Minnesota's ornament(s) on national Christmas tree

  • Updated: December 22, 2012 - 5:45 PM

The national Christmas tree in the White House is like the Senate: Every state is represented equally, regardless of its size

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Minnesota's ornament that hangs on the White House trees.

The national Christmas tree in the White House is like the Senate: Every state is represented equally, regardless of its size. ¶ Wouldn't be right to have a grapefruit-size California ornament beside a walnut-size one from Minnesota. ¶ But where does the Gopher State ornament come from? ¶ For the last three years they've come from KNOCK, a local design and branding company headed by Lili Hall.

She has help, and she needs it.

"Someone in my office got a phone call from the National Park Service asking if we'd like to make the ornament, and I'm the sort of person that tends to say 'Yes!' before I know all the details. We thought it was one ornament. 'Sure, no problem!' "

Then came the details.

"It was actually 26 ornaments -- one goes on the White House tree and then 25 ornaments for the state trees. AND we needed to collaborate with a youth arts organization. Oh, and the ornaments need to live in acrylic balls, because the state trees are outdoors. But we made it happen."

The first batch came from the Children's Theater Company; the past two years KNOCK has partnered with Juxtaposition Arts.

"The first year we designed it, we did a beautiful illustration of the state and the kids drew their work on the back representing Minnesota around the holidays."

So what does KNOCK do when you're not supervising the encapsulation of state symbols for official Trees of State?

"We are a branding and design agency, founded in 2001. We just did a rebranding for Perry Ellis, and we did all the holiday store designs for Caribou -- the signs, window decals, packages. And we did the holiday campaign for Target."

So how do you keep it fresh? Ever tempted just to make a sign that says JINGLE, ALREADY and leave it at that?

"We look at the culture, what's happening in the world, how these funky economic times have changed people's mind-sets." That means looking into the future to see where the culture will be.

"Sometimes we start on the next holiday when the last holiday stops," she laughed. "Target works all year out. It's Christmas all year round." Imagine, going back on Dec. 26 to work on Christmas.

After you've gotten the Minnesota ornaments in the mail to D.C., do you go home and make some for yourself?

"I have some I made as a kid," she said. "But make them now? Sadly, no."

Well, cut her some slack; she's done her part.

Here's hoping the students who helped design and assemble the Minnesota ornaments made an extra one for her.

JAMES LILEKS

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