GNOMES aka TOMTE or NISSE by Jim Hecker

   Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Friends

Jim Hecker is a good carving friend from Minnesota who knows about Gnomes, Tomte and Nisse and carves them as one of his carving subjects.  He is giving a photographic and word essay of these delightful little creatures in his own words:

Gnomes originated in early Scandinavia and can be found in all of the Scandinavian countries. Over time they also established themselves in Europe, Russia, and Siberia. In the late nineteenth century many of them immigrated to Canada or the United States, especially the Upper Midwest where it stays a bit cooler.  A gnome would be called a Tomte in Swedish and a Nisse in Norwegian. I like to use the name Tomte in recognition of my Swedish heritage.

The Tomte figure is associated especially with the Christmas season as the bearer of gifts, which may be why some think they are distant relatives of Santa Claus. The Tomte and his colleagues are around all year and they would be a great asset to any farm, home, or business. If treated well, a Tomte can be a good helper and faithful companion for his hosts, potentially bringing them good fortune and protecting them from misfortune. A Tomte is usually friendly, but if mistreated or scoffed at, he can also be mischievous, even a bit nasty. Many people confuse the Tomte and Nisse with trolls, but three biologists who were consulted do not feel they are related.  Woodcarvers Harley Refsal and Joel Hull are my main sources of information about the Tomte and Nisse.

I have drawn ideas for my patterns from two books on Gnomes by Poortvliet and Huygen and I have used the traditional colors from these books. I also found an article in Wikipedia.

  We had a father and son named Torberg in Minnesota who carved gnomes and sold them at the state fair and in gift shops. I bought one of theirs which I used as a model for my first gnome carving. They also used the red cap and blue coat colors, although I have seen other combinations. Judging by the pictures in my books the male gnomes tend to be round bodied, but taper down quickly to rather scrawny legs.

 My gnomes are five to five-and-a-half inches tall so they are not full size, which would be around 15 cm. (about 6″) not including the cap. I bandsaw my blanks from basswood blocks about 2″ x 2 1/4″ x 5 3/4″ and the walking sticks are added later. All of the carving is done with knives and a small “V” gouge is used to texture the hair and beard. They are painted with acrylic paints thinned with water and given a final finish of paste wax.   Whittling Jim Hecker – November 17, 2012.

                                                            Thank You Jim for letting us take a peek into your Gnome Ancestry.



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