Everyone has a guardian angel, but Our Lady of Consolation Church in Vattman, Texas, has nine guardians watching over the church: Gwen Rudellat, Gloria Martinez, Betty Roberts, Bunny Marez, Kathy Hubert, Glenda Cornelius, Jan Yaklin, Liz Yaklin and Linda Hamilton. These are the Vattman Artisan Angels.

Vattman is a community of about 100 people southeast of Kingsville. On Thanksgiving morning, the population swells to about 1,800 for the annual Thanksgiving dinner. Most come for the food and other festivities, but a line forms early awaiting the opening of the Country Store, located near Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church. 

Inside awaits a tremendous selection of handmade Christmas ornaments, decorations and other artwork made by the guardian angels. Meeting one or two days a week, from February through mid-November, the Angels share camaraderie, the love of art and caring for the church. 

All proceeds from the Country Store go to scholarships – this year seven area students benefited – for church maintenance, and Vacation Bible School. 

“And we prepare meals for the children attending Vacation Bible school,” Gwen Rudellat said.

Looking somewhat chaotic, the group’s worktable is cluttered with paints, brushes, glues, lights, and other necessities for producing their art work. Betty Roberts points out that “blue tape on the table marks each persons space, but [they] do cross the line.” Along another wall all types of pots and pans, pieces of table and chair legs, and bits of metal await their turn to become a unique piece of art.

Each of the artisans make at least 100 pieces of art work for the sale. There is no set amount or specific type of art required. Kathy Hubert said, “…whatever your talent, it is welcome.” 

Some of the Angels husbands help with woodworking. Fred Yaklin, Liz’s husband, makes miniature wooden copies of the church, about one inch by two inches, which are then painted by the ladies.

The group never knows what will be the “hot” item. This year’s theme deals with an old, red pickup truck carrying a Christmas tree. However, one thing is sure: when the Thanksgiving festivities are over the Artisan Angels will come together again in February and prepare for the next Vattman Thanksgiving.

Until the mid-1950s the building housing the Country Store was a convent and a two-room schoolhouse; later it became a retirement home for two priest.

The current church was built in 1919 and dedicated in 1920. The original church was destroyed during a hurricane. The community came together to rebuild the structure; truly a community effort, each family was given a specific number of bricks to make for the new church.

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