Did You Make Dough Ornaments in the 1980s?

The holidays are a time of tradition for many of us, particularly as we get older. These traditions will vary from family to family, but there are some that most of us share. Maybe it’s a big family meal, followed by the adults napping while the kids play with toys. Perhaps it’s watching a beloved Christmas movie together. It could be as simple as hanging stockings or singing carols with friends.

One tradition I remember from when I was a kid was making ornaments in art class. While we made clothespin reindeer or tree-shaped felt picture frames during our school parties, it was the dough ornaments we made in art class that I looked forward to every year. I get extremely excited planning out what to ornaments to make each year.

Here are some pictures of a few of these old ornaments that I still have to this day. Each one is special to me, and given the references to the pop culture of the 80s on display here, I imagine other Retroist readers will enjoy taking a look as well.

Elf - Marc Alliesnowman - Marc Allie

The oldest of the ornaments I have are these. These date back to my first grade year back in 1980. Perhaps I was feeling sentimental, as I stayed close to the traditional holiday characters, with few if any alterations. This elf was ahead of his time flashing the duck lips, and dressed in the long-established Christmas colors of…blue and yellow? His partner the snowman appears to have been through some sort of traumatic experience, if his haggard look and half-broken arm are any indication.

smurf - Marc Alliesmurfette - Marc Allie

By second grade, I had abandoned all pretense of a holiday theme and was now clearly focused on the Smurfs. In fall of 1981 their cartoon began showing on Saturday mornings, and as a breakfast-cereal smurfing connoisseur of the animated arts, I found the antics of the Smurfs to my liking. I’m not sure what was up with the orange ball on the hat of Generic Smurf, nor the Popeye-esque forearms of Smurfette, but in my defense, I was only seven. Might not Papa Smurf, with his red outfit and white beard, have been a better choice?

ET - Marc AllieGarfield - Marc Allie

Third grade, in 1982, was a year of split priorities for me. I was torn between my favorite cat-based comic strip and a diminutive stellar visitor with a Speak & Spell. Thankfully, I was able to make two ornaments yet again. Regrettably, E.T.’s glowing finger broke off many years ago, meaning the adorable alien’s ornament aged far worse than Garfield’s. The opposite is true for my feelings for these characters as an adult. Does anyone still read Garfield these days?

ghostbusters - Marc Allie

While I saw it in the summer of 1984, Ghostbusters made a big impression on me, one that would last through a Halloween costume in the fall to an ornament in the winter. As a fifth grader, my skills and techniques for dough ornament making had advanced considerably. I was able to sculpt a fair approximation of the iconic Ghostbusters symbol, complete with Santa hat. I wonder how many times I sang “who ya gonna call?” in my head as I made it.

Unfortunately, these are the only remaining ornaments from my elementary school art career. I can’t recall what I created my fourth grade year in 1983. We had a new art teacher sometime around then; perhaps she didn’t include the dough ornaments in her lesson planning? In any event, I recall with crystal clarity my sixth grade ornament. In 1985, I wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut or astronomer, and there would only be one choice for my ornament that year. Alas, it was damaged and discarded, or simply lost, at some point in the three decades since. But I like to think that in a landfill somewhere, my anthropomorphized art dough representation of Halley’s Comet wearing a Santa hat is still around.

Marc Allie

I am an educator in southwest Missouri, and a lifelong geek. I own dozens of Optimus Prime toys, have watched every Godzilla film multiple times, and keep a lovingly bagged collection of over 1800 comic books in my office closet.

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