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Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Local San Diego artisans Florence Hord and Elizabeth Schlappi created the collection of ornaments over a span of 80 years.

SDSU Students Install Acclaimed Ornament Display

The collection of more than 2,000 ornaments has been a staple of the Timken Museum of Art.
By Dominic Gialdini

The holiday season in San Diego sparks the return of many well-established traditions, including the Timken Museum of Art’s extensive display of the Hord and Schlappi ornament collection. This year, the exhibition has been revitalized with the help of San Diego State University students from the Master of Fine Arts in Design and Technology program in the School of Theatre, Television, and Film.

Numbering more than 2,000 ornaments, the collection of unique, handmade works (often compared with Fabergé eggs) were designed and created over a span of 80 years by local San Diego artisans Florence Hord and Elizabeth Schlappi. Since 1988, the vast collection of elaborate ornaments has been displayed on the Timken holiday tree.

This December, the ornaments will extend beyond the tree. The entryway and hallway of the museum, along with the main lobby area, will be decorated with the intricate works of Hord and Schlappi.

The project

“When I saw them in person, and I realized the history and craftsmanship that went into each piece, it became my personal mission to find a way to showcase the entire collection within the Timken walls,” said Megan Pogue, executive director of the Timken Museum of Art. “We are thrilled to work with the talented graduate students and faculty of SDSU and look forward to unveiling their creative display this holiday season.”

During recent years, the Timken Museum has forged collaborative ties with SDSU. Denitsa Bliznakova, head of the costume and design program at SDSU, along with D.J. Hopkins, director of the School of Theatre, Television and Film, worked closely with the team at the Timken, and together the group focused on a project related to the Hord and Schlappi collection.

“They (the Timken team) were interested in collaborating with our students in creating a beautiful installation that would attract many visitors to the museum over the holidays,” Bliznakova said. “The Timken team was excited to be able to carry on the Hord and Schlappi tradition in a new way, all the while offering the chance to inspire the next generation of design students.”

Design and installation

The 10 students involved in the installation are enrolled in a class at SDSU titled “Collaborative Studies” and are each pursuing an MFA in Design and Technology. Their respective emphases are scene design, lighting design, costume design, and technical directing.

This year’s display of ornaments was based upon the most favored of three installation ideas developed after a month’s worth of collaboration and brainstorming. The Timken board approved the finished project concept and gave the students feedback.

Not only were the graduate students responsible for conceptualizing a design, they were also in charge of creating and installing the displays. The students envisioned and implemented a design that will showcase the most special ornaments while creating an immersive experience. The multimedia display incorporates a brief film introducing the installation, the history of the ornaments, and the collaboration between the Timken and SDSU.

“At SDSU, we have a long tradition of working with the community,” said Joyce Gattas, dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts. “The partnership with the Timken is yet another example of how collaboration benefits students and the community. Our students are provided an opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom, and the Timken is able to present a state-of-the-art installation for the community’s enjoyment.”

The Hord and Schlappi collection will be on display until Saturday, Dec. 31 at the Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Museum admission is free and open to the public.