VillageVignette Creator Mike Landry

We discovered VillageVignettes owner, Mike Landry, on Instagram and loved the detail of his Village displays. There are so many possibilities when it comes to creating a display, and his attention to detail is impressive. We wanted to know a bit more about Mike and what inspires him to create these intricate scenes.

How each base begins
Completed base

 

An Interview with Village Vignettes Creator, Mike Landry

1. What are three words your friends and family would use to describe you?
Creative, enthusiastic, and fun.

2. What are your hobbies?
When I’m not working on or thinking up ideas for my next village display, you can usually find me spending time with my family (my wife, new baby boy, and our dog), drawing, playing video games, listening to audiobooks, tasting craft beer, or tinkering with house projects.

3. Where are you from/where do you currently live?
I grew up in a small town called Shirley, Massachusetts, about an hour west of Boston. I moved around the state a bit through college and early adulthood, but I’ve never lived outside Massachusetts. My wife and I eventually bought a house in Shirley, about 10 minutes from where I lived as a kid. That’s where I am now, raising my own family in my hometown.

4. How long have you been creating Village displays?
I’ve been building foam display platforms for about 3 years now, but my love for holiday villages has been around much longer than that. I was always fascinated by my grandmother’s Christmas display, a wonderland of fluffy white cotton and fun little houses and figures. I was honored to inherit most of her pieces and still proudly include them in my vignettes today.

5. What was your first display design?
My first foam display platform was very simple compared to the detail I add now. I started with scrap bits of white packing styrofoam and managed to cobble together a basic town square with a small mountain to one side. It had a few levels and some stairs, but no paint or carved stonework.

6. What are your “go to” tools?
I couldn’t do my work without Hot Wire Foam Factory’s tools. I use a variety of their hot wire tools, but the workhorse of the bunch is their sculpting tool. My next most-used tool is a hobby knife/box cutter and infinite replacement blades. The insulation
foam I work with is a sharp blade’s worst enemy, so I’m constantly replacing blades. My crafting utility belt also includes xacto knives, pens & pencils, aluminum foil rolled into various shapes, stones from my backyard, and a paintbrush with the bristles removed that I use as a cobblestone stamp.

7. Where do you find inspiration when you’re creating a display?
As I mentioned before I live in New England, where I’m lucky enough to find inspiration everywhere I look. From the brick and cobblestone streets of Salem and Boston, to the fields and forests of Central and Western MA, my state is full of inspiration for Halloween and Christmas landscapes. I’m constantly looking around wherever I go. There are so many stone walls, streams and ponds, rocky cliffs, and other details that are staples of any village display. Inspiration is always just around the corner

8. What is the most challenging part of designing a new display?
It’s definitely trying to work out the size of each piece and how they should all fit together. Sometimes I’ll design a generic display where I try to provide areas to display small, medium, and large houses; and other times I’ll work from a list of specific buildings and accessories with exact measurements. It’s an ongoing challenge to make sure that there’s enough space to display everything while leaving room for the details of the landscape to shine through. It’s also a challenge balancing my desire to put a ton of character and detail into my displays without them becoming overwhelming and distracting from the actual village collection being displayed.

9. What is your favorite Department 56 Village piece?
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies, so I think this answer is a no brainer. I added The Griswold Holiday House to my collection last year and I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to eventually collecting the entire set, but the house that Clark built is by far my favorite piece.

10. If you could create a display for anyone, who would it be and why?
I would absolutely love to create a display for the owners of Ralphie’s actual house from A Christmas Story. For those who don’t know, a fan purchased and renovated the house used in A Christmas Story, and it has now become a sort of museum and sightseeing destination. It would be fantastic to recreate scenes from the movie (using the wonderful D56 pieces of course) to display in their museum. If the A Christmas Story House owners end up reading this, give me a call!

 

If you’re interested in seeing more of Mike’s work, make sure to check out his Instagram by clicking here. We love seeing our customers creations! Make sure to tag us in your Department 56 Instagram and Facebook posts so that we can see them.

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Creating Villages

Over forty years ago, Department 56 began as part of Bachman’s, a premiere retail florist in Minneapolis. Bachman’s used a numbering system to identify each of its departments. The number assigned to wholesale gift imports division was, you guessed it, 56. Now headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Department 56 has become a leader in the giftware, collectibles and holiday decorating industry and is best known for our hand-crafted lighted villages, Snowbabies™ figurines and extensive lines of holiday and home decorative products.Have you ever wondered how your favorite holiday accessories are created? The process that goes into creating our Village pieces is an intricate one but can be broken down into 7 key steps.

1. Ideation meeting: Each season our brand managers and artists sit down to discuss what Village pieces to create. First, they review what pieces have been created in the past and how our customers received them. Second, they review if any pieces have . Finally, they discuss suggestions given by our collectors and customers.

2. Sketching + Drafts: After the concepts are decided on the Village artists get to work! This entails creating detailed sketches of all four views as well as a top view.

3. Creation of a paper model: The details from the sketches are then created into an actual paper model. It will be done to scale so that it can be placed and compared to past Village pieces.

