Because the religious aspect of Christmas is most important to Diane (Dee) Evans, the small nativity set she’s had since she was a child is placed in a special place at her Oak Creek condo for the holiday.
She loves the other nine nativity sets she’s collected too, so they’re set out as well.
She also cherishes her collections of nutcrackers, antique glass Christmas ornaments, and the Christmas stockings and pieces of pottery she’s made over the years because they remind her of happy times spent with family members.
“For me Christmas is a family time of year, and I love spending time with my family,” she said.
Evans and her husband, Dave Evans, have two sons, five grandchildren, one daughter-in-law and one significant other. She is retired and worked in public broadcasting. Her husband is also retired and worked at Allen Bradley/Rockwell.
Because Christmas is a special time of year for her, she fills her living room, dining room and kitchen with her pieces, and adds some to her staircase and patio.
Her living room is where the nativity from her childhood is kept, and where she puts her 7-foot faux tree. She made many of the ornaments herself.
“I make pottery. Some of the holiday pieces I’ve made for the tree are little angels, and I make cut-out ornaments that have open centers in which little shapes hang. I’ve made hearts, stars and snowflakes for the tree.”
“We also have the antique ornaments we inherited from my husband’s family. There are some glass Santas and some other small and delicate ornaments. We even have some of the old ornaments in which burning candles were once held. We do have candles in them, but we don’t light them. I also put them high enough so the grandchildren won’t be able to knock them around.”
Her pottery, and pieces from other artists, will be featured at the 40th annual Monches Artisan Holiday Open House, which runs Dec. 2, 3 and 4.
Her nutcracker collection is displayed in the living room too.
“I have six of them. One I had and then when my mother had to downsize I inherited the five she had. … I put them all on top of a hutch in the living room that was hand built for my mother.”
In the dining room she has pieces on her dining room table and other tabletops.
“I put my Christmas china out every year. It’s the Lenox Christmas pattern with the holly and the ivy on it. I set the table as if there was company coming. In the middle I have a lantern that looks like a lamp, and then I have several serving pieces that are colorful that I usually put out,” she said, and added that she also displays some of the larger pottery angels she makes on a table in that room.
The Christmas stockings she’s made hang on the stairway railing going to the second floor of her two-bedroom, two-bath home.
She said she made a stocking for each of her family members and that each year they are filled with items the recipients need, for example socks or toothpaste. When she made the stockings, she selected patterns and colors that fit the recipient’s personality.
But none of the stockings have names on them.
“My sewing machine can’t do that kind of work. I could only write names really small on the stockings, so I have little tags on each one showing who they belong to. Some years we just pinned pieces of paper with names on them.”
Evans said she will be displaying her pottery, pieces, which are both functional and decorative, at the Monches Mill House, W301 N9430 County Road E in Hartland, during the tour. That site will also have a woodworker and a beekeeper featuring their art.
She recently talked about her decorations and the tour.
More:Where you can see holiday lights and displays in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin
More:From Christmas lights to Santa visits, here are things to do with kids this holiday season
Question: How long have you been decorating this way?
Answer: Since we were married. 47 years ago.
Q: Can you describe the nativity set from your childhood?
A: It’s a little wooden crèche with a little baby Jesus in it. Part of it is made from a walnut. The little Jesus is lying on cotton and there is also an angel. It’s probably 65 years old. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s important to me because it was mine as a child.
Q: Why do you have so many nativity sets?
A: One reason is that I want to see the religious part of Christmas promoted. Also because they are all entirely different. Sometimes you just see things at the stores and you get them. I also inherited some from my mother when she passed away.
Q: Have you made any other holiday pieces or Christmas gifts for family members?
A: I make special gifts for all my family members each year. One year they got to pick what gifts they wanted from some of the pottery pieces I was making then. One of the couples wanted me to make them a birdbath, and the other couple asked for a garlic keeper.
Q: Are you still adding to your collections?
A: No. When you can’t put everything out, it’s time to stop buying.
Q: When do you start decorating?
A: Normally the weekend after Thanksgiving. I don’t have help, so I do little by little. It’s a tradition for me to do by myself. I like to put Christmas music on when I do it.
