10 December 2008

The Making of a Village

Over 20 years ago, my mom and dad bought me a few pieces of the Department 56 Dickens Village. I set them up in our first home. Today, I have more than 30 buildings, a forest of trees, and lots of people. I set up my village every year around Thanksgiving time and leave it up until March.

This year, I haven't felt like facing the task, since my mom selected most of the pieces for me over the years and this is our first holiday season without her. I thought maybe I'd put out a few houses at most, but when I asked Daughter about it, she told me she'd miss it if we didn't have it all set up. And the truth is, I'd miss it, too, so I mustered up some courage and started in on the task.

For a change, I thought I'd take pictures to document the process of setting it all up. It takes several hours, as you can probably tell!

The first step is to carry all the boxes upstairs from the basement. This is no small task! It took seven trips to the basement, with Lily following along behind. :-)

I'm lucky to have the perfect spot for my village in this house. On either side of our fireplace, we have cabinets with a large surface area. A few years ago, we drilled a small hole in the back for electrical cords.

As an alternative to using the fireplace cabinets, one year I put the village on the dining room table. I loved the way it looked, because I had room for the entire collection together. I built the village in a tiered fashion with the high point in the center. There was even room for a small pond made from a mirror. Unfortunately, there was no good way to handle the cords, and I had to remove Tinsel several times from the downtown area. :-)

Because I have so many houses, I have to make a two- (or three-) tiered village. I use some empty boxes to set up the top tier.

My village includes several pieces mentioned in A Christmas Carol, so I like to put those buildings together. Since I have two areas for my village, I typically set up a "business district" on one side of the fireplace and "the other side of the tracks" on the other side (pictured here).

Once I have selected the buildings, I set them in place. The worst part of the whole process is attaching the cords to the backs of each building. I use a power strip hidden behind the boxes. All the cords land there but will eventually be covered by snow!

At this point, the City Inspector stopped in to make sure everything was in order. Let's hope that was her last visit! YIKES!

Shortly after that, someone else from the City Inspector's office stopped by for a visit! Holy cow...I've never been subject to such close scrutiny in years past!

(I have found that once the snow is in place, the inspectors do not return to the village. They're only interested in the set-up process!)

Once the lights are installed, it's time to add snow. I use a thin quilt batting which drapes easily over the boxes and covers all the cords. I turn on the lights and replace any bulbs.

Finally, I add trees and people. I have quite a forest of trees because (Daughter reminded me that I tell this story every year) one year I forgot about my second tub of trees and bought a LOT more. After I had everything set up, I found the missing trees. But it's okay...one can never have too many pine trees.

I love to create little scenes within the village. This man is selling nutcrackers. He was given to me during the the years Daughter was dancing in the Nutcracker Ballet.

And here is the completed village (well, half of it -- I'm still working on the other half). This year, I'm adding a third area in the dining room for the buildings that have moving parts on the inside. They require a different type of cord arrangement so I'm setting them up separately for a change.

Although it was very hard to bring myself to set up my village this year, I'm glad I'm working on it. My mom always loved seeing it, and I know she'd be happy that we're enjoying it again this holiday season.


Connie said...

Absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

Lida said...

How beautiful and funny, love the village!

Fonda said...

Love your village. I'm glad you shared it with us. Looks like you had good company during construction! And I'm quite sure it was in more ways than one.

Darcey said...

Your village is beautiful. Please post more photos when you are finished.

Janet said...

Thank you, guys! I will post more pics when I finish this little project! :-)

Anonymous said...

This was awesome... loved the city inspectors... we put up a
Studio 56 Halloween village. We add pieces every year, we are starting to run out of room. For our set up we bought a piece of wood as wide and long as our couch and set the wood ontop of the wooden arms of the couch.. then we drap it with cloth..it looks like a buffet table when its all done that no one would ever know it was a couch.... I am glad to know I am not the only one with a village...

Quilt Cover Sets said...

Love those warm, beautiful little villages :)

Makes the holiday lovely!

Sharon said...

Just lovely. I'm glad that you set it up this year to enjoy. It will bring warm memories of your mom as you look at it. It's great that you documented the process. I see a BC layout here. Thanks for sharing, Janet. You have made my holiday a bit brighter.

Linda said...

The city inspectors cracked me up. I'm glad you passed inspection. :)

Cheri said...

It looks tremendous! You have more decorating stamina than I, that's for sure;)

toners said...

What a fun tradtion! Absolutely gorgeous :)