A Sweet Story: A Macy’s Candy Window

It began, like most of my best ideas, while working in the Salt Lake City Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was thinking about something I needed and felt inspired to go across the street to the City Creek Macy’s. What I found was not what I was looking for; a sign in the window calling for artists to submit designs for the holiday candy windows.

Macy’s is located at 21 South Main Street, on the site of the old ZCMI; America’s first department store. My 3rd great grandfather, Christopher Layton, was a Mormon pioneer and Director of ZCMI the year they moved into the Main Street location in 1876. 
I used to love to shop at ZCMI when I traveled to Salt Lake City from California. A few years ago the old mall was rebuilt and is now City Creek. I thought participating in the holiday window project would be a fun way to pay homage to this great man and would be a treat for my grandchildren when they came to Utah for their Uncle Tim’s mission farewell in December. It just so happened that the visual manager, Chad Young, was walking past as I looked at the application. He talked about the project and encouraged me to submit a couple of designs. While riding home on the train, I came up with three concepts. Here’s one I submitted. The others are a secret, I might need them later…

The design features a vintage, rosy-cheeked Santa and his bag filled with old-fashioned toys. I hoped it would give grandparents a chance to talk about their childhood Christmases with the grandchildren and vintage is so in right now. Our parents gave us the most memorable Christmases and each toy represents something meaningful to our family and the wonderful things that fill children’s lives.  

The rocking duck is a wooden toy my husband’s parents had made for him when he was a toddler and we still have it; our grandchildren love rocking on it. The Raggedy Ann was my favorite doll when I was little, on her chest she had a heart that read “I love you.”  My grandmother taught me to how read and spell I L-O-V-E Y-O-U with my doll. There is a puppy (who doesn’t love a Christmas puppy?) A teddy bear like the ones that used to stand guard at night in my little children’s rooms, a stick horse like the ones my sister-in-law and I made for our children, a beach ball similar to the one my children played with at a farewell picnic for my brother as he left for his military service, an elf hiding, a trombone for one of our sons who plays, an elephant my husband loved as a child (and a not-so-veiled political piece), a pretty dolly for my daughters and granddaughters and a football, my sons played. There are five stockings, I wanted to do seven to represent each of our children, but they didn’t fit, so we squeezed in five. One is red, white and blue to represent our soldier son and his military comrades, the others hold favorite Christmas treats. Tim’s birthday is St. Nicholas Eve, so Santa seemed like a good choice for Tim’s farewell.

Santa is holding the word “Merry,” a reference to my BFF Mary. (Side note: I was talking on the phone with Mary one time while visiting my grandchildren. My 3 year-old granddaughter Brynn, became excited and asked if she could talk so I handed her the phone. After we finished the call, she stood wide-eyed and exclaimed, “I talked to Jesus’ Mommy!”)

The deadline for submitting the application was in early August. A few weeks before, I received a phone call from The University of Utah, where I’m studying, offering me a scholarship if I would attend full time. I took it, registered for four classes, drove out to California to visit my children and grandchildren before school started and forgot about the Macy’s deadline. 

But Macy’s didn’t forget about me. I got a call, scrambled to submit the drawings and went back to school. Weeks later I was notified that the corporate window manager in New York liked my design and wanted me to create the holiday window. Macy’s needs a Santa in the window, they said and my design was their favorite. I was honored and panicked. 

Four upper division classes, my son leaving on a mission soon and now this. Wisdom dictated that I tell Macy’s no, but I really wanted to do this project. We prayed to know what to do. Newell felt if Tim helped it would be doable. Do you think an 18 year-old boy who is getting ready to leave home for two years would agree to help? I hoped he would, I thought we might have some valuable time together to visit and collaborate (and glue). Tim said yes, and I told Macy’s yes. 

Paul, Macy’s corporate window manager, flew out from New York to meet with Chad, Tim and me. We discussed art elements; color, texture, scale, (see kids, it’s a good thing to go to college – you need an education even in art.)  With Paul’s approval, Chad ordered the candy, probably 120 pounds (times six for all of the projects.)

