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Vaillancourt display stakes out new space

SUTTON— Vaillancourt Folk Art recently celebrated the grand opening of its new museum.

Judi Vaillancourt, right, displays some historic figurines made from chocolate and ice cream molds to Lexington collectors David LaFauci and Claudia Cassettari at the Vaillancourt Folk Art Museum’s recent grand opening. (MICHELLE SHEPPARD PHOTOS)

Judi Vaillancourt, right, displays some historic figurines made from chocolate and ice cream molds to Lexington collectors David LaFauci and Claudia Cassettari at the Vaillancourt Folk Art Museum’s recent grand opening. (MICHELLE SHEPPARD PHOTOS)

Located within the retail/studio space at the Manchaug Mills at 9 Main St., Suite H-1, the museum chronicles the melding of old and new that created the business noted for its signature folk art holiday chalkware and ornaments.

“Believe it or not, we did start out creating and painting folk art pieces, and that’s why we have this display of hand-painted clock faces as part of this exhibit,” company owner Judi Vaillancourt said in a prepared statement.

Twenty-three years ago, the Vaillancourts were developing a business that was very different from the one they have today. But it is exactly that contrast that makes the rest of what is displayed in the museum interesting, Ms. Vaillancourt said.

Mr. and Mrs. Vaillancourt have taken special care to show their visitors just how multifaceted their particular expertise is. At one end of the museum space are the original antique chocolate molds that Judi’s husband Gary, the company’s president, bought for her one Christmas.

Above, top, a Santa Claus figurine made from a mid-19th-century German chocolate mold; and bottom, Sherrie Morin of South Grafton looks over some ornaments.

Above, top, a Santa Claus figurine made from a mid-19th-century German chocolate mold; and bottom, Sherrie Morin of South Grafton looks over some ornaments.

From there, visitors get glimpses of several types of collecting. The Vaillancourts have become collectors themselves as they evolved their own business into one based on collectors’ demands.

The museum is arranged so visitors start by viewing early antique chocolate molds, backed by the catalog pages that originally advertised them. Another display shows how chalkware was popular during the Victorian era and how peddlers went door-to-door with chalkware pieces that were created to decorate fireplace mantels. Juxtaposition against an early Vaillancourt Folk Art catalog with their product gives the visitor context for the depth and variety to be found in the museum’s displays.

Several display cabinets show the progression of chalkware that developed under the Vaillancourts’ craftsmanship. They also show the story of how chalkware molds used by Vaillancourt Folk Art are “retired,” never to be used again; “inactive” meaning that they might be used again but will not be painted the same; and “NIPTY” — Not In Production This Year.”

Limited edition pieces also tell part of the story that is important to the collectors who look forward to seeing new pieces each year. “Our Starlight Santa is always created as a limited edition,” Judi Vaillancourt said. “And our collectors are very conscious of that. A great deal of thought goes into what we will create to make each year unique, and we’ve already started to work on our 2008 figure.”

Above, top, a Santa Claus figurine made from a mid-19th-century German chocolate mold; and bottom, Sherrie Morin of South Grafton looks over some ornaments.

Above, top, a Santa Claus figurine made from a mid-19th-century German chocolate mold; and bottom, Sherrie Morin of South Grafton looks over some ornaments.

Another highlight exhibit shows how molds and the manufacture of molds themselves have changed over the years. Glass ornaments continue to be created from steel molds, but confectionery molds have moved from heavy metals to polycarbonate (which looks like clear plastic) and other materials.

The Vaillancourts own thousands of molds they can access for their chalkware designs. Today, the company’s catalog includes about 200 chalkware pieces a year.

The variety their business is capable of is showcased in the cabinet labeled “Molds in Motion” that is entirely based on figures with “movement” as their theme. From a rabbit paddling in a kayak to Santas in automobiles, planes and, of course, sleighs, the display captures both the variety of molds the Vaillancourts are able to tap, as well as the artistry that gives a whole new look to an Old World figure.

The gallery, studio and now museum are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. From Thanksgiving until Christmas, the hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 508-476-3601 or visit www.valfa.com.