Christmas Tree in the White House about Teddy Roosevelt.

From there, she takes them to 1996.

In August 1996, Mimi received a letter from the White House Christmas confirming that she was one of 150 needlepointers selected out of a membership of 29,000 from The Embroiderers Guild of America to represent New Jersey and create a Christmas stocking for the official 2006 White House Christmas Tree - an 18' 6" Colorado Blue Spruce from the Scheetz Tree Farm in Coshocton, Ohio - which resides in the Blue Room. This in addition to the 200 American Needlepoint Guild members, 100 wood craft artisans, and 300 ballet companies. [See Holidays at the White House 1996.] Can you imagine?

There were constraints.

The stocking had to depict characters or scenes from The Nutcracker.
Emma & Mimi Novak, Fall 2008
It had to match the size of a blank pattern that each embroiderer received along with backing fabric.

The work had to be done using 13-24 needlepoint canvas.

The pattern needed to contrast well against a dark green tree with small white lights.

Each stocking needed to be edged with gold trim with a hanger of gold cord.

And, the entry had to arrive at the White House no later than October 31st!

In other words, Mimi had 45 days in which to conceive, design, create, finish and then deliver a finished Nutcracker themed Christmas stocking to the White House. Yikes!

Her sister, Susan A. Barnett, an artist and photographer, advised on the composition. Over 200+ hours later [i.e., 5 weeks working 40 hours per week], Mimi completed her Christmas stocking which you see in the photo above: three toy soldiers and a drum - on which you notice Mimi's initials "MN" - created using a range of threads that she shows to her students: patent leather, suede, faux fur, metallics, nylon tubular threads in brilliant greens and reds, and satins in a multitude of needlepoint stitches with preposterous names like 'turkey feather.'

I am in awe at the intensity of effort and the brilliance of creation!

In recognition for her contribution, Mimi and her husband were invited to attend the 1996 White House Holiday Open House celebration.

As Mimi ends the card that she sends home to her students for the Holidays: "the White House, as you know, is just the most glorious and historic house - truly the "People's House." I hope that one day you, too, will be able to visit and walk through the White House."

Thank you, Mimi, for sharing your Christmas Story with your students and us.

From the White House Blog, here is the link to a post about Decking the Halls of the White House in 2009 with a wonderful video narrated by Michelle Obama about the People's House this Christmas 2009.

What are some of your favorite Christmas stories?

Happy Holidays!

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