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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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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