Local artisan creates second Toms Brook holiday ornament

Susie Wilburn, a Toms Brook artist, has made the second in her series of original Toms Brook Christmas ornaments. The ornament will be auctioned off the night of the Toms Brook Christmas Parade. Proceeds will be donated to the Alliance for Shelter. Courtesy photo

TOMS BROOK – Susie Wilburn, a Toms Brook artist and owner of Laughing Orange Studio, has created a second ornament in her Christmas ornament series commemorating the historic town and holiday season.

Last year an opportunity was given to local artists in the Shenandoah Valley to create a holiday ornaments representing their hometown or county to be showcased at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond.

“Lisa Curry, mayor of Toms Brook, asked me to design an ornament last year to celebrate the holiday season,” Wilburn said. With a background in design, and a passion for pottery, Wilburn was tickled to participate.

Locals will recognize the ornament’s design as the town of Toms Brook logo. To create the final design Wilburn first had to transfer the logo from paper to clay. Once the logo was transferred, she jumped into its creation.

“First I made the ornament out of clay and then I pulled the mold from the original design,” Wilburn explained. “Once the mold was dry, I took a cookie cutter and made the ornament with a circular shape in mind. Then I rolled out a slab of clay, cut the clay and placed it in the mold, where I let it sit for a while to allow the plaster of Paris to pull the moisture out of the clay. And then I had an ornament.”

A few minor alterations have to be made to each ornament, like removing excess clay, air bubbles and fixing minor cosmetic details, Wilburn explained.

“No two ornaments are the same,” she said. “That’s kind of the fun.”

While the design remains the same as last year’s ornament, this year Wilburn decided to color in a few details including the cabin, road and town name. Over the next four years, Wilburn plans to color in various elements, until the ornament itself is fully colored.

“Each year I will pick three to four elements on the ornament and shade them in, thus creating an ornament series,” Wilburn said.

This year Wilburn created 30 ornaments. Six are already spoken for.

The first ornament will be auctioned off on Sunday at the town’s annual Christmas parade. Proceeds from the auction will go toward an organization important to Wilburn’s heart, Alliance for Shelter, an organization preventing homelessness.

The other five were spoken for during their creation, Wilburn explained.

“People are creating their very own collection of ornaments,” she said. “They want the same number as last year’s. It’s kind of thrilling to see.”

Wilburn’s passion for pottery started in college, where she was first introduced to a potter’s wheel. Upon graduation, she spent over 20 years in the printing industry. After being laid off, Wilburn jumped at the chance to follow her heart and passion back to her potter’s wheel.

Wilburn is a member of the Shenandoah Artisan Trail and prides herself on improving economic outcomes for Virginia artisans. Her bunny Tang is her muse for many of her designs.

To purchase a Toms Brook ornament, visit Wilburn’s studio during the annual Holiday Open Studio Tour on Saturday and Sunday. It is a weekend event showcasing four local artist workspaces and sales of their collections. Artists or their studios include Wilburn, Kary Haun, Far Ridge Ceramics, and Chickadees. Other ways to buy the ornament: contact Wilburn at 333-5810 via text, or find her on Facebook at Laughing Orange Studio.

The second in the Toms Brook ornament series retails for $25 plus tax.