In a recent conversation with Department 56 Creative Director, Rick Jackson, about the architecture of our buildings, he shared that each of our Villages presents separate architectural challenges, but the details on Christmas in the City pieces are the most intriguing. “We have to fit multiple details into a tall narrow footprint, it can be quite a challenge. We are also bound by the time period that this Village is set, the 1930s and ‘40s.” When the Creative team decided to design the building featured in the 1942 Edward Hopper painting, “Nighthawks”, artist Tom Bates had the challenge of “creating” the majority of the building because the painting focused on the curved glass window on the ground floor with the diner patrons seated at the counter. Tom used other photography of buildings from the era to recreate what he thought the rest of the building would look like.
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The Department 56 “Nighthawks” piece along with the coordinating accessory (which depicts the artist, Edward Hopper and his wife who modeled for many females in his paintings) is the perfect piece to present to the collector of Christmas In The City, or for anyone who has an appreciation for architecture in art.
We share a few fascinating facts about this iconic painting that you might not know:
The size: The painting is large measuring 2.75 ft. tall and 5 ft. across covering the Chicago Art Institute gallery wall and making quite a statement.
Like most of Hopper’s works, there are detailed notes compiled by his wife, Josephine. In fact, Josephine appears frequently in Hopper’s paintings. In this one, she is the red head seated at the counter. Hopper himself posed in a mirror for the two male diners.
In a letter to the artist’s sister, Josephine talked about the painting and suggested the title “Night Hawks” which was later changed to “Nighthawks”. Night hawk, in Jo’s meticulous notes, the physical description of all the characters referred to the beak shaped nose on the man at the bar.
The stark simplicity of the details emphasizes the loneliness of the all-night diner and the isolation found in many large urban areas.
The scene for the painting is often thought to be based on a real diner somewhere in Hopper’s Greenwich Village (New York) neighborhood, but was inspired by several locations that were a composite in the final work, much like the designs done by the Department 56 design team.
The interior of “Nighthawks” is one of the most parodied scenes in art history — it has been done using the Simpsons, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and Star Wars characters seated in the diner, to name a few.
Each spring we ask our Village artists to share some thoughts about the designs they create. We recently spoke to Barbara Lund who has been designing the Dickens’ Village, New England Village and the North Pole Series for the last 27 years. We thought that we should share her thoughts with you.
“I believe I am coming up on my 27th year of designing Villages. That would be enough time to put a child through grad school. I suppose, in a way, I have graduated myself, from being an apprentice to my father, Neilan Lund, for so many years, into feeling completely versed in creating these buildings. In these years we have seen a great escalation in the ability of our factories to implement more challenging designs and offer greater interest to the public.”
We asked our artists, “If you could design any historical building (with no restrictions whatsoever) what would it be — and why would you choose it?”
Barbara: “I think we are all drawn to names we recognize and there are many businesses alive today that had their beginnings in the last centuries. Many goods carry the names of the families that began the company. Of course, when you want to use a licensed name, that can create some challenges so Department 56 has always played that card very carefully. But speaking of “playing,” I believe another thing we all love is music. Not long ago I researched how pianos are made as there is vast information available to us about this art — and it is an art. A friend had told me that if she could afford any piano in the world she would buy a Bosendorfer made before 1970 so I learned as much as I could about what informed her decision and it was fascinating. There are many carrying proud names today. There are also many beautiful makers who lost their race with time or technology but pianos are a thing that have touched us all.
Our collectors always want to know what your favorite new pieces for 2016 are. What can you share?
Barbara: Last summer I was putting the final touches on the third version of Little Town of Bethlehem that will be released by Department 56 as part of the company’s 40th anniversary later this year. My father drew the first after he and my mother visited the Holy Land which they deeply loved. They traveled in a less troubled time and were able to really absorb the environment and people and antiquities. I remember my mother writing a long letter about a Palestinian many they had met. She believed he was one of the most beautiful souls she had ever met traveling. Our third version of Bethlehem goes back to some of my father’s earlier inspiration and away from the more ornate offerings sold by other companies. We hope it can be a cornerstone for new families who have not yet found a nativity.
We all know that working for Department 56 allows you to combine your talents with a working profession. If you weren’t doing this what other career might you pursue?
Barbara: I have drawn Department 56 for so many years I almost can’t imagine another profession through travel holds great appeal. The world has certainly become more connected since I began this work but I continue to believe that we can’t really understand other cultures and places until we visit them. I have been lucky to visit many wonderful places but there are so many more I’d like to understand. I think the more exposure I have to real places, the better I will become at translating what I have seen and felt into little porcelain pieces.
Our Snowbabies have taken to the glamping craze in a big way, with their retro styled trailer decked out with colorful pennants and a soak in the hot tub! Glamping seems to be all the rage! It incorporates a style of camping with glamour and luxury, and to me that’s the best of both worlds. And by definition – glamping appeals to many who would not have any interest in the great outdoors, nature, or traveling. To start, this style of camping does not necessarily mean going to the woods, pitching a tent and rolling out a sleeping bag. Some destinations can provide the teepee, airstream trailer or yurt with all the amenities of home, and then some. Glamping can occur in the forest of South America, on a hilltop in Sweden or on the edge of a lake overlooking a magnificent waterfall. It is also a very popular way to honeymoon.
Glamping food does not always mean roasting marshmallows or hot dogs over an open fire, although that is one of my favorite things to do when we camp. Some glamping destinations like at the elephant camp in South Africa includes gourmet meals prepared by a local chef complete with wine and other bubbly refreshments. Yum!
There is also winter camping in an igloo in Switzerland where the cost per night includes wood burning stoves, soft carpets and large beds with luxury linens. What a perfect way to spend the night after a day of skiing on the Alps. Or how about a cozy glamped-up cabin near a favorite fishing spot high in the mountains?
What would you add to our Snowbabies glamping collection to make their trip perfect?
For more information, visit a really interesting blog at Glamping.com.
The American Icon of the Open Road: Harley-Davidson.
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.
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.