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Ornaments by Local Artists on White House Tree



Two Richmond artists designed Christmas ornaments now dangling from the branches of the 20-foot Christmas tree in the White House.

First Lady Laura Bush chose national parks as the 2007 holiday theme and solicited ornaments to represent each of the country's 391 parks.

The winning ornaments from Richmond were designed by Jay Sharpe, a Carytown jeweler, and sculptor Paul DiPasquale, best known locally for his Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue.

Sharpe's ornament commemorates Maggie L. Walker's Jackson Ward row house, a National Historic Site. Sharpe used gold leafing and a lavender bow inspired by a sash Walker was photographed wearing. Because it represented a female, Sharpe says, "it had to have a soft edge and look pretty and not be a ball of confusion."

DiPasquale represented National Battlefield Park by using decoupage, a collaging technique made popular during the Civil War. He shellacked on images of cannons and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant seated at Appomattox -- but also, he says, "dogwoods, dogwood blossoms, trying to show the light at the end of the tunnel."

All the artists received a gold cantaloupe-sized ball with strict instructions to decorate, but not slice, reconfigure or add any protrusions. One of the newest national parks represented in the array is the site where United Airlines flight 93 crashed on 9/11 in Shanksville, Pa.

The artists were approached in August but had to keep their participation a secret until after a lavish reception at the White House Nov. 28. (According to the White House Web site, this season's holiday parties will require 20,000 Christmas cookies, 10,000 handmade tamales, 1,000 pounds of shrimp and 320 gallons of eggnog.)

"The eggnog was really strong," Sharpe reports. "I took three sips and I handed it back. The bartender said, 'This is White House eggnog' and I just fell out laughing."

Sharpe and DiPasquale are unable to duplicate their designs for future use.

"It becomes property of the White House once it's done," Sharpe says. "The funny thing about it is, they had four Marines around the tree so I couldn't even touch it again." S

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