Thursday, November 1, 2007

Painting Santa

Vaillancourt Folk Art

I have always wanted to learn how to paint chalkware. I have taken an interest in how these vintage Santas are made by using old chocolate molds. I own a folk art Christmas chess set that my mother gave me years ago. It is my most cherished Christmas treasure and every year I marvel at the detail in the Christmas chess pieces. You can imagine my surprise when I found Vaillancourt Folk Art in the same town where we board our horse. I have wandered through there so many times until one day I discovered the same chess set. Judi Vailancourt designed this and it is in her museum which is part of the workshop.

"Judi's chocolate molds date to the nineteenth century, when a gift of chocolate was a special treasure and every small European village had a chocolate shop. Chocolate was molded in all shapes and sizes — bunnies for Easter and St. Nicholas, snowmen and angels for Christmas. The mold-makers were skilled artisans who sculpted beautiful details into their molds and lovingly passed their craft and their molds down through the generations."

Vailancourt has a Collector's Weekend every year in Sutton, Ma. They open their studios and allow you to paint one of their chalkware Santas made from vintage chocolate molds. I painted this one at their studio during the wonderful event. It was so much fun and I was so pleased to learn how to paint on chalkware.

On the day of the workshop we all sat at the Artisan's art desks and like little gnomes in Santa's workshop painted different designs. Each desk had a lamp, paint, brushes, our piece and written instructions. As I looked around the room I couldn't help but feel that we all looked like we were were working in Santa's workshop. Rows and rows of Santas lined the desktops and we all leaned over our projects and painted with such care.

Vaillancourt Santa design that I painted recently

We had step-by-step instructions which part to paint first and which colors to mix to get the exact match to the model that we had to copy from. The Artisans were at each painting station to guide us through the process. The three side view is of the one I painted. I put it into this little framework to show each side. I learned so much, and enjoyed meeting the people from all over that came to attend the weekend classes and tour. I will cherish this piece forever and mark my calendar for next year.

I have used this new understanding of painting chalkware to design my own Vintage Santas to give as gifts this Christmas. My house is beginning to resemble Santas workshop also, and I am loving it so much.

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