Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Santa Clauses, Belsnickles and other figurines by Barbara Hanson from Oregon, USA bring the Christmas season to life in a wonderful way. The detailed, hand-painted figurines are based on antique chocolate molds - including molds from our chocolate mold museum in Germany. Barbara Hanson tells us in an interview how her Christmas figurines are created.
Anton Reiche Formen: How did you get started in your craft?
Barbara Hanson: I have always loved Christmas and all things vintage. Chalkware santas were a wonderful blend of both when I discovered them. It began with an article about the work Judy Vaillancourt was doing. Much as I wanted one, I couldn’t afford Vaillancourt, so started searching for chocolate molds to create on my own. Holcraft in California was the source for my first mold. I now have over 200. My first santas were definitely learning pieces. I have kept them as a measuring tool for the growth I have made as a self-taught artist.
I do treasure one Vaillancourt chalkware. A year after I began creating them, my daughter wandered up to me on one of our antiquing trips cradling a santa in her hands. “Is this a good one, Mommy?” A good one, indeed. Dated 1988, a Judy Vaillancourt santa has lived with us ever since.
Anton Reiche Formen: What fascinates you about the antique chocolate molds?
Barbara Hanson: I love the artistry, the distinctiveness of individual artists and the amazing hand work it took to produce them. I love, too the range of emotions expressed by the different artists who produced the molds. As with all antiques, and vintage items, I wonder where they have been, who owned them, where they have traveled and how they were used. The stories fascinate me the most.
Anton Reiche Formen: Do you have a favorite antique chocolate mold maker?
Barbara Hanson: I have a fondness for Laurosch and what’s not to love about many of Anton Reiche’s work? I hope to bring more Walter Berlin molds into my collection, too.
Anton Reiche Formen: Do you have a particular favorite mold?
Barbara Hanson: It’s so hard to choose one! The grim belsnickles are a favorite group. I love the santas in various vehicles. There’s a particular 26 cm Kutzscher I would love to find. My personal favorite may be a Laurosch snowman for the tenderness of his expression.
Anton Reiche Formen: How many painted figures have you made?
Barbara Hanson: Hundreds! Literally. One of my earliest molds has been produced 64 times. Several more have production counts in the 30s and 40s, with a dozen more in the 20s. The newer ones to my collection currently have one, or two.
Anton Reiche Formen: Thank you very much for granting us this interview.