Chad delivered the 42″ diameter ball to our house while I was at school. I looked at it when I got home and wondered what I had gotten myself into. Math is not my best subject but I think that meant 5,538″ had to be covered in jelly beans, Jordan almonds, licorice and other small candies. Seriously. There was only one door into our house that it would fit through and it had to stay in our dining room because, once in, it wouldn’t fit anywhere else. I wasn’t going to work in the cold garage.

Next I needed to figure out how to translate two 3 inch two- dimensional designs into a 38 1/2 square foot three-dimensional sculptured sphere. And have enough candy to cover it completely.  My art classes hadn’t exactly prepared me for this exercise. And what if I didn’t order enough candy? This ornament was going to be displayed in downtown Salt Lake City. In Macy’s window. On Main Street. No pressure.

The fun began when I logged on to Candy.com’s website to select the “palette”. I was like a kid in a candy store with someone else’s (Macy’s) checkbook. Cherry chews, watermelon sours, jelly beans of all kinds and colors, even silver Jordan almonds were all there for the asking. I sketched the design onto the ball with a construction pencil and artist’s charcoal. I found that the difference between 2D and 3D meant areas that weren’t accounted for. I added the elephant to fill in the gap. Tim and I started sculpting the relief figures and attaching them to the ball. 

Did I mention that I was also promoting my Halloween book with a 100 day countdown on my website for Halloween during all of this? And writing for FamilyShare, The Deseret News, Connie Sokol and other websites?

 And having an interview with Kim Power Stilson on BYU Sirius 143 Radio on Halloween? 

And serving in a ward Relief Society presidency? A girl needs friends at a time like this.

Then my daughter called to invite me to come to California to accompany her to the Oakland Temple to receive her endowment. She took first priority, everything else came to a screeching halt. 

 Back in Utah, the candy arrived, about six cases, plus a case of adhesives. We laid the bags of candy out like an artist’s paint palette, picked a spot on the ornament to start with, loaded the adhesive cartridges and went to work.

Instead of gingerbread, the scent of  silicone caulking and hot glue filled the air. If this had been any other medium, it would not have been fun, but how can you not enjoy playing with 100+ pounds of candy?     
              Imagine U: The University of Utah
I started wondering if this volunteer project of many, many hours might qualify for some kind of credit toward my art degree; a major corporation approves the design, funds and exhibits the temporary art piece. Dr. Krensky, My brilliant Art Pedagogy in Education teacher suggested that it might work for the project for Teaching Practicum experience if I had students collaborating, I did and found more to help. The Practicum teacher Rosi Hayes agreed to accept it (thank you Rosi.) I had seen the graduate students’ studios the previous night and they were creating amazing art. Dr. Krensky also had the idea that many artists are using non-traditional spaces to exhibit their art, maybe Macy’s would help out. 
I received a call that Paul was returning to Salt Lake City to check our progress. We scraped the candy and glue off the dining room floor and invited Chad and Paul to stay for breakfast. 
Over beehive bread and Newell’s favorite breakfast casserole, I asked if Macy’s could carry a few more “modest” clothes for girls and young women. Chad told us of their policy of allowing stores to select up to 20% of their merchandise – (Note to Moms: Tell the store managers what you would like to see in the stores) and that they are selling skirts and will be carrying lines of clothing suitable for sister missionaries. I also inquired whether Macy’s might display art from local artists and students. Paul said they already do in New York and that Chad could accept art at the City Creek store. Chad quickly had ideas for suitable exhibit areas and would start to take proposals soon. We wished them well as we all headed out to work and school.

Macy’s came and moved the ball back to the store where we would complete the project with additional volunteers.We were so lucky to meet the most amazing artists and their helpers; Abigail and Jeff, Jacob and his family and friends. I loved getting to know them and cheering each others’ progress as we worked the many long hours required to complete our projects. 

