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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Snowbabies: It’s All in the Details

Kristi Jensen Pierro

This year celebrated Kristi Jensen-Pierro’s 30th year with Department 56, which also marks celebrating 30 years of playful Snowbabies. Her personal experiences are artfully designed into each Snowbabies piece and carefully named to ensure a sentiment of love, friendship or inspiration.

“Each piece I design tells its own story. It’s the story that makes each Snowbabies’ figurine special and unique.”

She further explains that “I love to talk to collectors at the many open house events I attend each year. My work reflects my own experiences with my children and my own childhood, but the evolution of many of my designs comes from the inspiration of the thousands of enthusiasts and collectors everywhere. You tell me what you like, and what you don’t. And I listen.”

Each Snowbabies piece has a unique story with exceptional detail. Kristi shares that “My favorite piece this year is “Artistic Endeavors” which features a Snowbaby artist talking to a friendly dog who has just made a mess. The creative look of the figures’ faces is perfect. Wondering what they are going to do next – clean up the paint or get down to work on their masterpiece. I was inspired by our cat, a huge, grey, lazy cat who lives in my studio at home. The cat pretends to allow the artists to use the space twice a week! If I leave my oil paint pallet on the large work table, the cat walks through it leaving colorful, oily footprints all over the table surface. This was my ‘idea’ for Artistic Endeavors.”

Snowbabies Classic Collection, Artistic Endeavors

Some of the new pieces this year also feature beautiful, internally lit accents. Simply add a sisal tree and faux snow accents to create a magical scene on any end table. Creating a fun display that catches the attention of your guests has never been easier!

Snowbabies Classic Collections, Welcome Home

The glazed porcelain bisque finish on some of the new pieces, such as Blessed Child Nativity, look exceptional with the warm light glowing from within. The glaze finish featured on many of the new Snowbabies Snow Dream pieces gives a bit of a retro feel to them. Also pictured, Light the Way, doesn’t lack in detail either! Holding a Yule log with three lit candles and wearing a hat with rhinestone detail, this piece will look great paired with any of the pieces you currently own. The bronzed glitter on many of the Snowbabies Snow Dream pieces makes them extremely easy to mix and match in any holiday display.

Snowbabies Snow Dreams, Light the Way (left) and Blessed Child Nativity (right)

Snowbabies really do say it all! The care and attention to detail that Kristi puts into each piece make them perfect gifts. Even 30 years of designs later Kristi does not disappoint with the new 2017 additions! If you’re interested in seeing more of the new Snowbabies pieces, make sure to click here.

 

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Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Mother’s Day was first celebrated locally in 1908. Anna Jarvis, daughter of peace activist Ann Jarvis, began to campaign to make it an official holiday in memory of her mother after her passing in 1905. However, it took until 1914 to become an official national holiday. President Woodrow Wilson dedicated the second Sunday in May for the holiday to be celebrated in the United States.

World’s Best Mom

Mom’s are there to teach us how to tie our shoes, how to fold our laundry, how to cook a well-balanced meal, how to apply make-up and so much more. Show your mom how much you love and appreciate her with this sentimental ornament. This ornament even arrives in a gift box!

Hug, Please!

A big bear hug from a loved one has the power to make any day brighter and Mom’s always know when you need one! This figurine features hand-knit stocking caps.

 

I’m Too Old For Kisses

A mother’s love knows no limits. From the time you’re a baby and far beyond, they will always shower you with love and affection. Any mother will tell you, you’re never too old for kisses. This figurine features two tutu skirts.

Precious Messes

Mom turned her back for just a minute this Snowbaby has turned lunch into a messy new hat. No one claimed that Motherhood was easy…or clean!

I’m Here for You

This porcelain bisque figurine pair tells it all — “I’m Here For You”. Mom’s make the best therapists, teachers, and friends. Show mom you’re there for her as well with this fun piece!

Each Snowbaby is created and detailed to tell a story. Get mom more than a card this year to show how much you really appreciate her. CLICK HERE to shop all Snowbabies designs!

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