How to Create a Halloween Village: Chapter 10
Getting to know the techniques of villagemaking is one thing, but finding the materials is another. On this page you will find retailers of village pieces, as well as sources for craft tools and supplies. If you have a resource to add, please let me know.
Frequently Axed Questions
What should I display?
If you are just getting started with village collecting, two or three buildings are enough for a small vignette. As your collection expands (and the attic fills with buildings and accessories) the goal then shifts to deciding which buildings to use this year. You can choose by theme, coloring, or even sub-collections within the Halloween series. Rotating through your collection, makes each display unique.
Where should I place my display?
Consider gremlin traffic and choose a relatively quiet place for a display. Remember that central air/heat and windows can blow around carefully placed moss and fall leaves. Also, it's helpful to have an immediate "staging area" (like a garage or guest room) where you can unpack and repair buildings as necessary, away from the curious, chocolate-y fingers of little ones.
On what should I set up my display?
Choose a solid surface for your village, whether a sturdy table, bookshelf, or more elaborate wood frame. If you have the skills and a Skilsaw, making your own stand opens up infinite possibilities. My space limitations challenge me to build displays with minimal footprints. Adjustable metal shelving (like the ones in the pantry or garage) are a good, sturdy choice.
How much time and resources will I need to invest?
As with every hobby, there is a significant investment in villagemaking. The village pieces – especially the ones from Department 56 – are expensive, fragile, and often difficult to obtain (many have limited production runs and are promptly retired). When you add the costs of craft materials, paints, specialty tools, it can become rather expensive. Being a savvy crafter will help you keep costs low, and you can reuse elements from year-to-year. One thing is certain. Once you start buying pieces, your collection will grow larger every year and storage may become an issue. I highly recommend that you plan for this in advance. Just ask any established collector.
Is this a good hobby for kids?
Given the delicate nature of the porcelain buildings, the kind of crafting involved, and the meticulous nature of villagemaking, I believe this would be best for the young at heart rather than the young. Adults can benefit from creative hobbies and personal time, which is exactly what this past time provides. And kids can certainly enjoy the end result!
What if I'm not good at crafting or art?
Everyone has some creativity but you may have to coax it out. You can't get it wrong because there is no right way. You can display buildings without creating any bases, painting or complicated wiring. Stack a bunch of books, cover with a tablecloth and set out your village. Super simple. Add a few Halloween props and you have a great vignette.
Where do I buy village pieces?
New Halloween village pieces are available in late Spring/early Summer. I would recommend pre-ordering online as soon as they are listed on vendor's websites (usually in February or March). Pieces sell out quickly, and there is typically only one production run per year. Also, the closer to the season (September), the slower the turnaround on orders.
Lemax offers exclusives to Michael's and other hobby stores, while Deparment 56 products are available through specialty retailers, eBay or at department56.com. Some stores carry limited stock, so you may have to track down specific pieces, and be aware that prices can vary greatly.
Ordering online is an easy option to obtain current pieces (and often at discounted prices), but you will likely be ordering sight unseen. Photos on websites and catalogs rarely indicate scale, so buildings might be much bigger or smaller than expected, or a different color. The shipping of these pieces can also result in breakage so deal with a reputable vendor who offers insurance. Auction sites may be a great place to find retired pieces.
What are "Introductions" and "Retirements"?
Department 56 offers a wide selection of villages (not just Halloween) and keeping all those buildings in stock every year would be impossible, so pieces are retired every year to make room for new designs. Some gift sets are introduced as "Limited" to a certain production year – once they are sold out, they are gone forever.
Every December, a list of retired pieces is sent out to vendors and typically remaining stock is discounted and sold at clearance prices (watch for sales early in the year). Then in January or February, new products are announced. This is a massive list of new buildings and accessories with pictures and details listed on the site. While they may be available to pre-order, they typically don't ship until early Summer. Later in the spring (around May), a Mid-year Introduction is announced. This is typically a much smaller list and pieces don't ship until mid-Autumn.
Where can I find retired Dept. 56 pieces?
If a piece was retired recently, you can probably still find it through the same online shops. eBay is where I go to find older retired pieces. Just set up alerts to notify you of listings. Keep in mind that very popular retired pieces may increase in price especially if they are "NIB" (new in box). I don't work with any specific vendors so I cannot help you track down pieces.
What is better: Lemax or Department 56?
This is a question of budget and aesthetics but both have their pro's and con's. I prefer Department 56 because of their attention to detail and sophisticated designs. That said I have quite a few Lemax pieces on my collection.