In a spring of the early 70s, there was a wood carvers’ exhibition at Shepherd Mall. I went over to see the exhibits because of my interest in carving and observed a black walnut carving of choir boys standing in a carved chancel. I was really impressed with the carvings, which displayed different expressions in the boys holding their music. When I returned home, I told Vera how much I liked it. I told her who the carver was and that he lived in Wichita, Kansas. Vera got an idea. The next time she went to Wichita to visit her mother; she looked up the artist, a Mr. Mott, and talked to him about acquiring the work. On a subsequent trip to Wichita, she purchased the item for a Christmas present for me. I just about fell over; I couldn’t believe it! The choirboys have been on my mantle ever since! In 1980, I decided to use the carvings on a Christmas card. Managing the lighting on that thing was really tricky, but I finally arranged the lights satisfactorily and made a photograph against a black background. This card was a single projection through a positive producing the white lettering.
Sometime during the 1970s, I answered an add making available a genuine English Davy Lantern. This is a lantern approved by the English Bureau of Mines and can be used even in explosive atmospheres. The idea was to illuminate a Bible with the lantern and to note the card with Psalm 119:105. I could not properly illuminate the Bible with the lantern alone, so I made a double exposure: one with the lamp alone, which illuminated the left-hand page of the bible, and a general illumination, which exposed the upper part of the lantern and the rest of the Bible. This again was a low-key card produced by one exposure through a positive of the lettering. There for awhile I sort of got stuck with the low-key!
In 1982 I decided to use the stained glass picture of Jesus’ ascending into Heaven, which is located high in the chancel of First Lutheran Church. The stained glass window was moved from the west gable of the church to the chancel in 1950. There is only about three feet between the stained glass window and the west wall of the parish building. The stained glass window is illuminated from behind by fluorescent light. It is lighted for all occasions—day or night. I photographed the window with my 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 graphic using the architectural correction to make the window appear as if it had been photographed straight on. I carefully reduced the negative to the margins shown to produce a black background. For the third time in a row, I used the low-key in a single exposure producing the lettering in contact with the positive.
In May of 1983 I took my three girls, their spouses, two pastors and their wives, and others (eighteen total) to Israel with Arnold Fruchtenbaum as our archaeological study guide. One morning Arnie was going to take the women on a special tour in Jerusalem, but only two showed up, so they cancelled the trip. I knew that would free Arnie for a few hours, so I asked him if he would take me to the best jewelry stores catering to the affluent Jewish families. I particularly wanted to see the articles representing appurtenances of the temple. I took notes on the design of the more elaborate of the menorah and candlesticks with the idea of making one myself. Later that summer, I fashioned a menorah of simplified design and real oil burning cups. I decided to photograph the lighted menorah for Christmas card 1983. The shiny brass reflected everything in the room, so I had to spray the menorah with a mate coating in order to eliminate the reflections. It was photographed on a black-draped table against a black background. Except for the illumination, this was a simple card produced again in low-key with a positive film producing the lettering.
While in Israel, I bought a kit to make a paper model of the Herodian temple. Instead of just putting the paper model together, I made a wooden core on which I glued the model. The design represented the best that the Jews could do to represent the Herodian temple. Having a good object for the 1984 card, I photographed the temple in as “flat” a light as possible. Projection was made on the card through a vignette to make the card high key. The black lettering was a second exposure through a contact negative. Cathy Jo Wicks has the model, but I took many colored slides from different angles as though I were there before I gave it to her.
Sometime during 1985 I read that the white poinsettia was a German symbol of Christmas. The symbol intrigued me because of my German ancestry, so I decided to find a pure white poinsettia and use it on a card. Back to low-key, I photographed the poinsettias against a black background reducing the margins of the print to illuminate any highlights from the margins. The low-key card was produced with a single exposure through a positive contact film.
In 1986, I responded to a picture that I saw of the cross in a crown. With a Christmas card in mind, that summer I fashioned a solid brass crown and had it gold-plated. I also made a cross of Jatoba wood (a deep red wood). Then following Romans 6:23b, I placed the crown and cross in a gift box and photographed it with a bow-capped top. The box and top were projected through a vignette to produce a high-key card. In a separate exposure, the lettering was produced with a negative. Kay has the crown and cross, which are mounted on a special wooden base, which I made for display.
The evergreen tree has historically been a symbol of Christmas. Though I had used a branch of the tree in 1950, I decided to photograph a tree and decorate it with Chrismons. My black backdrop was not too big, so I had to use a relatively small tree! I drew the icons on a 15” x 21” card in positions, which would make them appear to be attached to the branches. I then made a 5 x 7 positive film of the icons and lettering and used it in contact with the paper in a single exposure to produce the card. Kay and I worked up a sheet of explanation for each Chrismon, which also beautifully explained the Gospel!
Sometime during the summer of 1988, I was shopping in Dillards at Shepherd Mall and went by a table displaying porcelain artwork. Among the objects was an angel, which caught my attention. I decided to buy the angel and use it on a Christmas card using the mention of the angel in Luke 2. The angel was stark white porcelain, and I had trouble producing the continuous tones to display her form. The first time I photographed her, she was solid white! Photographed against a black background and reducing the negative up close to the angel, I was able to project a low-key card through a positive film.
In 1989, a good friend of mine, Cathy Hood (now deceased), was given some large chunks of American White Oak by a friend who was planning on making carvings of them but didn’t want to make them a part of his move to the west coast. While discussing the wood and its possible uses—Cathy had offered me two blocks—we came up with the idea of engraving Christian symbols on the sides of a cube mounted on an integral base. The other two sides have an alpha & omega and a fish. Though candles had appeared in other Christmas cards, I felt that displaying a large candle on top of the engraved Star of David and cross would be good card representing our Judeo-Christian heritage.