If seeking a vintage Christmas vibe, one need look no further than Ashland. Complete with train tracks and old timey candy at the local vintage grocery store, the town practically radiates festivity during the holidays.
Last year, Ashland residents and owners of Alvaro Coronado Inc. Alvaro and Caroline Coronado brought Ashland’s charm to the Executive Mansion, with a handcrafted ornament that donned the tree. The ornament depicted the iconic Ashland Theater in all of its vintage beauty.
Virginia localities had the opportunity to submit ornaments to be placed on the Governor’s tree, an honor which the Coronados hadn’t originally planned to seek. According to Coronado, the Ashland Main Street Association approached her and her jewelry making husband last October to submit an ornament.
Unsafe weather prevented the Coronados from taking a trip they had planned, and they decided to try their hand at creating an Ashland ornament for the contest.
“We wanted something that represented the community and one of the biggest things that the community focused on was recreating the icon of the Ashland Theater,” Coronado said.
With 48 hours to plan, create and submit their design, the couple got to work melting and welding during the storm.
“It was a mad dash and we had no plan, it was as you go,” she said. “We worked pretty much continuously for those two days and nights.”
The design of the theater included the green and red “lights” found on its exterior, which coincided with the Christmas theme. The Coronados even tried to match the font used on the theater in their own replica.
From his work bench, Coronado could catch glimpses of the theater from his window for comparison in his work.
“We had to use pretty much what we had around here,” Coronado said. These on hand materials proved to be more than enough to create an ornament fit for an Executive Mansion.
Coronado shaped sterling silver into the form of the Ashland Theater, melting and molding the metal in his work area. The red and green lights on the theater were replicated with Swarovski crystals set into tracks that fit into the larger piece.
Arranged outside of the miniature version of the theater are several symbols of both the theater’s and Ashland’s history. A heart representing the song “Ashland, Our Valentine Town” is next to a star and moon, which is symbolic of Ashland as the Center of the Universe.
Secretariat was one of the first films to show at the theater when it was re-opened again, and is represented with a horse in the window. A couple kissing in front of the theater signifies the first dates and romantic evenings that have taken place at the theater.
A bow on top of the ornament represents the theater as a gift from the Whitaker family, who donated the theater to the Town of Ashland in 2013.
Coronado said that her husband does most of his experimentation and planning in metal rather than on paper while creating his three dimensional artwork. A metalwork master, he plays with space and shapes guided by his years of experience.
The original ornament has recently been sold to a collector as a gift for his wife.
Last holiday season after the original ornament was created, Ashland residents commissioned the Coronados for their own replicas of the Ashland Theater. Coronado re-envisioned his popular design to be a simpler, more affordable version of the original piece of artwork.
Coronado described the pieces as works of art to be displayed all year long, but can also be used as an ornament during holidays. It takes him about 18 to 20 hours to hand create each ornament, as he uses handmade tools rather than machines to complete his work.
Each project may require its own, new tool to shape the specific pieces. Whether working on a new pair of earrings or a wedding headdress, Coronado knows his craft thoroughly enough to make whatever is necessary to complete his vision.
Coronado has been working with metal and making jewelry for 51 years. As a child growing up in Colombia, Coronado was a “gopher boy” at a local jewelry shop, fetching what the crafters needed while working. He likened spending time with jewelers to surrounding oneself with musicians or marial artists—by observing the craft, picking up the skill became easier.
“Everything I’ve learned is just by the power of observation,” he explained.
One day, Coronado was tasked with filing a ring while the workers went to lunch.
“I finished one piece, then I got another piece, and when they got back, the guy that let me sit had three pieces finished,” he said. “So next time he went to lunch, I sat again, and then everybody wants me to sit at their bench because I was catching up really fast.”
His childhood experiences lead to a lifelong passion for jewelry making. Passion drives much of the Coronados’ lives—even their very meeting in Colombia years ago, without which they probably would not have arrived in Ashland.
The two create and work out of their relatively small studio home, which is a work of art in and of itself. Walls are adorned with art work and photos, and nooks and crannies double as practical storage spaces. Their creativity flows through the very walls, some of which have been painted with secret sceneries and memories of their time together in Colombia. Coronado’s flamenco guitars hang as conversation pieces and a reflection of yet another of his passions.
“We have a rhythm, and it really helps to be married—most of the time,” Coronado joked. “You know how to work things out and can read each other.”
Coronado has created beaded bridal bouquets for unique weddings, and other jewelry that can’t be found in the typical jewelry store.
“Those pieces were given at a certain time, and a certain emotion was with it,” she said. “Alvaro can pretty much remake anything, but you can’t get back that moment in time.”
For Ashland, a town proud of its history and working towards the future, the Ashland Theater represents countless treasured moments. Quaint memories of a small town mingle with ideas for an even better future, constructed out of sterling silver, and wrapped up with a bow.