Area silk artist decks the halls at Medieval Times

It isn't yet Halloween, but decorators are already scrambling to deck the halls of public places, creating that magic holiday feeling. Nowhere is this more evident than in the workrooms of Synergy in Silk artist Sharon Norris, who has the enormous task of turning Medieval Times into a winter wonderland from the Middle Ages.

Norris' work has been seen everywhere from the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce building to Tara Fine Jewelry to Carisma Gallery in Buford. Her expertise has been put to the test in the huge "Hall of Arms," the grand entryway into Discover Mills' historically themed Medieval Times.

The plans for Medieval Times' holiday decor, scheduled to be up by the day after Thanksgiving, include more than a wreath and a tree here and there. With its roaring fireplace, 70-foot-long bar and Royal Balcony area, the Hall of Arms holds up to 1,100 visitors as they wait to enter the Grand Arena for dinner and the knightly games. Norris' imagination and skill were challenged to an artistic joust.

"When I was hired to create these decorations, I studied what people did for the season back during the Middle Ages," Norris said. "They didn't have electricity or bright glass decorations. They used what they found in the forest. So, I decided to go 'natural' with big red apples, pine cones, snow-kissed branches and other natural visual elements."

As Norris said, "The decorations scream 'Christmas' in a very natural way."

They must be realistic, as Medieval Times is owned by a descendent of Spanish royalty who demands authenticity in his nine locations across the U.S. and Canada.

One challenge was that the decor had to really pop, because the interior of the hall has limited lighting.

"I couldn't use a lot of green, because of the shadows. So I went with a lot of light refraction," Norris said. "We have 'snow' and 'frost' on berries, pine cones and boughs which pick up the available light and just sparkle."

As proof that much artistry is needed to successfully pull off a stage as large as Medieval Times' Hall of Arms, one only need consider the 70-foot bar. How will Norris give something that large and long a cozy holiday feeling? By "snowkissing" it, she said. The length of the bar is draped at the top with bound swags sparkling with what looks to be frost.

"For the fireplace, we didn't want to get anything too close to the flames, so we draped a garland with 1,200 little lights and two poinsettia topiaries with bases filled with pine cones. It's simple, but it picks up the red of the tapestry that hangs above the fireplace and looks very warm and inviting," Norris said.

The interior isn't all, though. When patrons arrive at the Medieval Times building on the east side of Discover Mills, they are met with what looks to be an enormous castle. Here, Norris has devised a gigantic wreath above the drawbridge, loaded with 1,000 lights and sparkling branches.

To learn more about Norris' magic, visit www.synergyinsilk.com. To purchase tickets for a dinner show at Medieval Times, visit www.medievaltimes.com.