Angela Zampell grew up crafting ornaments with her mom and sisters. Tom Butts helped his grandparents tinker with their miniature Christmas village. When Zampell met Butts, it was a match made it kitsch heaven. Together with their two pups Bridgette and Gidget, the couple pulls out all of the stops–along with stacks of bins–to prepare their East Providence home for the holidays. “A double parlor with an adjacent den allows our Christmas decor to flow like an endless sea of glitter and cheer,” says Zampell.
“When Tom and I start decorating for Christmas, we put away our regular home decor so that every nook has a new look,” she explains. Zampell makes new pillows, drapes, and other decor to transform their abode. The couple revels in unpacking their collected stash over mugs of cocoa, with holiday movies playing in the background. “We like making vignettes of characters that include new, vintage, and retro trees, deer, and the sweetest faced Made in Japan elves and Santas,” says Zampell, who enjoys sprucing up old decorations.
When the couple met, they were delighted to learn that they both shared a love for Christmas and holiday decorations – integral parts of both of their upbringings with fond memories attached. They combined their collections – a mix of flea market finds, goodies from local vintage sellers, treasured family holiday hand me downs – and continuously add to the mix with handcrafted items they make themselves.
Butts and Zampell are a crafty pair. Butts is a tattoo artist, and Zampell is a fashion designer and crafter. “Making cute things and using creativity was a huge part of childhood,” says Zampell, who credits her mother with instilling a trust in her daughter’s sense of style and talent. Zampell founded and operates the retro-inspired clothing line Modd Merr, but also creates and sells mini dioramas made with recycled tin under the name Hot Glue Heroes. Her wee vignettes are filled with vintage figurines, retro trim, ephemera, and lots of glitter. “My craft line combines three of my favorite things: crafting, cute figurines, and holiday ornaments.”
Inspired by his grandparents’ Christmas village, Butts designed and built a custom four-level display for the couple’s own mini wonderland scene. The showcase includes a carved winter landscape with snowy banks and mountain ranges, complete with frosted mirrors serving as frozen ponds, bottle brush trees, and plenty of glitter. “Miniature homes and petite villagers are carefully placed under a starry night sky for a truly festive display,” muses Zampell.
Butts is also in charge of the interior and exterior illumination, which we all know from Clark Griswold can be a vast undertaking. “Together we work like a team of elves staging every corner of our home, hanging hundreds of ornaments, garland, and blow-molds. Our neighbors love seeing our enthusiasm. We hear families walking by commenting on our yard or glimpsing at our windows.” Zampell notes that they use LED lights whenever possible “so as not to short circuit the neighborhood.”
Even long after the decorations are tucked away, the couple is drawn to bright colors and graphic elements. “Our style can be described as eclectic, retro, nostalgic, and cozy, and we love technicolor!” says Zampell, who likes to accent bold hues with graphic elements such as animal prints and traditional tattoo art inked by Butts and friends. The couple also likes streamlined furnishings from the Mid Century/Atomic Age, citing Hayward Wakefield pieces as a favorite. Says Zampell, “We love treasures from the 1940s through the 1980s–the decade of our childhoods. Of course, the latest holiday fads catch our eye as well.”
When they’re not busy making their mark, making art, or festooning their digs, they’re co-hosting The Craft and Kitsch Winter Market, held December 8-9 this year at the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative.