Exploring the Department 56 Art & Architecture Series

The Heurtley House

The Arthur Huertly house was constructed in 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust details this iconic home by saying: “Solid and monolithic, the Heurtley house is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s greatest residential designs. Located a short distance from Wright’s own Home and Studio in Oak Park, the house was commissioned by banker Arthur Heurtley. While the rectangular form and monumental massing of the building, evoke Wright’s earlier Winslow house of 1893, the design reflects the remarkable evolution of Wright’s work, and the emergence of his mature Prairie style design vocabulary.

Situated on an expansive lot, the house is anchored to its site by a substantial stone water table. A low-hipped roof with broad, overhanging eaves, shelters the residence. The horizontal form of the building is further emphasized by Wright’s use of two colors of Roman brick, laid in alternating, projecting bands. On the upper level of the house, in place of a decorative frieze, a continuous band of leaded glass casement windows extend across the façade.

heurtly houseEntrance to the house is via a heavy Romanesque arch. The ground floor is given over to a reception hall, a large reception room/playroom, guestrooms and a servant’s hall. Similar in concept to Wright’s Husser and Thomas houses, the principal rooms are elevated to the second story. In contrast to the darker lower level, the upstairs area is defined by airy, open and contiguous light-filled spaces. At the heart of the home, a substantial arched fireplace occupies a central position in the living room. In form and material, the fireplace echoes the prominent arch on the exterior of the building. Leaded glass windows that line the west side of the house, flood the main living spaces with light. An open air elevated porch, accessed via French doors in the living room, blurs the division between interior and exterior space.” For more information visit http://flwright.org/researchexplore/wrightbuildings/arthurheurtleyhouse

“Heurtley House” by Department 56

American Gothic

Sold to the Art institute of Chicago by the artist himself, Grant Wood, in November of 1930 the American Gothic painting transforms into a beautiful Village piece.

american gothicThe Art Institute of Chicago writes “This familiar image was exhibited publicly for the first time at the Art Institute of Chicago, winning a three-hundred-dollar prize and instant fame for Grant Wood. The impetus for the painting came while Wood was visiting the small town of Eldon in his native Iowa. There he spotted a little wood farmhouse, with a single oversized window, made in a style called Carpenter Gothic. “I imagined American Gothic people with their faces stretched out long to go with this American Gothic house,” he said. He used his sister and his dentist as models for a farmer and his daughter, dressing them as if they were “tintypes from my old family album.” The highly detailed, polished style and the rigid frontality of the two figures were inspired by Flemish Renaissance art, which Wood studied during his travels to Europe between 1920 and 1926. After returning to settle in Iowa, he became increasingly appreciative of Midwestern traditions and culture, which he celebrated in works such as this. American Gothic, often understood as a satirical comment on the Midwestern character, quickly became one of America’s most famous paintings and is now firmly entrenched in the nation’s popular culture. Yet Wood intended it to be a positive statement about rural American values, an image of reassurance at a time of great dislocation and disillusionment. The man and woman, in their solid and well-crafted world, with all their strengths and weaknesses, represent survivors.” For more information visit http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/6565

“American Gothic, Set of 2” by Department 56




Also in the Art & Architecture Series:

“The Chrysler Building” by Department 56

The Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Center is located on 42nd Street between Lexington and Third Avenue on the east side of Midtown Manhattan. Built in 1930, the building underwent purchase and renovation in 1998 with completion by mid-2000 creating a total rental area of 2,062,772 square feet. Amazing 360-degree views of Manhattan and the outlying area overlooking the East River, Central Park, Times Square, and Grand Central Terminal.

Still want to learn more? Consider checking out the following links:


“Neuschwanstein Castle” by Department 56

Neuschwanstein Castle

“Seven weeks after the death of King Ludwig II in 1886, Neuschwanstein was opened to the public. The shy king had built the castle in order to withdraw from public life – now vast numbers of people came to view his private refuge. Today Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular of all the palaces and castles in Europe. Every year 1.4 million people visit “the castle of the fairy-tale king”. In the summer around 6,000 visitors a day stream through rooms that were intended for a single inhabitant.”

Still want to learn more? Consider checking out the following links:

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Reflecting on 2016 and Looking Ahead to 2017

As we reflect on an eventful year- thankfully celebrating our enthusiasts and retailers let’s talk with a few of our brand managers about our experiences in 2016 and what to look forward to in 2017!

Irena: Classic Brands

“We were really excited to partner with Girls Scouts of America to create a fun, unique and inclusive statement of ornaments and table top pieces. We love working with Girl Scouts because we believe and support their values of honesty, fairness, courage, compassion and character. Our collection of Girl Scouts ornaments depicts girls actively participating in activities to earn their badges. Of course, this collection wouldn’t be complete without a nod to Girls Scout cookies – 200 million boxes a year!”

“Jack Daniels is another brand that I absolutely love. A legend, a true American heritage brand with rich history and a bright future. 2016 celebrated 150 years since Jack Daniels birth. We wish this great brand prosperity and longevity. Our collection of ornaments and tabletop items exude the cool and collected vibe of the brand. Black and silver colors of this collection offer an adult perspective on decorating. We continue with this legendary collection into 2017.”


Ashley: Snowbabies and Snowpinions

“It’s hard to believe, but 2016 marked Snowbabies’ 30th anniversary! We commemorated this milestone with you, our loyal customers, at artist events around the country. Kristi had the opportunity to meet many new collectors as well as connect with some familiar ones.

