As we began to put away our Christmas decorations, I decided that we should photograph part of our collection of Santa Claus figures and related items. All of the items pictured here were created and assembled by Judy Gustafson, a former Vice President of Human Resources that I worked with at Montgomery Ward.
Montgomery Ward was founded by Aaron Montgomery Ward back in 1872. It grew from a dominant catalog sales operation to a multi-faceted retailer with hundreds of stores and sales volume approaching $10 Billion a year. For a variety of reasons, the company failed and closed the last of it's stores in the spring of 2001. Today the Montgomery Ward name survives as a mail order business owned by Colony Brands, Inc. in Monroe, Wisconsin. (aka: Swiss Colony, Inc.)
During the years that I was with Montgomery Ward, the company held an associates art 'fair' in the lobby of the 1.25 million sq. ft. former catalog building in Chicago...just across the street from the corporate tower. This was an opportunity for our associates to display and sell their crafts and artwork.
For a number of years, Judy's Santa Claus & Christmas scenes were one of the highlights of this arts and crafts display. The Executive Vice President of Human Resources and I would always try to buy the most elaborate or elegant of her works to add to our collections. For some reason, he seemed to score a little better than I did. No complaints though...thanks to Judy and the Montgomery Ward Art Fair, we have some very fine Christmas displays to brighten up our home during the Holidays.
From what I remember, this 'little' hobby of Judy's was what she did during the summer to unwind after pressure filled days at work. Given the detail involved, there is no way she could have put these little displays together...and still have been focused on the myriad of ongoing issues at Wards.
Consider the painstaking detail involved with the design and construction of these vignettes. For example, look at this little wagon. The wagon itself is less than 4" long...plus the pull handle. Judy had to conceptualize just how she wanted it to look, decide what she needed and where it should be placed. Try counting the number of items in the wagon...pretty amazing!
This is a close-up of a mid-size vignette or display. The artist had to imagine the design, search out the dozens of items needed to complete the picture in her mind and then painstakingly put the piece together! The detail involved is quite incredible.
We also have a couple of larger displays or vignettes...to include the top photo with Santa and the Bear. Other large displays include Santa in a Sleigh Being Pulled by a Horse and Santa with a St. Bernard. These little artistic gems have provided holiday joy to many over the years and they'll continue to do so far into the future.