As the days get colder and Christmastime nears, some people may have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.
Joe Teodosio envisions tinsel, garland and twinkling lights on Christmas trees.
“I’m very innovative,” Teodosio said. “I dream about how I’m going to decorate.”
People in the region can appreciate Teodosio’s handiwork on display in the lobby of Veterans Memorial Civic Center. He put the finishing touches on the 16-foot tree there last week, a stately tree with classic ornaments, some dating back to the 1970s that were on the tree at Lima’s MacDonell House Victorian mansion, minus some of the ribbons that were dated and “atrocious,” as the straightforward Teodosio said.
He also designs and decorates other trees in the Civic Center, often using ornaments collected over the years from trees in his Shawnee Township home. He describes his style as “elegant and fun.” He has pictures of many of his displays at the ready on his phone, swiping through a variety of looks and designs.
“I’ve been decorating for 50 years, since I was 10,” Teodosio said. “Every year I have done a different tree. I have tons of ornaments. I’ve done theme trees before theme trees were even thought about. Of course, a couple years later, theme trees are big. Then I have this other idea, I do it, and you see it in ‘Better Homes and Gardens,’ and I think, ‘I did that 10 years ago.’”
This is his second year working on the trees at the Civic Center. His wife, Barbara, coordinates ushers among other duties there.
The venue was without a Christmas tree visible to people traveling along Lima’s Main Street through the Civic Center’s giant windows during the pandemic. Barbara volunteered her husband to remedy that last year. He said he appreciated the help of his assistant, Cheyenne Houseworth, who he called “an artist.”
He’d also helped decorate Ashley Furniture when he worked there.
Few canvases can be as daunting or rewarding as that 16-foot tree working from a 12-foot ladder in the Civic Center lobby.
“This tree is a challenge. It is a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “There’s a lot of surface area on a 16-foot tree — a lot of surface area, and to make it look like it’s not sparse?”
He’s looking forward to executing a Santa Claus tree at his home this year, which should delight his grandchildren. He purchased a topper resembling Santa’s head, and he’ll decorate the rest of the tree to look like the jolly ol’ elf’s body. He put together a prototype starting in July.
He’s also excited about the public seeing a smaller tree on a lower level of the Civic Center.
“On the bottom of the downstairs tree, I’m going to use red, white and clear lights. Then underneath that, I’m going to swag garland and have a bell in between each swag,” Teodosio said. “I’m going to put lit garland on it. Now watch lit garland be on trees in a couple years.”
He’s open to sharing his tricks. For instance, he recommends spray-painting the wires on lights so they don’t stand out, particularly if you’re going to run them through red or white garland. He suggested poking holes in cardboard with a screwdriver so you can push the light bulbs through the cardboard, then paint the wires without touching the bulbs.
He knows some people are intimidated by white trees, since they can show everything. There’s a hack for that, using white fiberfill, like you’d use to stuff a pillow: “That’s how you do a white tree right,” he says.
“You can see through a white tree, and you can see the wires. I did a tutorial on Facebook that you put fiberfill around the center, where the pole is, and cover the wire so you can’t see where the wires come up,” he said. “When you put in the fiberfill, all you can see is white. The neat thing about that is when you put your ornaments on the tree, you can’t see through the tree. All you see is the ornaments.”
The most important thing is to enjoy yourself while you design a tree, Teodosio said.
”People have their own thing. Some people do their kids’ ornaments. Whatever blesses you,” he said. “It’s Christmastime. It’s to make something beautiful and for memories.”
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