When Brittany Reeves was a little girl, her grandmother purchased her and her sister a set of Forsyth County inspired Christmas ornaments that the commissioner released in the ’90s. Throughout the years, Reeves has kept her ornaments safe and shatter-free, but as she watched her sister’s break and crack, she decided to recreate the magic those ornaments gave her.
“I just remember being like, This is my town and it’s on an ornament.’” Brittany said. “I was such a nerd about it.”
Reeves said she has always loved art, establishing an art studio for children in Cumming called Giggle B Studio. Unfortunately, she started the studio during some infertility and pregnancy loss in her family, and when she got pregnant, she closed the studio.
Her love of art didn’t stop, it became stronger as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Reeves encountered some heightened anxiety as her hours were cut at her parttime job at a staffing company, so she decided to focus on art to feel more at peace. And of course, spend time with her two sons, which she said was a fulltime job.
“Things aren’t as bad as they really seem as long as you focus on your people, your village,” Reeves said. “Family connection, love of our home and community makes me feel really good, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on.”
She bought an iPad in the summer of this year and began to do digital portraits, focusing mostly on pregnancy and infant loss memorial pieces that she did for free, something she felt called to do.
“I like giving people that hope that comes with that,” she said. “I just want to do something special for them. I love giving hope where you feel like there isn’t any.”
Continuing with her themes of hope, family love and community connection, Reeves decided to recreate some of her favorite Forsyth County Christmas ornaments to celebrate the holidays. She developed some designs and posted them on different Facebook groups.
“I went to sleep that night and was like, ‘I really hope everyone likes these, that would be cool,’ and then I woke up to [more than] 300 people saying, ‘Oh my gosh, these [ornaments] are great,’” she said.
While Reeves uses her ornaments from the ’90s as inspiration, she polled the people of the county to see which local places were special to them. She decided on five themes: Sawnee Mountain, Poole’s Mill covered bridge, Anderson Sunflower Farms, the Thomas-Mashburn Steam Engine Parade and Lake Lanier.
“I just went off of whatever made home home for people,” Brittany said.
Reeves’s family goes back seven generations on her father’s side and eight generations on her mother’s, and she picked reference photos for her ornaments that held special places and memories in her heart.
The image of Sawnee Mountain she painted was one looking over the county from the Indian seats. She said the photo was from the day where her son first walked the hiking trail all on his own, up and down both ways. He was 3-years-old at the time, and she said the trail held special memories for her family as being a balm from the stress of everyday life.
Reeves said her great-great-grandfather had been the builder to finish the project on Poole’s Mill Bridge, and that it was a place her family would go often to enjoy the scenery. She said she first learned how to roller-skate at Poole’s Mill on the gravel roads that used to lie there.
Her ornament of Anderson Sunflower Farms is centered around the barn that is on the property. She said that sunflowers were her sister’s favorite flower, and ever since she has been able to drive, she has gone with her family to take pictures there.
Reeve’s family also has ties to the Fourth of July parade in Cumming, with her two cousins driving steam engines. The steam engine painted on her ornament was inspired by her great-uncle’s family, and she made sure to include the dedication painted on the machine in her artwork. She said she was about 3 or 4 years old when she first rode on a steam engine, and she still goes to the parade each year with her family.
As for Lake Lanier, she said she just picked a random photograph that she had from a location in Mary Alice Park. The photograph is from a date that she and her husband went on before they were married.
Reeves got to work on her designs, using an app on her iPad called Procreate to do each piece. She first started the ornament project for fun, but as soon as Cara Motes of MotesArt Signs & Printing Inc. saw the designs, she reached out to Brittany and insisted that she could print the artwork on ceramic ornaments.
“I went from, ‘Oh, I’ll probably only sell like 10 apiece,’ to selling over 300 [ornaments],” Reeves said. “I was so excited that everyone connected with them because I feel like right now, connection is a thing that everybody’s looking for. So it was just so nice to see that everyone loved this area and this town as much as I do.”
Connection was among one of Reeves’s themes for this year.
“I’ve found so many people that have the same kind of stories and feelings about the same places as well,” she said. “It’s been really cool to hear that people have the same kind of stories that we do. If you look for the good, it’s there.”
Her family was behind her every step of the way, with her husband, parents and children offering input for each piece. While it had started as a means of joy and escape for Reeves, she said just how thankful she is that people connected with her art the way they did.
“Even if I hadn’t sold anything, just having the conversation of how much good and love there is in our area — that was nice. But I was just so thankful that everybody else connected to my art,” she said. “As an artist, that’s always something you’re striving for – to be seen and heard – and everyone else saw what I was trying to do too. And it’s Christmas, you know? Christmas ornaments make people happy.”
Reeves plans to continue her series next year, polling again and incorporating different locations and celebrations that people love. She also plans on adding Dawson County to her holiday series.
She will also continue to accept commissions for cards and prints, and her heart will always lie with creating pregnancy and infant loss memorials. While the Christmas ornaments will not be back until November 2021, Brittany will continue to take orders and create pieces filled with joy and hope.