4. Sculpting: Our Department 56 sculptor, Kiri, then begins making a wax model. When the wax models are created it is taken into consideration that the pieces will shrink in size during the firing process. This means that our Heritage Village pieces are first sculpted 14% larger and our Snow Village pieces are sculpted 5% larger than how they will actually come out once produced.

5. Molds Produced: A factory then produces the molds, casts, and fires the pieces.

6. Samples sent for approval: The creations are then sent to Department 56 for approval. If a piece is licensed, it will also be sent to the liscensor for their stamp of approval. This is when any paint touch-ups or detail changes will be made.

7. Production: After approval from all parties the Village pieces are then put into production!

Are you interested in learning more about how our artists created some of the 2017 Village pieces? Join some of the Department 56 Village Artists on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 3pm CST for a round table discussion about some of our 2017 mid-year pieces.

Ever wanted to know what goes into creating some of the pieces? Now is your chance! Make sure to post any questions you have for our Village artists in our Facebook eventTake some time to check out our last Facebook Live event below! 

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2017 Mid-Year Village Introductions

You can now pre-order our 2017 Village mid-year introductions! These mid-year pieces feature a variety of beautifully detailed houses and accessories that are sure to make any collector smile. Some depict heartwarming scenes while others make the perfect spooky addition to any Halloween enthusiasts collection. Make sure to comment and let us know which is your new favorite! These are some of our favorites but you can click here to see all of our 2017 mid-year introductions.

Snow Village, Home for the Holidays

Gaze through the window of this festively decorated Queen Anne home for an exciting interior scene-a tiny ‘Snow Village’ that decorates the mantel. Outside is a heartwarming scene of a young man who returns from proudly serving in the military to loved ones that have anxiously waited his arrival…including his adorable furry friend. This Snow Village piece comes as a set, which includes the house and two accessories pictured.

Home for the Holidays

Dickens Village, Yarmouth’s Discovery Bay

Imagine the waves breaking against a rocky landscape and embrace childhood memories of adventure with this detailed Dickens Village accessory. The accessory features two friends, a boy with his sailboat and a girl with her telescope, enjoying outdoor adventures with their pup. We certainly think they’re an adorable group!

Yarmouth’s Discovery Bay

This accessory pairs perfectly with the Great Yarmouth Light, a beautifully detailed Lighthouse. The stone and stucco Lighthouse also features an adjoining house for the light keeper.

Great Yarmouth Light

North Pole Series, Paws to the Rescue

Add a fun element to your Village display with this quirky piece! This North Pole elf patrol comes to the rescue with his trusty St. Bernard to help out on the bunny hill.

Paws to the Rescue

This accessory pairs perfectly with Sugar Mountain Lodge. It’s one of the most fun places at The North Pole – skiing on top of the world at Sugar Mountain. Elves can practice their ski jumping moves right from the roof with the built in ski ramp! Hillside action can be viewed from the upper story balconies. Any skier or snowboarder will appreciate the attention to detail on this piece, which truly captures the spirit of an older ski lodge!

Sugar Mountain Lodge

 

Halloween village, Rest in Peace 2017

This year we bring the annual crypt as a mid-year gift set, which includes 2 wrought iron fence sections and a coordinating vampire figure. The crypt includes interior lighting that changes colors. Just add a fog machine nearby for some delightfully spooky decor!

Rest in Peace, 2017

Don’t worry, there’s more! These are some of our favorites but you can click here to see all of our 2017 mid-year introductions. There is surely a piece waiting to capture your heart!

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5 Tips to Refresh Your Centerpiece for Spring

Hosting an Easter or Mother’s Day event? Delight your guests with some of these fun spring decor ideas and accents.

Not sure where to begin? Keep in mind these few simple tips:

  1. The size of your table matters. Knowing how much space you have to work with is really important because this will dictate how the centerpiece might interfere with the function of your table. Large or square tables may look better with a larger centerpiece but a narrower table may look better with smaller, longer accents that draw the eye down the length of the table or through an entry way.

    New England Village
  2. Incorporate a clear jar or vase. Starting with a clear jar or vase in your centerpiece gives you a large variety of options- you can fill the vase with colorful eggs, jellybeans, or moss to add texture and then add fresh or faux flowers to complete the look. The best part? Shapes and sizes of clear jars or vases are basically endless giving you tons of options to create your look. 
  3. Play with color. Having specific colors in mind helps keep the arrangement focused. For Spring, consider incorporating lovely pastels like yellow, pink, purple, or green.
  4. Include height variation. Give yourself, and your guests, an interesting sight line by adding various heights to your centerpiece. (Pro tip: make sure that the heights do not disrupt conversation sight lines.)

    Snowbabies, Classic Collection
  5. Add fresh blooms. Nothing helps pull you out of a Winter slump than beautiful, blooming flowers! Consider adding springtime favorites like Carnations, Lillie’s, Tulips, Daffodils, Daisies, or Hydrangeas to tie everything together.

Have any tips we missed? Share them in the comments section below!

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