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"It keeps getting bigger," he said. "People see them and say, 'Gee, I'd like one.'" So Midtbo has increased his production.
His initial inspiration was seeing an ornament in a gift shop and thinking, "I could do that." So he came up with a design, took a 2-inch tree limb, sliced it like refrigerated cookie dough, then used a scroll saw to carve a design into the slices.
Midtbo's daughter helped him the first few years. More recently, he started enlisting some of his grandkids. Midtbo sets out paints and brushes, and the grandkids paint the backgrounds for each ornament (Grandpa adds the finishing details).
"I swear 'em to secrecy," Midtbo said. "Their parents ask what this year's design is -- they just shake their heads."
This year, the grandkids were involved from the beginning, voting on the design: a fireplace hung with four stockings.
"They have a lot of pride -- they're pretty excited," Midtbo said.
While Midtbo enjoys the time he spends with his grandchildren in the workshop, he also recognizes it's a way for them to learn firsthand what the holiday season is all about. Instead of just opening presents, "this gets them involved in making something -- and sharing it with someone else."
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784