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“Chalk One Up for Christmas” Chalkware Santas

Planks of Interest Along Road #236

In the 19th Century, Christmas decorations became more affordable to the common household with the advent of chalkware figurines. Unlike extravagantly priced porcelain and glass ornaments, chalkware was an inexpensive alternative to deck the house with various holiday motifs.

As the iconic St. Nicolas gained popularity, demand for various sizes and images grew an entire production industry. Artisans either sculpted or cast gypsum into molds of different Santa, angel, or nativity figures. The unfired, dry plasters were then hand painted with water based pigments and top coated with beeswax or varnish. This process could spur a business start-up for a small overhead since the need for a kiln or oven was unnecessary. Since the gypsum composition was neither fired nor glazed, the chalkware pieces chipped easily and faded over time; hence, surviving pieces are often chipped or appear dingy and worn. Cleaning chalk ware is a dusting only procedure as the immersion of the piece in water renders a mass of chalky goo. The chalkware Santa is still produced today commemorating past Victorian Christmas traditions and holiday décor.

Suzanne Skwarski
Plank Road #236