KENDALLVILLE – The 92 County Christmas Tree at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis has been on display since 2008, with all 92 counties represented by handcrafted, three-dimensional ornaments created by local artists.
Two local artists, mother and daughter, have made new ornaments for Noble and LaGrange counties. Peg Tassler of Pretty Lake in LaGrange County and her daughter Carly Caron of Kendallville took on the task of making ornaments to honor the history of both counties.
Tassler made a horse-drawn paper mache Amish buggy to symbolize Amish culture in LaGrange County.
Caron focused on Noble County’s historical role in the development of wind energy. She created a wooden version of the Robertson Post Windmill replica at the Mid-America Windmill Museum in Kendallville.
Tassler said she began her research by learning more about Amish culture.
“A focus for me was the quilts,” she said. “I learned that the most popular color in Amish culture is purple.”
Tassler sculpted the horse and carriage separately using layers of the News Sun newspapers glued together with Modge Podge glue to create a sturdy ornament and a hard surface to paint on.
The buggy features a LaGrange County sign, a quilted square, the number 44 for the county’s place in the alphabetical list of counties, and silhouettes of an Amish man and woman in the front seat. State Senator Sue Glick is a passenger in the buggy shown in the photo. The buggy wheels actually spin.
The horse has a quilt on its back and the number 44.
According to Tassler, mating the horse with the buggy was a challenge. She used small dowel rods for the buggy shafts and drilled tiny holes for eyebolts that hold the dowel rods in place.
Caron is a young mother busy with her children working in LaGrange County, Tassler said. Caron initially considered a paper mache apple, but then switched to the windmill design.
The windmill ornament bears the number 57 for Noble County’s place in the alphabetical list of counties.
According to the Indiana State Museum website, the county ornaments must be three-dimensional, 10 inches by 15 inches, and weigh 5 pounds or less. Selected artists had to provide a sketch of the design along with a narration explaining the message of the ornament by a deadline.
The 92 County Tree has been a permanent fixture at the Indiana State Museum since 2008. The two-story tree is getting a facelift this year with 60 new ornaments and another 32 new ones next year. The museum is located at 650 W. Washington St., Indianapolis.
Mark Ruschman, senior curator of arts and culture at the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, has been reaching out to artists across the state since early 2022 to design and craft new ornaments that reflect their county — “to give credit to things that understate were about the country or of interest to the artist.”
Tassler said Ruschman reached out to Tiffany Parker, site manager at Rome City’s Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site, for recommendations for local artists. Tassler initially agreed to work in both Noble and LaGrange counties, but then became concerned about the ornament completion schedule. She asked Caron for help.
“The response has been great,” Ruschman said in a museum blog. “The artists like a challenge, but they are also honored to be considered for this project in the first place. They are very proud that their piece will be hanging on the museum tree. We’re creating a digital kiosk with a catalog so people can come in and look up their country and not only see the ornament on the tree, but also read what the artist wrote about the ornament – what inspired them, how they inspired theirs ornament and who they are as artists.”
Tassler formerly owned the SOZO Art Studio and Gallery in downtown Kendallville. She closed the studio during the pandemic, sold her Kendallville building, and moved to LaGrange County.
She recently revitalized the SOZO studio and gallery in a building near Cree Lake that was formerly occupied by a landscaping company. She has relaunched Sip, Paint & Create parties, children’s birthday parties and private art classes for individuals. She also paints a giant Christmas card for the Kendallville Parks Department’s annual exhibit at Bixler Lake Park East.
Tassler also works part-time on Sundays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at The Pottery, the pottery studio at the Community Learning Center.