Local artist makes unique Christmas decor

Published 9:00 am Saturday, December 4, 2021

VALLEY — Dolly Knickerbocker had lived all over the world before finding a place that was perfect for her at Sylvia Word Manor. She’s been there for 16 years now and loves it.

She’s full of energy and very creative. Her Christmas trees and table decorations in the Sylvia Word’s activity center are in striking colors and were all handmade. Knickerbocker also made the large candy canes that are on display in the small trees in the courtyard area.

“My mind stays busy all the time,” she said. “Sometimes when I’m thinking of things I can be doing it’s hard to sleep at night.”

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While most people don’t think of decorating for Christmas until it’s past Thanksgiving, Knickerbocker starts planning for the next Christmas at Sylvia Word in January. It’s convenient to have a Dollar Tree store within walking distance, and Knickerbocker goes there to purchase items for her Christmas creations.

“At the Dollar Tree, I get everything at bargain prices,” she said. “I get lots of ribbon, paper products, card stock and paint. I like to make things that are new and different.”

She stays busy making craft items during the winter months and in the weeks leading up to Christmas. She makes Christmas trees for the tables out of red and green paper napkins. She also makes snowmen to put in front of the trees.

Winter scenes remind her of the time she was living in Buffalo, New York and sometimes had to find a way through waist-deep snow. She’s glad she’s now in a warmer climate with milder winters.

While most people decorate for Christmas with the traditional colors of deep reds and greens, Knickerbocker prefers softer tones. The main tree inside the activity center is something to behold. The dominant colors are lime green and pink. It’s not Christmas in the traditional sense but is beautiful nonetheless.

The pinks are handmade poinsettia-type petals. The light greens resemble living plants. There’s also some large butterflies and ornaments that are light green, and there are some artificial spruce limbs that look to be covered with snow. It’s all topped off with a black stovepipe hat Abe Lincoln would have been proud to wear. There’s something special underneath the tree – a tiny white bird on the rim of a bird nest.

There are smaller trees with the pink and green theme. Lots of delicate work went into making all of them. One of the tables has a pink, a green and a blue Christmas tree each made from napkins. It took a dedicated, patient person to make the many leaves each tree has and to place ribbons on them.

“Where you live is what you make it,” Knickerbocker said. “Take your time and do things the right way. It’s a good idea to choose your friends carefully and to spend your time with them. They treat us right here at Sylvia Word. All we have to do is enjoy it.”

Knickerbocker doesn’t want her creations to become stale and predictable. She puts a lot of thought into what colors she will highlight with each passing season.

“It’s different every year,” she said. “This year was pink and green. Next year will be plaid.”

In the warm weather months, Knickerbocker enjoys gardening in an area the residents have developed just behind the Sylvia Word property.

“We have a beautiful place back there,” she said. “We have benches, a swing and picnic tables. We have all kinds of flowers back there. I grow nandinas, azaleas, roses, day lilies and anything else I can come across. We are always accepting donated plants. I got some angel trumpets last year, and they did well.”

The garden is in a cool, shady area, and the residents have put up signs to give it a homey feel.

“We call it Elder’s Roost, and love spending time there. It looks professionally landscaped, and we are proud of its appearance,” she said.

Lots of elephant ears are growing in a drainage area.

“It’s beautiful back there when it’s in season,” Knickerbocker said. “We have done a lot to make it look good, but we still have a lot more to do to make it what it can be. “

Some of the best contributions to the garden have been made by a retired professor from Tuskegee University who lives at Sylvia Word.

She has hung some one-foot-wide white globes from the trees to add an unusual touch. She also has the skill of making topiaries out of small shrubs.

“I love being in our garden,” Knickerbocker said. “It’s a place where you can work with plants and enjoy being with your friends.”