Santa’s Not the Only One Hard at Work Before Christmas


By Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Vaillancourt Folk Art in Sutton celebrates Christmas year round but, come December, the magic of the holiday season overflows. Celebrating its 25th year, Vaillancourt produces handmade holiday collectibles from start to finish in its enormous headquarters.

Judi and Gary Vaillancourt and their son, Luke, have created a welcoming setting that accommodates the serious
buyer, the curious shopper and those who just want to experience something enchanting.

Ms. Vaillancourt is the creative force, designing more than 25 new Santas each year. She got her start years ago, working with three chocolate molds her husband had given her. Fascinated by the molds’ intricate detail and folklore, she experimented with different fi llings and painted them.

She eventually settled on a chalkware base and oil paint for decorating and began selling her pieces at small craft fairs. This grew into a national business, with Ms. Vaillancourt landing contracts with Colonial Williamsburg and the Starlight Foundation.

The family now has one of the country’s largest collections of antique chocolate, candy and ice-cream molds, constantly adding to the assortment to produce new designs. There are 19th- and 20th-century molds in the shapes of Santas, Christmas trees, Easter bunnies and Halloween figures.

Each has its own history. Mr. Vaillancourt points to one icecream mold that was used to make spectacular desserts that graced banquet tables in Newport a century ago. A visit to Vaillancourt Folk Art is especially captivating for anyone interested in the step-by-step process it takes to create the beautiful Santas for which the company is famous. The Vaillancourts refer to the facility as a Christmas museum/gallery/studio.

Once poured, the figures are cured in a high-heat room for three days to three weeks. Extra-large pieces might require months of curing. Near the studio, rows of pure-white, dried chalkware figures wait on shelves to be painted to exact specifications by one of the long-time artists. During a tour of the facility, you can watch the meticulous work that goes into painting each figure.

“We produce smaller quantity, but greater quality,” said Mr. Vaillancourt, noting that many of the Christmas collectibles sold today are massproduced overseas. Ms. Vaillancourt lists the details on cards for the figures to be painted with exact colors and fine points, ensuring that each Santa, though one-of-a-kind, is nearly identical to the others with the same design. “We use oil paint because it is a medium that lasts forever,” Mr. Vaillancourt said. “Our faces are what we are most proud of.”
By Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Vaillancourt Folk Art in Sutton celebrates Christmas year round but, come December, the magic of the holiday season overflows. Celebrating its 25th year, Vaillancourt produces handmade holiday collectibles from start to finish in its enormous headquarters.

Judi and Gary Vaillancourt and their son, Luke, have created a welcoming setting that accommodates the serious
buyer, the curious shopper and those who just want to experience something enchanting.

Ms. Vaillancourt is the creative force, designing more than 25 new Santas each year. She got her start years ago, working with three chocolate molds her husband had given her. Fascinated by the molds’ intricate detail and folklore, she experimented with different fi llings and painted them.

She eventually settled on a chalkware base and oil paint for decorating and began selling her pieces at small craft fairs. This grew into a national business, with Ms. Vaillancourt landing contracts with Colonial Williamsburg and the Starlight Foundation.

The family now has one of the country’s largest collections of antique chocolate, candy and ice-cream molds, constantly adding to the assortment to produce new designs. There are 19th- and 20th-century molds in the shapes of Santas, Christmas trees, Easter bunnies and Halloween figures.

Each has its own history. Mr. Vaillancourt points to one icecream mold that was used to make spectacular desserts that graced banquet tables in Newport a century ago. A visit to Vaillancourt Folk Art is especially captivating for anyone interested in the step-by-step process it takes to create the beautiful Santas for which the company is famous. The Vaillancourts refer to the facility as a Christmas museum/gallery/studio.

Once poured, the figures are cured in a high-heat room for three days to three weeks. Extra-large pieces might require months of curing. Near the studio, rows of pure-white, dried chalkware figures wait on shelves to be painted to exact specifications by one of the long-time artists. During a tour of the facility, you can watch the meticulous work that goes into painting each figure.

“We produce smaller quantity, but greater quality,” said Mr. Vaillancourt, noting that many of the Christmas collectibles sold today are massproduced overseas. Ms. Vaillancourt lists the details on cards for the figures to be painted with exact colors and fine points, ensuring that each Santa, though one-of-a-kind, is nearly identical to the others with the same design. “We use oil paint because it is a medium that lasts forever,” Mr. Vaillancourt said. “Our faces are what we are most proud of.”