December 29, 2013

Gnome know-how

A Washington state couple converts part of their property into a workshop for an unusual enterprise: making kitschy outdoor statuettes.

By Rosemary Ponnekanti
McClatchy Newspapers

(Continued from page 1)

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Shawn Christensen in the workshop where he and his wife, Tammy, produce concrete sculptures in Tacoma, Wash.

McClatchy Newspapers

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Tammy and Shawn Christensen make garden gnomes and other outdoor statuary on their property in Tacoma, Wash. A lot of their work consists of fairly standard concrete toads, cats, gargoyles and the like, but some of their gnomes are, well, a bit rude. They might be picking their noses or sticking their tongues out. The naughty gnomes, Shawn Christensen says, are very popular.

McClatchy Newspapers

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“She’s painted 65 Seahawks gnomes since the beginning of November,” says Tammy.

For the Christensens, though, it’s a good thing. After hauling concrete statuary around garden shows, they got offers last year to do a couple of road shows at Costco stores. These, however, take a lot of manpower and stock – so the concept of having their own retail store is tempting.

“We never did it before, because concrete is seasonal; people buy in spring and summer,” Tammy explains. “Or for Christmas gifts.”

But if the mall store works, the couple would like to get out of road shows and into selling directly from their property, which is zoned commercial and has easy, though steep, access. Their landscaping already shows off much of their work – a fountain in front, Asian statuary in the pond, tiny concrete bridges over their natural stream, the porch lions that got Tammy hooked on concrete in the first place – and it would save a lot of heavy lifting, literally, for what is still a family business.

“I’m ready to see how it all goes,” Tammy says of the store.

It would also give the couple time to explore the arty side to the business – sculpting new molds.

“I want to do a lady that’s actually a tree, with a stump for her base and branches for her arms,” says Tammy.

For Shawn, though, it’s cars: “Challengers, Mustangs, Camaros,” he says, with a faraway look in his eyes.

“People seem to like it,” points out Tammy. “It’s different, and a bit cool.”

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