Traditional Christmas trees in those nostalgic images of the holiday are usually freshly cut evergreens, decorated with heirloom ornaments and festooned with homemade popcorn and cranberry chains. But if you grew up as the grandson of a Colorado engineer who designed A-frame cabins and had a playful sense of humor, your childhood memories would be very different.
Matthew Bliss spent many Christmas holidays at the home of his grandfather, Lawrence “Bud” Stoecker, who first fashioned his own tree out of cardboard, tried using Masonite board, and then settled on Plexiglas. Bud Stoecker was an engineer with an “inner artist” and he not only made the tree, but also kept meticulous notes on the ornaments and light patterns he created so they would not be repeated and the tree would look different every year. The trees were crafted from concentric rings and hung from the ceiling. One of Matthew’s fond memories is lying below the tree and looking up at the lights and ornaments, almost like looking into the night sky.
In 2007, Bud and his beloved wife, Lollie, were packing their possessions to move into a retirement home. Matthew was given the tree to keep as a family heirloom. Sadly, only a few years later Bud Stoecker was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This prompted Matthew to consider sharing his grandfather’s unique design with the public. At that time, he was working as a mortgage banker, but he enlisted several friends with web and photography skills and hired RMI Plastics in Denver to make the trees. Matthew first displayed them at the 2011 Denver Modernism show, and they were a hit.
Since that time, the trees have been sold to Disneyland Hotels, Google, Red Bull and other corporations for display during the Christmas holiday, as well as to individuals with more modern tastes. The tree was staged and photographed in 2014 at the Sleeper House in Genesee (where the Woody Allen movie, Sleeper, was filmed) and in late 2015 at the iconic Stahl House, overlooking Los Angeles, providing a spectacular panorama of lights to complement this unique tree.
The updated version is made of acrylic rings, and crystal ornaments of different shapes and colors are available. They come in large and small versions, as well as table models. The company’s website provides video instruction on hanging the tree, but a special stand is available if hanging it from the ceiling is not an option. The tree is collapsible and comes with a custom-made bag for easy storage.
Matthew didn’t just create a business from his grandfather’s legacy. For every tree that he sells, he donates $50 to the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. He estimates that he has donated more than $15,000 so far. There is a great variety of artificial Christmas trees available for those who want something different and more modern. But it would be hard to find many that have such an appealing and unique back story and that help support such a worthy cause.