Annual Christmas Ornament, Print Sale Helps Art Education Students Enhance Community Spirit
Zoe Bushway appreciates the sense of community art education students at Mississippi College develop when they gather each fall to create and glaze festive Christmas ornaments and make vibrant relief prints.
Kendall Mackey enjoys seeing the variety of glossy textures, and matte finishes on the original holiday pieces her talented colleagues produce to help fund the senior students’ annual trip to the National Art Education Conference.
After four years of making ornaments and prints for the Christmas sale, Kate Sennett is happy to be among the senior art education students convening in Minneapolis, Minnesota, next year for the NAEA event.
Most of all, the three art education students have enjoyed using the state-of-the-art facilities at the Gore Arts Complex – including the exclusive courtyard kiln – to transform slabs of clay into colorful angels, doves, crosses, states of Mississippi, and MC’s new logo that will soon adorn Christmas trees throughout the Clinton area.
Members of MC’s chapter of the NAEA have been selling the ornaments and prints from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, in the Lower Commons. A select few will be available by email.
Single-color ornaments cost $7 each, multicolor ornaments cost $10 each, and relief prints designed, cut from linoleum, printed, and collaged by the students cost $15 each.
Proceeds from the ornament and print sale will defray costs for the senior art education students to attend the NAEA conference, a splendid networking opportunity for those who enter the profession. According to Stephanie Dickson Busbea, professor, chair, and art education program coordinator at MC and past-president of the Mississippi Art Education Association, thousands of art instructors from across the country attend the annual event.
Bushway, a senior from Shannon who will join Sennett on the trip to Minneapolis, said the benefits of attending the NAEA conference are worth the hours and effort she and her fellow students invested in making the ornaments and prints.
“The seniors are usually student-teaching, and they know they will soon have their own classrooms,” Bushway said. “At the convention, they have an opportunity to meet art teachers, ask them a lot of questions, and get new lesson materials and ideas from them.
“It’s a good experience for someone who’s about to become a new teacher.”
She said producing ornaments for sale presents its own set of challenges. Take the best-selling decoration – the interlocking MC logo - for example.
“The way the logo is laid out, the ‘M’ and the ‘C’ are layered on top of one another,” she said. “We’ve had to cut out the letters and trace around and inside them, which takes some time.
“Kate worked hard on ornament cutters this year, which work like cookie cutters in the slabs of clay, which has made the process a lot easier.”
Sennett, a senior art education major from Melissa, Texas, crafted the cutters out of metal strips to save production time this year, but soon discovered they didn’t work as well with the popular logo ornaments.
“The crevices between the letters were too small, so the MC wouldn’t come out properly,” Sennett said. “But we were still able to use the cutters for the rest of the ornaments, which made it much faster.”
She said the most challenging part of the creative process was recruiting freshmen students. Once they became involved in the project, they were “all in.”
“When I was a freshman, a couple of friends in my art classes urged me to participate,” said Sennett, who recently led a session on intaglio printing at a Mississippi Art Education Association conference. “I didn’t understand what it was all about, but I had a great time, and we got to know each other well. Because of the ornament sale, art education students tend to become a well-bonded group.
“I’ve gotten to know three of my best friends in college by participating in the ornament sale.”
Mackey, a junior transfer from Williams Baptist University in Arkansas studying art education with a Spanish minor, is a newcomer to the sale: she produced her first Christmas ornaments this year.
“I’ve enjoyed coming into it as a collaborative project of the art education students,” said Mackey, who lives in Olive Branch. “It has been fun for us to have hands-on from start to finish. Everyone has been excited to see how the ornaments with the new MC logos have turned out.
“From the first time I visited MC, this was something that Dr. Busbea has mentioned. It was fun to come together and focus on a project, listen to music, take part in conversations with freshmen and new students, and get to know everyone better.”
She most enjoyed pressing stencil textures into the ornaments.
“Some of them have lines going through them, and we did paw prints in some of the Mississippi State ornaments, which some Bulldog fans will be happy to get,” she said. “Some of the textures were etched by hand.”
The month-long process of turning out the intricately crafted ornaments is extremely precise. The students roll out slabs of clay, use cutters and tracing paper to carve out the designs, poke precise holes in the ornaments to run strings through, and then fire them in the kiln. After the ornaments have cooled, they are glazed to acquire matte or shiny finishes.
“The night we glaze them, students get together to watch a movie,” said Bushway, who plans to enroll at Reformed Theological Seminary and eventually teach high school art. “All of the students get to know each other, which is especially helpful for the newer students. It’s good for them to build camaraderie.
“After that, the focus is getting strings on all these ornaments so they can hang from the Christmas trees. The last step is taking a marker and tracing the outside to give the ornaments an outline.”
Sennett said that, unlike past years, the Gore Arts Complex offers plenty of space for the students to complete the project.
“We used to take up the entire studio (in the Aven Fine Arts Building), which sometimes interfered with ceramics projects,” said Sennett, who will be student-teaching in an elementary school and a high school next semester. “Having the kiln court was also helpful because we could get the ornaments fired faster.”
Busbea’s “Art in Secondary Schools” class also make relief prints for the sale. The students could choose the subjects – anything from colorful glazed donuts (by Bushway) to bright yellow lemons (by Sennett) to enticing loaves of bread (by Mackey).
“They’re fun for people who like art to buy,” Bushway said.
Mackey said the project gives art education students a better understanding of how to market and sell their creations.
“Seeing the entire process – from the creative standpoint to marketing and advertising and getting the ornaments into the hands of people who want to purchase them – has been good for us,” said Mackey, who is considering becoming a middle school art teacher. “Instead of producing art to exhibit in a gallery, putting it out there for the world to see, but we might never know our audience, this has been a fun, collaborative process that offers our art to those we may know in the community to purchase and enjoy.
“This has been helpful, because I want to do similar things with my students. I want to do enjoyable projects we can work on together from start to finish that have a purpose and can help the students connect with one another.”
While the purpose of the project is for art education students to help defray the cost of their senior colleagues’ trip to the NAEA convention, Bushway said the real value lies in the memories it creates.
“I remember those times of glazing and making ornaments when I got to know the other students and felt like it was a community,” she said. “It’s a gift to the seniors who get to go on the trip, but it’s also a gift to the younger students who are getting to know everybody.”
For more information or to purchase an ornament or print, email Busbea at email@example.com.