Saturday, December 14, 2013


Decorating a 4 foot tree in our dining room with the beautiful stained glass-like mosaic ornaments created by Rolan Johnson is a sight to behold. This is where the story begins.  This is Rolan Johnson, the famed artist who made these creations.

Here are some of the 19  ornaments in the Rolan Johnson collection.

Let me give you some history about  this annual ornament.

The following information is taken from the Heading Avenue Franciscans newsletter.

The Rolan A. Johnson Company, Inc. in Peoria, Illinois, has been in existence for over sixty years fulfilling the screen printing needs of the community. For forty years, during the Christmas season, Rolan Johnson used his artistic talents to the fullest by creating unique, original, screen-printed greeting cards that he designed and mailed out to over two thousand family members, friends, and business associates. More than just a card, the Christmas prints were large enough to be framed and are considered to be collectibles by many.

These mosaic prints had either a stone or stained glass look and were Rolan's "labor of love." Rolan spent hundreds of design and production hours on each card. After selecting the perfect Christmas picture, he then sketched and added other components until the final full-scale design was complete. Each individual tile of the mosaic pattern was drawn and colored in by hand. Many times the tiles were rearranged and re-colored to get the perfect effect. Each card consisted of up to twelve to fourteen colors which had to be printed separately in order to obtain the mosaic look. Not stopping there, Rolan also designed and printed a special mailing carton and a Christmas greeting for each card that expressed his feelings and the joy of the season. Created and sent for the sheer joy of doing so, Rolan's special creations were truly his "labor of love," and those who received them felt lucky indeed.

In 1995, Rolan Johnson gave the Heading Avenue Franciscans exclusive permission to use the designs from his unique Christmas-card prints for an ornament fund-raiser. The tradition of the Rolan Johnson cards came to an end with Rolan's death on September 23, 2000. However, the Johnson family graciously allowed the sisters to continue the collectible ornament series in their father's memory.

Rolan was a very humble person and was amazed at the attention that his cards received. He had boxes of notes and letters from people all over the world who were thrilled with each new design. Many sent pictures of how they displayed his collection of works in their homes or offices.

Considered one of the best screen print artists in the world, he has received many awards both nationally and internationally. He was honored by the Silk Printing International Conference, the Printing Industries of America, and the Graphic Screen Printing Association International. His work has also been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute. Through his loving creations, Rolan shared the true meaning of Christmas with people around the world. As long as people continue to enjoy his work, the spirit of this true philanthropist will live on.

My Mom would collect these annual prints at Christmas time through her work.  My Dad, who just happened to do woodworking as a hobby, would then build and assemble a frame to hold each print.  At Christmas time, Dad would hang these beautiful prints on the wall going up the stairway in our home.
Now, back to some more background of the annual benefit drive for the Franciscans.

Since 1995, Peoria artist Rolan Johnson gave the sisters the right to use his unique Christmas card designs to create a collectible ornament series. His family has continued the tradition since his death.
The Heading Avenue Franciscans have served the Peoria area for 119 years in the areas of education and healing. They serve the Diocese of Peoria and Springfield in ministries that include prayer, care of the elderly, campus ministry, adult literacy, pre-k and elementary education, child care, pastoral care, spirituality, religious education, internal ministry, and the diaconate program.
Proceeds from the sales of the ornament and the collection benefit the sisters' retirement fund.
Read more:

I have collected these ornaments since 1995.  Mr. Thrifty has made sure that I have one wrapped under the Christmas tree each year.  I believe it to be a good cause to help the dear Franciscans in their later years for all that they have done and still do to help educate and heal the people in the Peoria area.

The tree is something to behold.  I placed all 18(right now) ornaments on a 4 foot tree and embellished the branches with various glittered golden snowflakes.  Notice that at the top of the ornament, the year is imprinted in the gold banner.  Also, I find the gold decorative frames vary from year to year.

Wrapped around the base of the tree is an old gold mantle scarf that I used in my home in the 80's.

 The tassels in the ends of the scarf mimic the tassels tied around the gorgeous  art glass vase created by Orif Nefesh, an Israeli artist.  This beautiful vase was given to us as a wedding present.  This piece of art glass is set upon the bottom shelf of this vintage carved table.

And how could I forget the  simple gold star perched at the top of the tree, guiding the Wise Men to their destination. 

 Every year, I place the tree in a different room.  This year, the tree is situated in the dining room.  We will be able to enjoy this beautiful sight throughout our Christmas Day dinner.

I think its a beautiful thing that Rolan Johnsons' family keeps on giving to the Heading Avenue Franciscans retirement fund for the nuns.  This is one fund that we will continue to support during future Christmas seasons.

 The setting up of this tree is one of my most favorite Christmas traditions. I wonder where it will be next holiday season?

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