Meet Cackie Trippe McCarty, holiday wreath maker extraordinaire!

Where are you based out of?

Richmond, Virginia! I live in an historic neighborhood in the Northside and my workshop, a little building with its own interesting history, is in my garden.

What is the item(s) you make for Beekman 1802

You only see my work at B1802 when it’s Holiday time! I make one-of-a-kind wreaths from vintage/antique Christmas ornaments and decorations.

How did you get started?

I’ve had a longtime love of old Christmas things. I admire the craftsmanship and creativity that went into making them. But, as a child of the 1950s, I especially love the wonderful memories these pieces evoke. One day I saw a magazine article about how to make an ornament wreath so I made one for myself using mostly broken ornaments that I loved too much to throw away. It turned out so well that I decided to start making them to sell as an adjunct to my other artwork.

Is this your full-time focus?

It’s pretty much a full-time gig with breaks here and there to regroup and refocus (and hunt for new treasures!). This year, I basically played hooky until mid-summer to devote some much-needed time to my house.

What is something special/unique about your process?

Every piece I make is unique; there will never be another one like it. This is not only because of the materials themselves (as in what I have in my inventory) but I would be bored to tears if I had to reproduce previous designs. I try to begin each wreath (or centerpiece) with something very special as a focal point. I’m driven by color, scale, and texture. I love the mental stimulation of design.

How long is the process of making the product/piece?

It usually takes parts of 3 days to make a wreath from start to finish. As I mentioned earlier, there is a good bit of mental work involved and I work until I lose my mojo. I’m afraid that I’m a bit dogged in my approach – there are times when I search through my ridiculously large collection for 45 minutes to find just the right piece to go in a particular spot. First, I get the “background” done and then it’s on to the placing of the larger pieces. The final bits often take as long as the first 2 steps put together; for me, the finishing touches are what will make or break a piece. Success is all in the details.

What did you want to be when you were little?

I was born in the early 1950s, immensely different times from today. When I was around 5 or 6, I had a terrific nurse’s costume. It had the little white cap and navy cloak that the nurses of the time wore and came with a doctor bag complete with stethoscope and tongue depressors. Everyone, even my poor cat, was subjected to “examinations.” I was certain I wanted to grow up to be a nurse like Florence Nightingale, or better yet, a doctor. That only lasted a short time, mercifully, until I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer instead.

If you weren’t doing what you currently are, what would you be doing?

This summer saw my 65th birthday so I am not interested a new career path but I hope to always have art and design in my life. If you gave me a nickel right now, I would be plunked down in a beach chair in October on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with my feet in the sand, my nose in a book, and an eye on the waves, dolphins, and birds. Sheer heaven.

by Aray Till

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