Three miles of fluffy yarn, 18 pounds of hand-applied glitter and 2,000 hours of sketching later and Hartman has transformed each of The Grand America Hotel's 15 decorated holiday windows into this year’s display, titled “Winter A to Z.”
The displays also include a life-size yeti made of 96 square feet of Mongolian yeti fur, a Jack Frost winter scene built with 150 hand-painted ice shards, a choir of angels singing 100 handmade golden notes and Santa Claus, whose beard consists of 258 copies of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
“I just feel really lucky that I get to do this as my living because it’s such a fun job and it can enrich other people’s lives,” Hartman said. “I feel fortunate about that.”
The Utah native, who grew up in Ogden and currently lives in Park City, has designed the Grand America Holiday Window Stroll since its beginning seven years ago. The goal with each window stroll is to create playful and uplifting displays, according to Hartman.
“I really try to do something whimsical, something that’s lighthearted and something that everyone can connect with and maybe not see every day in the real world,” Hartman said.
The Grand America Hotel contacts Hartman every year around February to pick out a concept for the next holiday window stroll. Then she starts rendering and sketching around July.
The local artist designs all of the window displays by hand, starting with pencil sketches, then illustrating the designs on her computer and sending parts of the drawings to be printed. From there, Hartman works with a team of five people to build the displays, creating, sewing and embellishing many elements by hand.
“It takes a while because a lot of the detail, we’re just going in and hand-painting and then glittering, so it looks finished and refined,” Hartman said. “It’s a lot more work than people at first glance would really recognize.”
Hartman does much of the work from her home art studio, but the team also uses The Grand America Hotel’s carpentry shop and an art room in the hotel's basement to build the displays.
A challenge Hartman has faced over the years as she has designed the displays is making sure all of the measurements are right for elements to fit inside the windows.
“When I was in college, I was an art major, and I thought, ‘I don’t need math. I will never use it. I’m an artist,’ and guess what, it’s the most important thing that I use,” Hartman said. “If I don’t get that right, then the windows don’t fit, the pieces don’t come together and it just doesn’t work out.”
The holiday window stroll gives Hartman a unique opportunity to hear feedback from those who observe her creations, which is something she doesn’t always get to experience with her other artworks. She said it’s fun to hear people’s reactions as they go through the holiday window stroll.
“I think that one of my favorite parts is watching kids come and notice the details because every child notices something different,” Hartman said. “I like to just be a fly on the wall and hear what they say.”
Hartman has also enjoyed watching the window displays become a tradition for families.
“It just makes me happy that I can kind of set the tone for people’s holiday season and just maybe bring a smile to their face,” Hartman said.
Families going to view the holiday windows at The Grand America aren't the only ones building family traditions. Hartman said her three young children love that she designs the window stroll every year.
“They get to see it while I’m making it, and they feel really attached to it when they go to the window stroll and see it,” Hartman said.Comment on this story
The artist said she hopes when people visit the Grand America Holiday Window Stroll, they realize that true window display is a dying art and appreciate that someone is still doing it.
“I hope they just walk away with just a happy feeling, that they saw something that made their day happier,” Hartman said.
If you go …
What: Grand America Holiday Window Stroll
Where: The Grand America Hotel, 555 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City
When: Open Monday-Thursday, 4-8 p.m., Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., through Dec. 22 and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. from Dec. 23-31