History of the Magical Garden Gnome

Gnomes Bring Good Luck To Homes

You Know I Used To Think These Little Guys Were Kind Of Dumb And Stupid

A garden gnome?? WHY, I wondered, would anyone want one of these goofy little guys with the pointy red caps in their garden? I equated them to the likes of Snow White & the Seven Dwarf figurines lined up in one’s front yard.

Garden gnomes bring good luck

But upon researching these creatures of German folklore and looking at more and more photos of them, I must admit … I now want one! Plus there’s nothing wrong with benefiting from the GOOD LUCK they are said to bring to the garden. You know, I can honestly say that I see them with different eyes now. They’re actually kind of cute 🙂

Gnome pronounced “nome”:
1) a legendary creature resembling a tiny old man who lives in the depths of the earth and guards buried treasure;
2) a mythical being of a legendary race endowed with exceptional vision and heightened human sensitivities; their task is to provide assistance to all living things; gnomes symbolize integrity, honesty and hard work.

Some Historical Gnome Facts

From The Early 1800’s On Up To Present Times …

The very first German garden gnome (Gartenzwerg) was made of clay and was produced by potter Philipp Griebel in Graeferoda, Thuringia, Germany in either the early 1800’s OR specifically in September, 1873. I have found continual discrepancy in researching the originating date.

Antique Reproduction Garden Gnomes

There is also published discrepancy as to whether Philipp Griebel SOLELY invented or HELPED to invent the garden gnome. I have not seen evidence pointing to another’s name, though.

Out of Germany: Around 1840 garden gnomes somehow made their way to the English estate of Sir Charles Isham, the 10th Baronet of Lamport Hall. I have been unable to find further background on the how’s and why’s.

It was not until the early 1870’s (the exact date once again is debated) that garden gnomes began to be manufactured in large numbers. The first two individuals to produce gnomes in quantity were Philipp Griebel, and August Heissner, with Heissner Gnomes being the most well known throughout the world. It is recorded that over 300 different characters were produced in these early years by 16 different manufacturers.

Philipp Griebel founded his ceramics factory in 1874.

How a genuine Griebel gnome is made: Here is an interesting bit of gnome-making history. 3rd generation family member Erich Griebel (1923-2005) is photographed as he builds a gnome (I apologize for the very small size of these images, however these are the only size of the originals available that I could dig up): 

Today, 4th generation Reinhard Griebel, the great grandson of the founder of the famous gnome-making firm, operates one remaining workshop and the gnome museum.

Modern Day Garden Gnome Facts

Gnomes Are Still As Popular As Ever

In 1989, after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, cheap imitations began to be produced in Poland and the Czech Republic. Initially they were prevented from entering Germany by a law which allowed customs officers to confiscate the cheap imitations because they infringed upon the manufacturing copyright laws. Confiscation went by the wayside and now the imitations flood the market.

Garden Gnomes Bring Good Luck

These little guys were (and still are) regarded as good luck charms in one’s house and garden. For those folks living in rural areas you’d often find gnomes “living” in the rafters of barns where they’d be keeping a watchful eye on the owner’s animals, crops and garden produce.

The Garden Gnomes of Today

My original distaste for gnomes flares up again when I look at some of the modern off-springs that are being produced today. As an example: they’re holding iPods; are flexing their biceps and have muscular physiques; have movie star’s faces; and oh YUCK … how about a female gnome wearing a bikini … how tacky! Oh – lest I forget this REALLY awful example, how about a plastic 8″ yard gnome “mooning” you? Double YUCK!

Kimmel Garden Gnomes Hornwort & Posie

Give me the REAL thing! Just like the original gnomes. Delightful little innocent creatures. And there’s one very special studio in the United States doing just that. Kimmel Gnomes™ in Sturgis, South Dakota makes the most wonderful reproductions you’ll ever want to see.

Studio owner, Candice Kimmel, casts her garden gnomes from rare 18th and 19th Century antiques and from her original works. I encourage you to visit her site. Please click here to go to: www.Kimmelgnomes.com

There’s probably a garden gnome just waiting to bring good luck to your garden.

E. Griebel Photos courtesy of: www.123people.com

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