Her eyes light up and her voice becomes animated when she begins to talk about her collection of 1,200 Christmas ornaments. And these aren’t run-of-the-mill Christmas ornaments. Once you realize that these are blown-glass antique ornaments, you will appreciate the fondness Lisa Palmisano has for her treasures.
The majority of her ornaments are made from molds into which liquid glass was blown, mostly by artists in Poland and Germany. She also has a selection of Italian ornaments that were free-blown and are just as beautiful.
“I love the artistry behind these ornaments,” Lisa says. “They took two to four weeks to make. Very few people were trained to do this work. The artists used silver oxide in the glass, which gives them such a beautiful sheen and shine. So much time went into making each ornament. Details were added step by step with days in between.”
During the winter holiday season, Lisa’s home becomes a sparkling wonderland. “I try and wait until after Halloween and hope to have the decorating finished by Thanksgiving,” she says. “There are bins and boxes of ornaments to unwrap; seven trees to decorate, including a 9-foot tall one in my living room; and various tabletop trees loaded with ornaments and lights as well.”
And, after all, this is Kentucky, so she keeps one special tree up all year long that features her antique horse memorabilia ornaments.
Lisa has been collecting for 25 to 30 years. Some of her ornaments were her great-grandmother’s. She grew up with them. Her grandmother loved Christmas and made a big production of decorating the tree every year.
Lisa also belongs to an organization called Golden Glow of Christmas Past, which holds conventions once a year and is a meeting of like-minded collectors. “I have gotten many of my pieces there,” she says. “Some of the collectors come to sell items from their collections or buy new items.” In cost, the ornaments range between $40 to $200.
Lisa also collects antique postcards called Hold To Light Postcards, she says. “There’s a thin piece of paper between the front and back layers of the card. When you hold the card up to the light, part of the image will shine through, making, for example, the candles on the tree light up or the Merry Christmas greeting.” These postcards were labor-intensive and only produced between 1895 and 1912.
“I like things that have been created by an artist and have a history behind the item,” Lisa says. “You want to collect what you love and enjoy, not for the money value. Have fun with it. My collector friends and I feel we are preserving history, the artistry, and things we grew up with and love.”
By Lucy M. Pritchett | Photos by Melissa Donald