Q: What is your style of decorating for the holidays?
A: It’s more traditional. It matches my home that is decorated in a traditional style with some antiques.
Q: Do you decorate your home the same way every year?
A: I pretty much use the same pieces every year, but I might put them in different places throughout the house. I do decorate the tree differently each year. I change the ornaments because I have more ornaments than I could ever put on my tree at one time. But I do always use my antique glass ornaments each year.
This year I decided to put most of my nativity scenes in the hutch in the living room. I took everything out of the hutch. I had artwork and pottery in there.
Q: Are all your nativity scenes small?
A: No. I do have a large nativity set that was made in Italy. I probably got it 25 or 30 years ago. I put that one on a small cabinet in the living room. It didn’t fit in the hutch.
Q: Do you just put up the one tree?
A: We also have two smaller trees that were made by a friend of ours. We lived out East for a while, and this friend made small hand-decorated trees. We have two of hers. One is in the dining room, and one is at the top of the stairs. They are only about 2 feet tall, and they are the kinds that have burlap abound the bottoms. One is decorated with roses, the other with tiny little ornaments. We also have a small stick tree with lights on it in our patio.
Q: Do you add lights or garland to your large tree?
A: I always put white lights on it, and a small garland.
Q: How do you store your antique ornaments?
A: I pack them in a box with other glass pieces. I wrap each one in paper.
Q: Is there anyone who influenced you in the way you decorate your home for the holidays?
A: I wouldn’t say any one person has influenced me as much as seeing what other people do has influenced me. Over the years I would see a beautifully decorated home and I would want to do some of the same things.
Last year I saw a friend set holiday gift bags on top of her kitchen cabinets, so I did that this year. I also added holiday tins. I thought it was a great way to decorate.
Q: Have you always been interested in crafts?
A: Yes. I have been doing some kind of art my whole life. When I worked I crocheted, knit, or quilted. My husband and I collected pottery for years and I was always interested in it, so when I retired about seven years ago I decided to learn how to make pottery. It was on my bucket list.
Q: What kind of pottery do you make?
A: Primarily functional pottery but also some decorative. I do about 60% wheel-thrown pottery and 40% hand building.
Q: Where do you make your pottery?
A. I do some work downstairs, but I do all my glazing and firing at Cream City Clay. It’s a pottery studio, gallery and school. That’s where I learned how to make pottery.
Q. Do you have a favorite piece of pottery?
A. One of my favorite pieces isn’t one of mine. It’s a piece by a local artist, Jean Smaglik Wells, owner of Jean’s Clay Studio in Brown Deer. She does a technique called sgraffito; it is an old Italian technique. It’s done by scratching through the surface of the piece and then adding color. I don’t do this technique myself, but it’s one of the pieces that inspired me to do pottery
Q. Is this the first time you will be participating at the Monches event?
A. I did it last year. It was such a fun time and it was my best show of the year. The Monches Mill House, where I will be displaying my pieces, is such a neat house. The owner of the place always has fires going, so it’s very welcoming.
Q: Your kitchen smells great. What are you cooking?
A: It’s a stovetop potpourri. I put it on the stove during the holidays whenever people are over. It has cranberries, oranges and pomegranates in it.
Do you, or does someone you know, have a cool, funky or exquisite living space that you’d like to see featured in At Home? Contact Deputy Features Editor Pete Sullivan at [email protected].
If you go
What: 40th Annual Monches Artisan Holiday Open House: A free, self-driving tour of four artist locations that will have 12 to 28 artists, depending on the day, featuring their products. (Interiors of the homes are not open to public.) Holiday music, bonfires and refreshments at some locations.
Where: Within a 5-mile radius of the artist community of Monches, in Waukesha County.
When: From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 2, 3 and 4 at most locations.
For more information: Call (262) 853-2731 or see monchesartisans.com.
Hartford Historical Home Tour
Another holiday tour coming up will be put on by the Hartford Historical Society. It will be from noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 10 and will feature three historic homes and a one-room schoolhouse all be decorated for the holidays.
Tickets, at $15, will be sold from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. the day of the tour at the Jack Russell Memorial Library, 100 Park Ave, in Hartford.
For more information call (262) 457-2300.