By ZOË WATKINS
Venita McGee’s handcrafted tabletop Christmas trees all began because of a violent wind storm.
Over a decade ago, a storm rolled through her family’s Lynchburg farm, causing multiple trees to come down. But because of her love of trees, she incorporated the remnants of some of the fallen trees into her art.
“Instead of burning up the damaged trees, we sliced them,” said McGee with a laugh.
At the base of each tabletop tree is a “slice” of a tree, nearly a perfect circle and about an inch thick. From the base, McGee constructs the cone and entwines lights around it. She then includes a variety of vintage, contemporary and vintage-inspired ornaments along with vintage and antique jewelry. The trees turn out bright and colorful in the end.
There’s also a hidden piece that’s included in every one of McGee’s trees: a timepiece. It could be either a watch or a man’s pocket watch to emphasize the “timeless” nature of each piece.
She made four at first, one for each of her kids, and then one for her granddaughter and great-grandson before selling to other people.
Today, McGee even does custom-order pieces and will include a family’s memento in the tree, making it extra special.
“A lot of people, their mother will pass away, they’ll give me their old jewelry. It’s old to them, but good to me,” she said.
Every tree is different. And each are “a labor of love,” according to McGee. “I love to just sit there and create them.”
She puts a lot of hours into making them special with hopes that they’ll find a special place in the homes and hearts of others. And they do.
“They go into someone’s home. I like that,” she said.
She said making her first tree was “rewarding.” Today, her work has been displayed at various craft shows and exhibits in the area and has even been shipped across the country to make a lasting impression in homes across the U.S.
But after several requests for a Shelbyville event, McGee display her popular handmade vintage-inspired tabletop Christmas trees at a special Friends & Family event at Heritage South Community Credit Union.
Now, for more than 10 years, McGee has made the intricate trees in her home on her farm in Bedford and Moore Counties.
McGee, who’s 82, is a 1959 graduate of Shelbyville Central High School. (She added that her class still meets every month). She retired in 2003 after a 41-year career in administration at the Empire Pencil Company (now Sanford).
“This is the first very big project. I’ve sewn and made little things, but this is really a good one,” she said.
When she’s not crafting her trees, you can find McGee farming, raising cattle and chickens, as well as staying in touch with her friends.
To order a tree, email email@example.com.
McGee sells both electric and battery-powered trees, ranging in height from 12 to 22 inches. She also has several of her custom wreaths which are 12 to 24 inches in diameter.