Since 1977 our family, with a lot of help from friends and neighbors, has been running a Christmas wreath business from our farm in West Glover. We are Peggy and Dennis Gibson, along with our three daughters Leanne, Meg and Liz. We live in the northeast corner of Vermont in an area known as the Northeast Kingdom, a highland of rolling green pastures and mixed hard and softwood forests. It is a good place, with strong independent people and tight communities. We especially love our neighborhood in our back valley.
Every October we start purchasing wreaths from local suppliers in this traditional Vermont cottage industry and bring them back to the farm for decorating and shipping. In November, after the cold weather sets in, seasonal brush cutters look for stands of wreath-quality balsam fir. Around Thanksgiving the action becomes non-stop. The wreaths that we have so carefully collected all season move out at a lightning pace. We struggle to keep up, do whatever it takes to stay on schedule, and then it’s over. Wreath season is like an orchestra adding instruments and building to a crescendo. Then all is quiet, and it’s Christmas. After that we look forward to the silent white snow, and reading and skiing the winter away.
This business has been a long collaboration with some of our favorite people.Beyond our neighbors in this picture, for over forty years there have been many folks who have included this seasonal work in their annual schedule. And we can’t forget our many customers who have been buying from us almost since the beginning. We’ve chatted with them on the phone so much that we feel like we know them. It’s the people that make it worth doing. And of course, we try to make a profit too.
Our famous hand-signed Christmas cards were made for Northeast Kingdom Balsam by our late friend and artist extraodinaire Anna P. Baker. Anna was born in London, Ontario, Canada in 1928, and graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1950. She received a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1954, and went on to teach at Hathaway Brown School, Shaker Heights, Ohio for three years.
Anna integrated her wide interests into the subject matter of her paintings, which ranged from holstein cows to Henry V. She obtained countless awards for prints, paintings and drawings including the prestigious Logan Prize in 1956 for “High Frequency Ping”. The last twenty-nine years of her life Anna spent in the village of Barton, Vermont where she had opted out of the art world of dealers and galleries to a place where she could work in her own way on her own terms. She drew cartoons for the Barton Chronicle, our local newspaper, and created an impressive number of gorgeous and intricate prints, paintings and drawings until her death in 1985.
Anna was a dear friend of the Gibson family for many years. She often used our animals as subjects in her work, and she created beautiful birth announcements for our girls. We are proud to display some of her previously unseen artwork on our new site. Please visit Anna’s website, www.annabaker.net, to read more about Anna’s amazing life and inspired art.