AN ESTONIA artist who specialises in making modern Christmas tree decorations using historically accurate techniques will present her work at the Reading Contemporary Art Fair on April 22 and 23.

When Margarita Vul left her native Estonia for Windsor she brought with her a love and understanding of tree based folk art that emerged west of the Russian border and particularly in Eastern Karalia, a Finnish province.

While the region maintained its tree decorating heritage during the Soviet Union, with atmosphere busting cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin a regular feature on Eastern Bloc branches, Margarita, both in her work as a creator and collector of decorations, focuses on far older techniques.

Reading Chronicle:

"In Estonia there was the cult of the tree," explained Margarita, whose home country competes with Latvia in a bid to claim the first decorated Christmas tree, sometime in the 16th century.

"When Christians came there they wanted to stop us decorating. They wanted angels put up top instead of the sun and baubles instead of apples."

Despite the aesthetic and symbolic shift, the techniques used to make these miniature, delicate ornaments have been preserved.

She continued: "I use spun cotton which you buy from a pharmacy and then apply a paper starch to make it as hard as porcelain.

"You don't have to use extra or expensive materials. It doesn't hurt nature and it doesn't hurt people's health. It is simple and strong."

Come the event at the Rivermead Art Centre this weekend, Margarita will display her Christmas decorations along with a selection of her tree paintings.

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