Harley-Davidson Villages

The American Icon of the Open Road: Harley-Davidson.

Harley-Davidson Villages

It all started in a small 10’X15′ shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When William Harley and Davidson brothers Arthur and Walter produced and sold their first motorcycle over a century ago, we bet they had no idea their names would live on as a brand so iconic in American culture it’s become part of millions of family histories. American Classic

The Harley-Davidson Snow Village hearkens back to a simpler time, celebrating our love for roadside attractions and the Big Tin Drive-In where car hops delivered your chocolate malts car-side, or in this case bike-side. There’s nothing quite like the great American road trip both then and now.

Santa’s V-Twins

And you thought the only way Santa got around was with a team of eight reindeer and a sleigh! With plenty of room in his saddlebags for toys and gifts, he’s ready for cruising the open road and spreading Christmas joy.

The snow may be falling outside and the real bikes waiting out the winter in storage, but inside it’d toasty warm and the memories have us dreaming of spring and cruising this beautiful country.

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Best Friends Forever

 

Friends are the family you choose. Whether you chose each other in 7th grade homeroom or in the office lunchroom, best friends are forever and so are the memories. Shopping and selfies, makeup and shoes – being a girl is so much fun, especially with your number one.

 

Best Friends Have Paws Too
For many of us, the unconditional love of a pet was one of our first experiences with friendship. The ultimate confidante, with us through thick and thin, and a friend that lives on in our heart forever. That’s what makes the Snowbabies™ collection so endearing and special. Remembering how Max loved to go for rides and how kitty was more than happy to share your ice cream.

 

Memories and Stories

 

Shopping and selfies, makeup and shoes – being a girl is just so much fun, especially with your number one. Snowbabies designer Kristi Jensen Pierro has been capturing the magic and wonder of winter in her designs for over 30 years. Her work reflects her experiences with her children and her own childhood. She loves drawing inspiration and ideas from collectors. “The evolution of many of my designs comes from the inspiration of the thousands of enthusiasts and collectors everywhere.” Each Snowbabies™ piece tells its own unique story. And it’s those stories, inspired by real memories that connect with us in such a special and personal way.

 

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A Tradition of Quality Giftware for Forty Years

Department 56 Anniversary
We are pleased to be kicking off the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Department 56 as a company! Many things have happened during the course of the last 40 years, some great, some important and some that we’ve like to pack away with memories of days gone by!

We started our company literally shipping from the garage of the company’s founder, Ed Bazinet in 1976. Ed has since retired and we have seen many employees come and go. We started with just a few giftware items, and six very simple lighted buildings – four houses and two churches. These pieces were packed in simple cardboard boxes with no bottom stamps on the buildings, or printing of any kind on the packaging. Because Mr. Bazinet came from the giftware side of a local floral company (Bachman’s, Minneapolis, MN), his business contacts were in the floral industry and he called on many of them to buy his new products. That is why so many of our long time customers have been floral shops and garden centers. We have expanded both the types of stores that we sell to as well as the kinds of products we offer.

Original Snow Village
As demand for the Villages grew, so did the variety we offered. The little ceramic houses got more detailed and the painting improved. Then in 1984, a local artist who was retiring from his career as a graphic artist at a well-known Minnesota company (General Mills) came to Department 56 with an idea. His name was Neilan Lund and his idea grew out of his family’s love of a Victorian classic, “A Christmas Carol” by beloved author Charles Dickens. The Lund family enjoyed the tradition of reading the story every Christmas and Neilan had some sketches from the story that he thought would look great on note cards or tins. Ed saw the little Village designs and proposed another idea. What if these designs were expanded and used on little houses like the “snow houses” they were currently making? Neilan’s designs were more detailed so Ed and his creative team looked for another material that would allow these designs to incorporate the details from the drawings. It was decided to make the new collection, origin ally called “The Streets of Dickens’ Village” from porcelain with a matte finish to distinguish it from the snow houses. Originally the set of buildings included an inn, a candle shop, green grocer, a baker, a smithy, a butcher, and a basket shop. When reviewing the pieces, someone commented, “We have the butcher, the baker, but where’s the candlestick maker?” So Neilan quickly designed the candle shop to make the first offering seven pieces. A Village church was added the following year as well as something they called a “limited edition” – the Village Mill which was numbered and limited to 2,500 pieces. And the race was on! Collectors fell in love with the series and scoured gift shops to find the illusive lit Village.

Dickens Original Group
What started as a retirement project blossomed into a full-time second career for Neilan. He gradually brought members of his family into the project helping with research and design. In 1989 the work load grew to include not only Dickens’ Village (the name changed in the second year of production), but Alpine Village, New England Village, North Pole and Little Town of Bethlehem. He brought one in of his three daughters, the very talented Barbara Lund into his studio to learn the art of designing the houses. While we have lost Neilan, Barbara is now the principal designer of these Villages.

Another of our most popular lines started in 1986, when a young talented artist who had worked for several years as a freelance designer for Department 56 creating giftware packaging designs, and designing Snow Village accessories, was hired to create a series of porcelain figurines. These snowy children, named “Snowbabies” by Department 56 were inspired by antique figurines from Germany and Japan found by one of our creative directors in an antique shop.

snowbabies-history
That artist was Kristi Jensen Pierro who has taken this collection and expanded it to one of our most beloved series. Kristi was also the creative force behind many giftware collections including Winter Silhouettes, All Through The House, Merry Makers, Billy Buttons and Snowpinions.

To keep pace with the expanding interests of our collectors, Department 56 has included many licensed designs in the last 20 years. We have worked with Disney, Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, McDonalds, and Peanuts, as well as iconic movies like “A Christmas Story”, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, “The Grinch” and “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” just to name a few. This year we will add “Elf” the movie to our Villages.
Our giftware offerings have dominated the giftware industry and our artists are constantly looking for new ideas and new trends as inspiration for their upcoming collections.

We are anxiously looking forward to whatever giftware and collectible trends come our way and are ready to tackle new ideas and new products for a new generation of collectors and hope that you will be along for the ride!

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We Love Our Retailers and Collectors!

Logo&LogoAt Department 56, everything we do is for our retailers, collectors and the people who buy our products! Our brand promise states that “Department 56 Collections will be unique and awe-inspiring – above and beyond what’s already out there. Department 56 will create designs that speak to current as well as new customers.”

The retailers, both in the United States and in Canada are as varied as our collectors. Their retail displays show their individuality, and their stores all offer different types of products. They are garden centers, floral shops, Hallmark Shops, and Collectibles stores. Some of our premier retailers, called “Platinum Retailers” stock early released products and exclusive pieces only available to these select dealers. Use our ever-changing Retailer List to find the closest retailer to where you live or shop.

Our collectors use our ever changing website to see new products, look nostalgically at what has been retired and eagerly await the new products that will arrive at our retail stores over the next few months.

Our hope for  this forum is to share stories  — stories of our successful retailers, our collectors who never cease to amaze us, and the inspiration for design of our wonderful products.

As we begin our company blog, we hope that you will join us in celebrating the designs you love and will share your thoughts on how we can continue to design and produce new and better products that will become part of your holiday celebrations as well as everyday life!

 

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