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Home for Christmas: Woodbury woman decorates 18-plus trees a year

Painter and visual artist Gloria Popowitz dedicates the Christmas decorations in her Woodbury home to God and her five grandchildren. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)1 / 5
Photos of her grandchildren decorate one of 18 Christmas trees in the Woodbury home of visual artist Gloria Popowitz. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)2 / 5
Making memories for her five grandchildren are the inspiration for the annual Christmas decorating extravangza inside the Woodbury home of visual artist Gloria Popowitz. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)3 / 5
Home decorating is one of many talents of Woodbury visual artist Gloria Popowitz. The owner of Creative Canvas teaches painting in her basement studio. She also has paintings in the Breakway Arts Center in Hastings. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)4 / 5
Visual artist Gloria Popowitz begins decorating her Woodbury home for Christmas around Thanksgiving. The display is dedicated to God and her five grandchildren. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)5 / 5

Woodbury

Sometimes a 2-dimensional canvas isn't sufficient for a painter to express herself. That's particularly true in the case of Gloria Popowitz, a visual artist, home decorator and full-time grandmother. When it comes to a subject close to her heart — Christmas — the canvas is her entire house. Each year, around Thanksgiving, she begins the task of decking the halls of her Woodbury home that she shares with her husband, Mark.

Forget the inflatable Santas and nuclear-powered strings of Christmas lights that can be seen in satellite images. Popowitz, whose resume includes a stint staging homes for a construction company, ministers to the interior. She arranges her extensive collection of ornaments, gingerbread houses, nutcrackers, stars, angels, lights, green garlands and red bows. Much of this bling goes on the Christmas trees — 18 to 21 of them, that stand sentry all through the house.

"They get placed in different rooms each year," she said. "I get bored easily so I have to keep moving things around."

As a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas, the Holy Family enjoy pride of place atop a baby grand piano.

"I've just always been crazy about the beauty it," said Popowitz, a twinkling presence herself. "My grandchildren are my motivation. I want their eyeballs to twirl when they come to grandma's."

Her home certainly would dazzle any child who has always wished they could step into the pictures in their favorite Christmas book. In each room, small details attest to this extravagant labor of love. In the powder room sits a sad, spindly tree that may conjure memories of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Other touches include old doors that have been repurposed as photo frames, and walls that are inset with schoolroom blackboards, complete with chalk.

Popowitz prowls the outdoors for fallen birch branches and other natural materials that can serve as accents, a process she calls bringing the outdoors inside.

In the basement is her home studio, where she teaches painting as part of her company, Creative Canvas. She also teaches art therapy to at-risk kids. Her work hangs in the recently opened Breakaway Arts Center in Hastings.

But if Popowitz was born with artistic talent, she also had to be resourceful in order to get by during her impoverished childhood in St. Paul, where she was the eighth of 10 children.

"I grew up very poor and we had holes in the walls and nothing was new," she said. "I never had the money growing up, so if I wanted something, I made it."

Popowitz worked at Woodwinds Health Campus as a nurse's assistant and a doula, a non-medical specialist who assists a woman in the birth process.

"I quit my job to become a full-time grandma and make memories," she said.

Her five grandchildren, ages 2-14, usually learn something from the Bible during visits to Grandma's. She also is passing on her can-do craftsmanship.

"It's important to me that my grandchildren know how to use a sewing machine and to give someone a made gift as opposed to a bought gift."

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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