Marlene Hauser

Scandinavian wooden horse

A Collectible Christmas

Hi Everyone,

Collections? Who has a collection? I do, but mine is not of Rembrandts or Fabergé eggs. It is of horses, mostly small-ish figurines that I have picked up here and there over the years. The first one was more painting than statue and was actually a set that went from pride of place to later adorning a small studio over a garage; then back to another property placed with no real thought, except they balanced each other on either side of a mantelpiece.

Those two stallions were bought as more of a wish than as the start of a collection. I prized horses and imagined myself someday owning a few. As fate would have it, years later I jointly owned a herd of more than eighty mares. Even today, I still see them driven in from the fields at La Golondrina, our farm in Argentina, across a small river, and into the paddocks near the pitch, where a polo player might choose the size that best fits their need. A herd of Criollo ponies moving in unison is definitely a sight to behold.

So what’s the point? Dream? Manifest? Create? Your thoughts, as they say, are your reality? Probably a bit of all that, much of which many take for granted, myself included, but I am still surprised by the deliciousness of life, the artistry of origination, invention, creativity, beginning. So as I recently studied my collection of equine figurines, each one brought back a memory of time and place, and yes, of a dream that came to pass.

Two in particular that I adore are my boldly painted red Finnish ponies, or perhaps they are in fact Swedish, but at this time of the year they are welcome because they remind me of Scandinavia, where winter comes to shine despite the “long dark night.” Warming lights in white, silver and gold shimmer in windows, along ledges and around Christmas trees, with the occasional burst of red in a small candle bridge.

So my painted ponies with their bold red strut, full of winter bravado, would seem to hold weight. But I also have an unpainted one, which with its natural wood, even in its seeming drabness, takes priority. This pony, also from Scandinavia, seems to say that once upon a time this simple gift for a small child, held high aloft, triggered the imagination. This steed offered enchantment; a charger that could go anywhere!

At this time of year, when I recall home, friends and family, Christmases Past, Present and Beyond, I also consider another collection: tree ornaments. With a special one for each year, I love to twirl the very first one made by a fellow artist at Millay Arts in New York state. Its blue silk bearing the words “’Twas the Night” triggers an inventory of so many Nights, with obviously some being more precious than others.

Just as I have this much-loved tree ornament, I have a favoured equine in the menagerie. A netsuke (a small intricately carved toggle first used in 17th-century Japan) of a horse and rider overcoming another man, perhaps a thief. The savvy Austrian antiques dealer who sold it to me one Christmas claimed it was a tableau of good triumphing over evil, of the efficacy of creativity. For years this palm-sized horse and rider sat on my desk, ever reminding me of those facts, which of course included the fine and often seemingly perilous art of beginning.

So this Holiday Season I wish you and yours a “collectible” Christmas, full of possibly risky starts, a simplicity that spurs you on and a boldness that thrills in the sure knowledge that “unto us a Child is born.”