“2016 was another sassy year for Snowpinions but just wait till you see what’s in store for 2017! There’s a dash of sweet and a pinch of snark along with some new, cuddly characters. We’ll even roll out a brand new, totally unique product type. It’s topic secret so be sure to check it out!”


Jackie: Village

“On behalf of the whole Village team here at Department 56, Happy New Year!
We had so much fun during 2016. Some of the best selling items were the Gazebos, offered in celebration of our 40th Anniversary. Buddy, along with his cast of friends from the movie “Elf”, made their debut, while Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Grinch, and Dairy Queen remained strong among our customers and fans. We can’t wait for you to see the newest additions to your favorite Village series, along with a few surprises.”


Please visit our Facebook page and let us know what you think.
Below are images from AmericasMart in Atlanta featuring some of the mentioned products so you can take a peek at how we’ve started 2017!

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The Ouija Board – Spiritualism, Fantasy or Fact?

The newest lit building in the Department 56 Snow Village Halloween is “Ouija The Mystifying Oracle”. The building looks like it could be part of the circus sideshow, on a side street in the seedier side of the city, or even on the carnival circuit. It has signs advertising palm reading, astrology and fortune telling. Even the “Amazing Zindelo” who sits in the entrance works the Ouija board to tell passersby what their future will hold. (each sold separately)

Want to Setup a Quick Halloween Village Display? Click the Video Below!

Ouija boards have their roots in Spiritualism, which began in the United States in the late 1840s even though there are claims that they have existed in ancient times, this is totally unfounded. The new movement was led by mediums, who claimed to be intermediaries between the living and the dead. They were also called Spirit Boards or Talking Boards. Players would put their fingers lightly on the heart-shaped piece called the planchette that mysteriously moved about the board to “talk” or spell out words that the spirits from beyond were trying to convey.

William FuldThe first patent for the game was issued to Elijah Bond in 1890 whose company produced the game for 10 years. An employee, William Fuld, took over production in 1901 and reinvented the whole concept.Fuld claimed he learned the name “Ouija” from using the board and that it was an ancient Egyptian word meaning “good luck.” When Fuld took over production he popularized the more widely accepted etymology: that the name came from a combination of the French and German words for “yes”.

Did you know?

That first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln held séances in the White House following the death of her son, Willie in 1862. It is thought that President Abraham Lincoln participated in some of these meetings. It is not known if they were ever able to contact Willie, and even less is known about what the president thought of spiritualism. Mary, however, was a firm believer.


The board’s success when it first was used, and now more than 120 years later shows that it has tapped into a weird place in American pop culture. It was marketed as both mystical oracle and as family entertainment, fun with an element of other-worldly excitement. The Ouija board appealed to people from across a wide spectrum of ages, professions, and education— because the Ouija board offered a fun way for people to believe in something. Researcher and Ouija historian Robert Mursch tells us “People want to believe. The need to believe that something else is out there is powerful,” he says. “This thing is one of those things that allows them to express that belief.”

And we predict that the new “Ouija:The Mystifying Oracle” will magically find a place in your Halloween Village display in 2016.

HASBRO and its logo OUIJA are trademarks of Hasbro used with permission. © 2016 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.

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Summertime Soft Serve with Dairy Queen

When soft-serve ice cream was first produced in 1938, there was no Dairy Queen. John “Grandpa” Fremont and Bradley McCullough developed the formula for this summer favorite and convinced a friend, Sherb Noble to test it in his Kankakee, IL, ice cream parlor. Noble sold 1,600 servings for 10¢ each in just two hours! The trial was a definite success! Because McCullough deemed that the cow was the queen of the dairy industry, name “Dairy Queen” was chosen. The first Dairy Queen ice cream stand opened in 1940 and today there are over 6,000 locations in 30 countries.

Hover Over The Images to Shop!

Department 56 designed a ceramic version of one of the earliest ‘drive-in” versions to celebrate the 75th birthday of the company. A retro highway billboard designed to look like the drive-in is also available. Other cleverly designed accessories and a new North Pole “Cone House” have been added this summer. When used together, these pieces allow collectors to create a small stand-alone display, or add the pieces they like to their existing Village display.

Starting with the simple soft-serve cone with the trade-mark curly Q one top, Dairy Queen has developed a number of fan favorite frozen treats including the “Dilly Bar” (1955), “Peanut Buster Parfait” (1973), the Dairy Queen Cake (1981) and the “Blizzard” (1985). All of these, and more were inspiration for our designers to create a  collection of blown glass, hand painted ornaments and are available to enjoy on your Christmas tree (and they won’t melt!).

Did you know:

dq_vintageThe state where there are the most DQ franchises are located, is Texas.
• Dairy Queen was one of the first companies in the US to offer franchises of their business to prospective owners.
• Dairy Queen® soft serve contains 5% butter fat and has only 140 calories per creamy 1/2 cup.
• All Dairy Queen soft serve is stored at 18 degrees F rather than the normal 0 degrees that is required for regular ice cream products. This is why you can dig in to a DQ treat as soon as it is in your hands.
• The world’s largest Dairy Queen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The two-level restaurant is 7,500 square feet and can easily seat 240 customers.
• The number one selling Blizzard is Green Tea (sold only in China) followed by Oreo, a favorite here in the United States.


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