Artist Billie Prosser makes decorative Christmas trees and jewelry

Dec. 22, 2012 @ 12:00 PM

Artist Billie Prosser is helping everyone get into the Christmas spirit with her unique Christmas tree decorations and jewelry.

Prosser’s trees are miniature, colorful and eye-catching. She takes the small trees, which can be purchased at a variety of stores or taken from old train sets, and adds something that makes them a little more special; beads. They are the perfect way to jazz up that old Christmas village that has been sitting in your attic for years.

“I originally got started making these trees when my mother gave me one. She had made one for me and gave it to me as a gift. That is what started it all,” Prosser said.

“I still have that tree and it is really special to me. My mom is very artistic and she was making them and selling the trees at antique shows.”

Many of the beads Prosser uses to decorate the trees come from broken sets or old necklaces that she takes apart.

“The real work is cutting the beads apart. On some the string is knotted in between and you have to cut them and trim them on each side. Each one has to be trimmed individually, so it take a lot of time,” Prosser said.

Most of her trees come with flocking, which is the white element that looks like snow.

“The ones you can buy that are really nice have the flocking already on them, which makes such a difference in the finished product. But if you can’t find them that way, you can always get spray flocking which is available wherever Christmas things are sold,” Prosser said. “Once you spray it on and it dries, it is time to decorate the tree.”

Before Prosser begins to decorate, she decides if she wants to have a theme, or just use multiple colors.

“Sometimes I pick a theme, like using all gold beads or red and green for Christmas. But not everyone wants something themed like that. I have found that the ones that have multiple colors are good for anything,” Prosser said. “A themed color can be very pretty, but then you put it next to one that is multicolored and there is no comparison.”

She uses a hot glue gun to put the beads in place.

“Now I use the hot glue gun to put the beads in place. I was using Elmer’s glue, but this year I discovered the glue gun which is much faster. However it still takes a long time to prepare the beads,” Prosser said. “When I start, I put all of the beads in a bowl, then I take a bead and put a little glue on it and stick it where I want it. It stays instantly.”

When you look at her trees, you notice that not only do they feature multiple colors, but also multiple bead sizes.

“I have different sized beads on the trees and that really makes it interesting. On some of the small trees I use the same sized beads, but on a bigger tree the size of the bead is more important. A big tree with tiny bulbs wouldn’t have the same effect.,” Prosser said. “I put the largest beads on first and try to space the colors away from each other evenly, then I continue to fill in. I work with one color and one side of the tree at a time.”

Prosser also adds a little touch of her own.

“The one thing that I added that mom didn’t are these little stars on top of the tree.

I just happened to find a string of them at a yarn shop, and I cut them apart. They are difficult to get to stay on top, I had to glue it a few times. But they do add a certain element.”

Prosser’s trees come in many different sizes, so they can be used in multiple ways.

“The small trees can be used to decorate your bathroom, or I have a friend that has a dollhouse and she is always adding to it, so I have sent her some small ones. Having all different sizes of trees is nice,” Prosser said. “It is nice to have a grouping of different sizes, that really makes for an interesting display. Plus you can cluster them around the little ceramic houses and make your own little town with decorated trees. There are a lot of different things you can do with them.”

However, the trees are fragile and need to be taken care of properly.

“You need to be careful when you pack them up for the season to make sure they are protected. Wrap them carefully because they can break,” Prosser said. “If you drop it on the floor, a couple of the beads could break.”

The jewelry that she makes is also very colorful.

“When I make jewelry, I like working with color. I like the satisfaction I get from making something and watching it develop. Watching it come together is really satisfying,” Prosser said.

She has made necklaces, bracelets and earrings with special materials that are made to last.

“One of the things I have improved upon over the years is the materials that I use. I always use a high quality woven wire in my necklaces and bracelets. It is a coated wire. It is very flexible, but because there are multiple strands it is very strong,” Prosser said. “On the backs, I add a piece to protect the wire, that way it is not exposed to wear. I also use a very high quality crimp. It is decorative looking and made from sterling silver so it lasts longer. These are some of the quality elements that I put on every piece now.”

Prosser also tries to theme her jewelry like she does with her trees.

“I like to theme them and make it so you can wear them with a couple of different colors. I have made several pieces with crystal because of the time of year and I thought that would be good for holiday parties. During certain seasons I know what I want to work with. I knew I wanted to use crystals for Christmas and use red styles for Valentine’s Day,” Prosser said.

Along with crystals, Prosser also uses gemstones in her pieces.

“I love putting gemstones together and finding colors that become electric and dazzle you. That is when the contrast comes alive,” Prosser said. “I use semi-precious gemstones. Most of them come from a big gem show in Tucson, Arizona. There are over 5,000 gem venders there.”

She says that all of her jewelry pieces are one of a kind.

“All of my necklaces are a challenge because they are all one of a kind. One reason for this is that I can’t always reorder that gemstone. They are not always available. That makes it more difficult to reproduce exactly,” Prosser said. “But there is so much you can do with the gemstones. They have a lot of spiritual power. Plastic jewelry cannot compare to the real thing.”

For more information about Prosser’s Christmas trees and jewelry, you can visit the Rutherford County Visual Artists Guild or call them at 828-288-5009. She currently has several pieces for sale in their holiday boutique.