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Handmade ornament collection was decades in the making

Betts George uses eggs from various poultry to create elaborate scenes for Christmas ornaments at her home in Colleyville, Texas. (Kye R. Lee / Dallas Morning News / MCT)
Betts George uses eggs from various poultry to create elaborate scenes for Christmas ornaments at her home in Colleyville, Texas. (Kye R. Lee / Dallas Morning News / MCT)Read more

DALLAS — Of course Betts George is picky about where her Christmas ornaments and figurines go.

She spent countless hours over the course of several decades crafting the delicate creations, so it stands to reason that she's meticulous about showing them off.

So meticulous, in fact, that she starts putting everything out in mid-November so she can get it just the way she wants it.

There's the tree in the entryway loaded with miniature ornaments. That, she doesn't even mess with stripping down at the end of the season. She just leaves the branches decorated and puts a bag over it before putting it in a closet, which makes setup the next year a snap.

The angels, made from paper towels, take their places above the stockings on the mantel.

Then there's the crown jewel of George's winter wonderland: a dried manzanita tree with branch after branch of delicate painted and carved eggs. George worked with eggs from chickens, quail, geese and more.

Each one of her egg creations has a coordinating theme inside and out. The exteriors she's adorned with gift wrap, stationery and other decorative papers. And inside each carefully carved-out niche is a figurine of some sort. There are ballerinas, angels, chickens – even Easter rabbits.

She's selected the tiny works to match the paper in some way. For paper with a snowy landscape, there's a Christmas tree and doll looking out a window. There's a Santa framed with a festive holly wreath on the egg shell.

And though it's hard for her to play favorites, George is partial to snowy eggs with a snowman inside and a bird-decked shell that plays off the red bird miniature inside.

She took up crafting as a way to pass the time when her husband, a retired pilot, was away working. "I would work all night and go to bed at 5 or 6 in the morning," she says.

She completed eight to 10 eggs a year.

With her tree full — she's got about 80 eggs — these days it's all about maintaining what she's got rather than adding more.

"I'm done making them. Now, I just repair them," she says. That means adding more of the shiny coating to get rid of cracks or painting the paper that's faded over the years.

And when the time comes to put away the tree that holds her tiny works of art, George is just as careful as she was when she first created them.

"We use clothespins and numbered pieces of paper to clip on the tree to indicate which egg hangs where," George's husband, Bill George, the egg hanger, says. "That way, we just have to go in and tweak a little bit."

And when she hangs them up the following year, they'll look exactly as she remembered them.

It's that attention to detail that keeps George from ditching her white artificial tree – even though it's more than 30 years old. Like her egg and miniature trees, the big tree in George's living room has seen lots of holiday action. She can't find another one like it to replace it, so she has her husband tie up branches and fix other problems that come with age.

"It's got to be a white tree, because it makes the decorations show up," George says. The decorations she's talking about are her handmade ornaments. Dozens and dozens of felt and feather birds, pixie dolls, bread-dough characters and wreaths, sequined balls and drums, and more.

"They just won't show up if the tree is green," she says.

So, the white tree stays.