At Gnomeshomes we see all sorts of gnome characters. To be clear we do not prefer one above the other as we are well aware that a ‘right fit’ gnome is very personal to their owners!
We’d like to share a bit more about how high-quality ceramic gnomes are made, in particular those that are grounded in a rich history and come from original designs and moulds.
A giant among gnomes – Philipp Griebel
The village of Gräfenroda in the German state of Thuringia, claims to be the birth place of the garden gnome. A young but Phillip Griebel was apprenticed to Heinrich Dornheim, a ceramic maker in the village. He went on to found his own factory in 1874 making in common with other local ceramic producers a variety of terracotta figures. Soon after this, Griebel began to produce the gnome figures.
Griebel’s gnomes like those made by other manufacturers at the time, were in the image of miners who had once worked in the region. He created them with their red hats designed to protect their neck and shoulders from loose stones, their working clothes, their lantern and wheel barrow or basket. At its peak the factory produced around 300 different gnome characters in different sizes. Philipp Griebel’s company continued to prosper under his son Wendelin and his son Willi and through today under Reinhard.
How gnomes are made
Willi Griebel’s son Reinhard is still using the original patters and moulds, resumed production of the traditional high-quality ceramic garden gnomes, which are generally recognised as the ‘Gräfenroda gnome’. Today the company is the only ceramic manufacturer remaining in Gräfenroda where signs proudly declare the town to be Geburtsort der Gartenzwerge – ‘birthplace of the garden gnome’. Adjacent to the factory is a small museum which exhibits old and new gnomes.
Helped by his wife Iris, Reinhard fashions the little figures by hand and gives them all names such as Baldwin, Anton, Max, Heinz and many others.
Using local Thuribgian clay which he mixes with his own ingredients, Reinhard creates a slurry which is poured into a plaster mould made form the original patterns handed from father to son. surplus clay is poured back our and the remainder allowed to set before the mould is taken apart.
The new gnome is taken out of the moulds and left to dry and if in parts assembled. It is rubbed down and polished to remove seams and blemishes before being placed in the kiln and baked at temperature of 1080 degrees centigrade.
When the gnome has cooled, it is ready for painting – first the gnome’s face and beard are painted, giving it its unique character, then the clothing and last but not least, the red hat. Finally, the gnome is varnished. A perfectly crafted garden gnome is now ready to be packed and send it its travels to take up residence and pride of place in a new home.
The Gnome LadyReferences:
Gnomeland an introduction to the little people, Margaret Egleton, 2007