For as long as I can remember, I have loved Christmas lights. Many people do. But, my relationship with Christmas lights borders on obsession. Our light display sits at 8,000 lights, having grown from its initial 700 lights 12 years ago.
It takes me over 25 hours to put up our Christmas light display, not including all of the prep and test time I put in over the spring and summer months to develop new concepts and ideas for the display.
This year, with less than one week before I was planning to hit the “on” switch, it was her art background that pushed my final project over its remaining hurdle.
You see, I spent a lot of time on how to best create a custom star for the top of my 10-foot light-strand tree.
Oh, it sounds simple. And mere mortals would likely just buy one from the store. Not me. I had to have a star that was just right — the right color, the right size, the right shape. And with lots of lights. The perfect star.
To get my desired impact, I had to check off answers to many questions:
- Will the light style and brand work with the materials chosen?
- Can I even get the light style I believe I need?
- How expensive is this “small” project going to be? Second mortgage territory?
- Can I make the star construction last several frigid, snow-covered winters on the western Canadian prairie?
- How bright is too bright? (If there is such a thing.)
I looked high and low. I spent months searching online and in bricks-and-mortar stores. Finally, I gave up for the year. There was only one week until I would be “going live” so I had to place this “small” project on the list for next year.
But there I was in a local drug store looking for small toys and candy to fill my kids stockings with on Christmas morning. It was the last place in the world I would think of for this project.
I turned the corner of the aisle. I looked at the shelf. And there it was: A box of 100 narrow, blue diodes.
I was over-the-moon excited! This. This was the culmination of a months-long hunt? A happenstance discovery in the aisle of a local drug store? It seemed rather unusual.
I unceremoniously dropped the toys and candy for my kids, grabbed that glorious box of diodes, and raced to the checkout.
But, in that moment, I didn’t care. I had found my unicorn. Immediately, I unceremoniously dropped the toys and candy for my kids, grabbed that glorious box of diodes, and raced to the checkout.
Time was now of the essence. I would need to:
- Stop at the hardware store to purchase construction materials;
- Attach the star to a free-standing tree that was already delicately placed in our yard (easier said than done);
- Connect these new light diodes into the circuit that had already been finalized a week prior, or so I had thought.
But, these were problems I could solve. The one problem I couldn’t solve, I wasn’t even aware of yet and I certainly wasn’t aware of how much help my wife’s artist background would be.
My only request of her when I came home that day was a simple protractor. I figured she had one somewhere in her art studio.
I went about my business, measuring the angles, making my marks, measuring again, using her mitre saw, and making my cuts at the proper angles. When I was done, I had 10 pieces of wood each between 5” and 8” long that would puzzle together into a star.
I now needed a way to connect these 10 pieces in a durable, weather-resistant, and strong fashion to hold 100 individual light diodes. This was the problem I had yet to solve. Seems easy enough, but I’m incredibly picky when it comes to our light display.
After much humming and hawing, I brought the problem to my wife. More accurately, she got tired of hearing my humming and hawing and offered to help. (Bless her patient heart.)
Her first couple of options were less-than-helpful. I’d previously thought of and dismissed them.
But, then. Then, the brilliance of an artist. Oh, the glorious brilliance!
My wife, after exhausting her ideas, realized she uses the same type of wood to construct the stretchers for her canvas paintings. These stretchers need to be incredibly strong to withstand the pressure put on them by the canvas. If not, the canvas would warp the stretcher superstructure and the painting would be ruined.
Taking the same approach she uses in the construction of her stretchers, I applied it to the construction of my star.
It worked perfectly! I had my star. My months-long project was complete.
And it just goes to show: Never underestimate the intangible knowledge an artist can bring, especially if you have 8,000 lights in need of a Christmas star.