Folk art carvings honor quilting roots

This nativity scene is new for 2010 from Heartwood Creek by Jim Shore. The artist is known worldwide for his collectible sculptures with their traditional quilt themes and vibrant color palettes.

Unmistakable in their style, the folk art figurines of sculptor and painter Jim Shore pay tribute to his roots.

The artist grew up in South Carolina, where his grandmother, a master quilter, taught him the importance of patience and the skill required to bring intricate patterns to life.

Today, he collects quilts, some that date to more than 150 years ago. When Shore looks at the level of skill and creativity in them, he says he is continually amazed.

“This is high art from humble beginnings,” he says.

The traditional quilt patterns provide inspiration for the designs he carves into Santa coats, reindeer blankets, snowman vests, angel skirts and wise men’s vestments.

Shore’s popular Heartwood Creek line of figurines and ornaments, licensed since 2000 through Enesco of Illinois, include many everyday themes and seasonal ones — Halloween figures, patriotic icons and animals.

These decorative accessories — with their easily recognizable quilt patterns of baskets, nine patches, stars and fans — have brought Shore worldwide fame.

They exude an endearing innocence and purity the same as a worn patchwork bedcover recalls old-fashioned values and simpler times.

To Shore, a Santa is more than a Santa. It’s a canvas to be painted.

His creations begin with wood or, more often, polymer clay.

Taking designs from patchwork, applique, rosemaling (Norwegian for rose painting) and flat perspective folk art, Shore mixes elements together.

“I can’t imagine myself ever tiring of this,” he says of the variety.

Paint colors may be based on colonial pieces, antiques, jewel tones and “sometimes unusual combinations that I happen to love at the moment.”

“Put together, it’s a pleasure to look at,” Shore says of his final designs, which are cast in a polyresin mixture resembling wood.

His work is distributed through more than 25,000 stores and brings in more than $200 million annually.

In 2005, Shore entered a partnership with Disney, producing such characters as Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Pinocchio and Cinderella.

They seem to have struck a chord with Disney fans and quilters alike.

Disney Traditions by Jim Shore account for $50 million in sales throughout North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

What’s next for this talented craftsman?

Shore is developing a collection of functional home decor.

Making a living as an artist hasn’t always been easy for Shore, who admits several false starts and some financial setbacks. In addition to hard work and dedication, he knows good fortune has played a role in his success today.

“There are thousands of very talented people out there who never got the chance to show what they can do,” he says.

“I’ve been lucky. I’ve been given a tremendous gift, and I thank God for it every day.”

E-mail Sherida.Warner@


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