Jacob’s design  
We left just before the deadline to drive to St. George to wish my dad, Larry Layton, a happy 80th birthday and give Tim a chance to say goodbye before he leaves for two years.

Then with the clock ticking away, we jumped back in to meet the deadline. Kevin and Gary, the visual managers from University and Cottonwood Macy’s; Wendy, the manager at City Creek, Matt, Nicole and the others were so gracious, helpful and wonderful, I felt like an art princess.The windows were painted, our names were added, the backdrops were set up and local television stations and newspapers began to cover the events. It may have been the fumes, but Tim and I agreed that the whole thing had been “surreal.”


The special night arrived. Thursday, November 21st at 6 p.m., amid throngs of excited children and candy art connoisseurs, we unveiled the windows 

Artists enjoy the thrill of connecting with their audience, to see the joy in their eyes. Tim commented on how much he enjoyed all the positive energy. He was a candy rock star. (Rock candy star?) There’s something magical about having your art displayed for others to enjoy.

So as Tim finishes his preparations to leave for the Mission Training Center on December 18th and Birmingham, Alabama; I hope he’ll carry with him the memory of our big adventure and the unusual way the McMurtrys wished our grandchildren,the children, families and guests of Salt Lake City 

A Very Merry Christmas!

Special Thanks:
Newell for putting up with all of this and gluing itty bitty little things to a large sphere. And not being a Grinch and having a good Christmas spirit.

Tim, Nicki, Brianne, Cappy, Jordan and Morgan for your help. 
We would not have finished this successfully without you; big hugs!

For allowing me to participate in your holiday window project and  
giving me a job last Christmas so I could visit my soldier son on the other side of the country. Three deployments in six years=not many Christmases together.

Heavenly Father
For Jesus, Christmas and everything. 

  Here’s what the newspapers and television had to say: 

I received a call from Macy’s West Coast office in San Francisco inviting me to be interviewed for a local news story:





The symbolism of the design for those seeking deeper meaning: 

 The winking Santa is the predominant subject. He is based on 1950’s graphic art images of Santa. Dressed in traditional red garb, he holds a garland of blocks that spell MERRY – a reference to my best friend Mary Cowan. On his shoulders is a bag of toys which each have a meaning:

1. Raggedy Ann – my favorite doll from childhood. I loved the stories and my grandmother Mimee used her printed heart to teach me to spell I Love You. I made Raggedy Anns for my two girls and granddaughters. 

2. The rocking duck is based an a toy my husband’s parents had commissioned for him when he was a toddler. We have the duck and our grandchildren love rocking on it. 

3. The blond doll was a reference to the dolls my little girls  received at Christmas time. And the little orange puppy was a puppy. Doesn’t every child want one for Christmas?

4. The green argyle stocking horse was reminiscent of the argyle stocking horses I made for my children and for those in the children’s organization at church. Argyle because I love plaid and my husband and I have Scottish ancestors. 

5. Near the top, there are a football, all our boys played; and a hiding elf, which is funny because at the window unveiling, Buddy the elf from the play Elf was there. There was a beach ball because I grew up on the beach and my children had a magical experience with one on a lake.

6. Tim crafted an amazing retro teddy bear holding a honeybee sucker. On Tim’s first birthday, we went to a boutique toy store where he used his newly developed walking skills to toddle and choose his gift. He picked a large Winnie the Pooh bear. The bee sucker was a reference to Utah; what else would a teddy bear hold?

7. Ahh, the elephant. There was an unexpected gap in the design. As an artist I am a (marginalized) Conservative working in a predominantly Liberal industry.  I couldn’t resist the urge to include this veiled Republican reference. I have always been a Republican, I remember being excited to see President Eisenhower in a parade when I was probably less than two years old. As Lady Gaga says, “I was born this way.”
8. A silver trombone for Dylan who can play just about anything. 
9. The stockings. The most significant is the red, white and blue stocking holding a toy soldier and American flag. My precious son Andrew serves in the U.S. Army. I wanted to remember and thank him and all soldiers and veterans.