Window artist Anne Bondamann is ringing in her 25th year of painting windows for Christmas in Brandon in 2021.
“I have not missed a beat,” Bondamann said.
She has had a prolific career and in many cases, clients expect her to arrive in her paint-splattered clothes as soon as the snow starts to fall.
Bondamann has a van full of paint, brushes and other tools she uses to race around the Wheat City, painting countless windows with Christmas cheer each season.
Her career as a window painter began in 1996. She was travelling with a carnival as a sign painter.
The experience served as a flash of inspiration. When she returned to Brandon, she was interested in creating murals to beautify the community.
Bondamann first connected with the Downtown Brandon Improvement Area with her idea; while the conversation did not lead to a new mural, it did serve as her first opportunity to engage in window painting.
She was asked by the organization to paint windows for Picklefest, Bondamann said. They were pleased with her work and it acted as a launchpad into a career that has spanned more than two decades.
“I had never painted windows before,” Bondamann said.
The partnership soon led her to four more jobs and Bondamann set out to create a business centred on window painting.
She learned an important lesson from her first piece — never use sign paint.
“Sign paint is not something you want to use on windows. To remove it is hell,” Bondamann said. “The first year we included removal with any job over $60. We spent the entire month of January full-time scraping windows.”
She went back to post-secondary in 1997, where she obtained a teaching degree. She got a job a year after she graduated and was eventually offered a full-time job, but the timing was inconvenient as it was the Christmas season.
“I never realized that Christmas was going to be the essence of my life,” Bondamann said.
In the past, Bondamann used to create about 120 window designs each Christmas season — now she completes between 50 to 60 each year because she has a full-time job as a teacher at Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School.
The illustrations keep her busy during the holiday season, she said, but her students at Crocus Plains remain her No. 1 priority.
“I wasn’t planning on painting at all,” Bondamann said. “But then I realized that I couldn’t leave Christmas behind.”
Each illustration she produces is signed in homage to her father. Bondamann — which roughly translates to “farmer man” in Norwegian — was a nickname he gained as a youth because he was a city boy who loved to visit the farm. She signs all of her windows using the last name as a tribute to her father.
Bondamann has not missed a Christmas to date — even in 2003 when she was pregnant and due during the Christmas season.
She spent the winter in 2003 frantically working to paint as many windows as possible to ensure she did not miss the season.
Painting is therapeutic, she said, and is one of many passions in her life, followed closely by her dogs.
Her designs are based on the freedom she has during a project — sometimes a client will have specific requests, while others will let her run wild with her imagination.
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I get an idea. I [recently] sent a text message to the [manager] of Sobeys in the west end and said I have a plan for new snowflakes this year,” Bondamann said. “I came and did different types of snowflakes.”
The majority of clients trust Bondamann to choose the design. The only thing she needs to know is if they want a focus on winter or Christmas.
“If you want winter, it’s something that is going to be valid until the end of February. If you want Christmas … it depends, you can take ‘Merry Christmas’ off and then it’s not done anymore,” Bondamann said.
At times she will also get photos to work from if a client has special requests.
“It’s all about content and detail.”
She will also try to link related businesses if she can through the window paintings. For example, if she does three different Co-ops, she will find a way to draw them together using some kind of linking image — a way to show they belong together.
One of the most standout moments from her career was a project she would be hesitant to take on again.
About 20 years ago, Bondamann created a special window design for McKenzie Seeds. She was inspired to create the project and had a large budget to work with. These factors compelled her to create something amazing.
Bondamann designed an intricate and unique Norman Rockwell-inspired illustration on the windows, capturing the festive feeling.
“I was just so pumped,” Bondamann said.
The result was incredible, she said, but the project was extremely time-consuming.
She added her window illustrations are special as she paints on the outside of the window. Bondamann chose this style because it gives the images a matte look.
She is dedicated to this aspect of her craft, even though it is easier to paint on the inside of the window, especially when the temperature becomes frigidly cold.
“I like the texture on the outside because it’s real. It’s not like a glossy look. If you paint on the other side, then it looks like you have painted under the glass.”
» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp
Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun