Seton McGlennon’s Unique Tributes

Cary artist creates one-of-a-kind, customized paintings and mementos.
by Catherine Currin  |  photography by Smith Hardy

Seton McGlennon says she’s always found the fun in life. Her personalized ornaments and paintings are no exception. McGlennon has been storytelling through her delicate Christmas tree ornaments for almost 26 years, and the high-end holiday items are typically custom, artfully portraying your childhood home or nostalgic destination. “I began when I was a realtor in the Outer Banks. I painted ornaments for my clients as closing gifts,” she says. The demand for these handmade gifts grew, and she decided to take it on full time. “There’s just something about an ornament,” she says. “They’re not just little tokens, they’re beautiful and delicate. You’re gonna have them forever.” 

Her keepsakes have caught the eye of the nation, too. Not only was she on Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things list, McGlennon has also received commissions for ornaments from former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. McGlennon created an ornament depicting the White House as the personal Christmas gift from the Bush family, as well as an ornament on the Clinton family’s Blue Room tree. “After the White House ornaments, Bush asked me to create more ornaments for his library opening in Dallas. He knew they were not mass produced and that they would make a one-of-a-kind keepsake.” 

When she’s not working with TV stars and U.S. Presidents, McGlennon says she loves getting to know her day-to-day clients during the design process. Her ornament business has expanded into memory boards, on anything from a canvas to a piece of furniture. These paintings include life landmarks such as a home, alma maters, weddings, and children. McGlennon keeps it whimsical, creating caricature-like portrayals of her clients along with quirky drawings. McGlennon says the variety in her clients keeps her on her toes. “I enjoy doing all of the projects, they’re all so different.” Customers complete questionnaires, and talk with McGlennon to ensure they receive a piece that they love. “I love getting to know everyone,” she says. “We are fast friends, and some keep coming back year after year, for weddings, their kids, or grandkids.”

When you order one of McGlennon’s pieces, you can purchase a stand or globe to display it. “People want to keep it out year round,” she says. “It’s like a miniature portrait.” McGlennon has also created a historical series for the collector types, and mass produced a 12 days of Christmas collection to top your tree with. “This collection allowed me to keep the gifts coming. It’s a nice holiday addition.”