2017 Christmas in St. Michaels Ornament Celebrates Working Dogs of the Chesapeake

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The much anticipated 2017 Christmas in St. Michaels ornament has been unveiled and is sure to become an instant collectible. The one-of-a-kind ornament celebrates the working dogs of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s the 14th in a series depicting icons of the Eastern Shore. Created by local artist Joanne Buritsch, the 24k gold plated solid brass ornament features a trio of familiar four-legged friends – the Chesapeake Bay, Labrador and Golden retrievers – framed by a wreath of etched holly.

All of the dogs featured in this year’s design are known as a powerful swimmers with strong retrieving instincts. Their gentle dispositions and lively intelligence have made them a favorite of waterfowl hunters and pet owners alike. Of the three, the Chesapeake Bay retriever is the only breed developed in Maryland, allegedly from a pair of Newfoundland puppies rescued from a shipwreck and bred with local dogs. The Chessie was officially recognized as a breed in 1918, and is now the state’s official dog.

Labrador retrievers, originally known as St. Johns Water Dogs or Lesser Newfoundlands, were described by James Mitchener in his novel Chesapeake as “the finest huntin’ dog ever developed to challenge the reign of the Chesapeake as the consummate hunter.” Golden retrievers, developed in Scotland, were bred to retrieve game from the shooting field in wild fowl hunts among Scottish elites. They proved to be the perfect hunting dog for small game and could endure the adverse Scottish conditions.

It takes more than six months to conceive, design and produce the annual Christmas in St. Michaels ornament, beginning with brainstorming sessions held shortly after Christmas presents have been stowed away and festive lights taken down. This year’s idea came from the many years Buritsch spent with her own beloved retrievers.

Buritsch, who designed many of the previous ornaments, works closely with her fellow Christmas in St. Michaels Ornament Committee members to develop finely honed sketches of the dogs and surrounding detail. Once the final sketch is approved, it’s sent to Beacon Design by ChemArt, a small specialty company in Rhode Island that has produced the official White House Christmas ornament for nearly four decades.

“We submit a very detailed proposal which includes Buritsch’s artwork with photographs and multiple sketches, specific color recommendations, and even suggestions for dimensionality” noted Lisa Rey, Ornament Committee co-chair who worked closely with Buritsch on the design. “It takes quite a bit of back and forth to get everything exactly right. It’s truly a collaborative process.”

The actual production process takes nearly a month and a half beginning with graphic design. The ornaments are then hand cut, chemically etched, gold plated and screen printed. The finished pieces are assembled by hand and packed in decorative holiday boxes.

The 2017 ornament is now available in various local St. Michaels stores as well as online at christmasinstmichaels.org. For those who are collectors, the entire series of 14 ornaments is available for purchase online.

All proceeds from the sale of the ornament go to fund non-profit organizations serving the St. Michaels community.

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