Remember that scene in the Chevy Chase movie – Christmas Vacation – where Clark finally has all the lights set up, his wife is helping him check the wires to see as to why they simply won’t light up? Then, suddenly, they are on, and the light is so blinding that just shines everywhere?
That is how I see Christmas and the proper way to decorate a home: cover it in lights until it can be seen from space.
Following in that theme, reader Cyndi Rains sent me a text about Gwen West, a woman who makes amazing stars for Christmas. After a little searching, I found them, and all I could say was, “Wow!”
My mind was made up. I decided I had to meet Gwen West, see her stars, and share that story with you.
When I first called her, she told me that it had started with just one star. One star that she wanted to shine back at the star on the Franklin Mountains.
“When I moved over here,” she says of her home, “that’s when they only lit it at Christmas time.”
The first star was red. “I wanted a red star,” says Gwen, “to shine back at that white star.” The patiently stapled the lights to the frame of the star so that each one would be standing up and be seen.
She braced the star on her room, adding beams to hold it up, and the BOOM! The reality of wind brought that star down.
But that first star, that was when the seed was planted when the neighbors began to ask if she was going to build more, and she thought that it would be a great idea. It wasn’t long before people began to knock on her door asking for their stars. And they’ve been asking
for quite some time now.
“It’s pretty easy to build them,” she would tell her friends and anyone who knocked on her door. Still, people wanted the stars, and she began to meet that demand.
One of her clients – who has 200 stars – were looking for the wow factor for his grandkids. “He bought a house for his daughter and son-in- law,” she said. “It was going to be their first Christmas in town.”
So, Jack and Vicky, the owners of 200 stars, picked their grandchildren up to show them the lights at Eastridge.
Gwen says that with each house Jack and Vicky would show them, they grandkids simply respond with, “that’s nice” never really taking their faces out of their video games.
“That’s when they decided to cut it short and drive by my house,” says Gwen.
As they were coming around the corner, they told the kids to look at Gwen’s house. The kids took one look at the house, tossed their video games aside, and said “WOW!” as they took in all the stars.
“I want my house to say wow,” Gwen recalls Jack saying. Within days Gwen had gone over to Jack and Vicky’s house to see what she could do.
“I said, ‘well, Jack, you want your house to say WOW you’re gonna start with a hundred stars,” recalls Gwen.
A hundred stars may sound like a lot, but Jack and Vicky have a long front yard and driveway. (The photos, you’ll find them below, with all the stars were from their house. The ones taken in total darkness are Jack and Vicky’s house. The ones taken in dusk are from Gwen’s house).
Today, what started with one-hundred stars now has two-hundred. You can see them as you begin to come down the street, and as you drive around the curve at the dead end, they follow you.
“You need a new adjective,” says Gwen when talking about the stars.
Gwen’s Stars have now spread to twenty-five houses. From the Willows subdivision on the west side, down to Tornillo, her stars can be found.
Stars, however, are not her only artistic output.
The stars have even spurred a bit of neighborly competition between two homes. The homeowners keep added to their collection in hopes of besting the other. In the end, it works.
That friendly competition has created two of the best-decorated homes in that neighborhood. You can’t help standing there, in awe as you look at these stars.
When I was first sending messages to Gwen about doing this story she sent me some photos of her greenhouse. Each pane of glass is covered with small glass drops that make some of the most interesting designs and pictures. No space has been left undecorated.
The ceiling of the greenhouse, or as she calls it, her “tin roof,” is covered with all the empty tins she collected over the years: cookies, mints, and more.
The windows are the product of a decorating party where Gwen invited twenty-five of her friends over, and they each decorated a window pane however they wish.
From this party, Denise quickly became the go-to artist, making cats, a skunk, and whatever else they asked her to create.
The greenhouse, the backyard, it all speaks of creativity that has never been stifled. A creative energy and spirit that can be hard to find at times. Gwen found it, embraced it, and shares it with everyone.
Want to add a few stars to your yard? Gwen still says that is time to get yours. Give her a call at to talk about stars, or maybe to go out and see her greenhouse. Her number is 915-588- 7100
This story was suggested to me by Cyndi Rains. If you have a story you would like to share; you can reach Steven at 915-201- 0918 or for the email address you can either use firstname.lastname@example.org or mine at email@example.com