Make your own recycled gnome for the holidays
A perfect decoration, a perfect gift
During a trip to Norway and Sweden to visit relatives, Lynn Hjelmen noticed that all the stores had tomte and nisse in them. The small mythical creatures appealed to her, and she began to research their history and how they appeared in art.
Just as the tomte uses magic and ingenuity to help on the farmstead, Lynn used a little magic and ingenuity of her own to source materials, design, and craft a creature of her own.
“It was important to me to use recycled materials as much as possible,” she says.
Opting to call her creations “gnomes” because the name is more recognizable to English-speakers, she kept them true to their Nordic origins in all other ways.
“My first gnomes were all on skis because that was the best way I could find to balance them and make them stand upright,” laughs Lynn. Though she has since found a technique to make very sturdy gnomes that stand independently, her gnomes on skis are the most popular.
Lynn combed through thrift stores and found Norwegian sweaters and other items needed to complete the gnomes. Her first batch of 60 gnomes were ready to make their first appearance at a craft show in Hudson, Wis., in 2019. They sold out in 90 minutes. Lynn and her husband looked at the empty table, and since they now had the rest of the day open, Lynn hit the Hudson thrift stores and stocked up to make another batch.
The skiing gnome was also a tribute to her skiing family members. While Lynn isn’t too keen about strapping wooden slats to her feet and going out in the snow, the rest of her family does so enthusiastically. Hjelmen’s daughter’s family is very involved in the Loppet Foundation, a public and private partnership that encourages outdoor activity, especially cross-country skiing.
Lynn participates by making skiing gnomes and donating them to the Loppet gift shop, which helps support the foundation. Andrea Bidelman, the foundation’s merchandising manager, says, “Lynn initially brought in 20 gnomes to the gift shop. People would come in, see the gnomes, and they were just gone from the shelf!”
Keeping the gift store stocked with recycled gnomes has become so challenging that Lynn will be teaching a group of Loppet volunteers how to make the gnomes so an entire team of people can keep up with the demand. She regularly teaches Recycled Gnome classes throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, including a recent class at Norway House.
Class participant Synneva Bratland says, “It was a lot of fun and very accessible. Lynn did an excellent job of giving us instructions in small bits we could do and not giving too us much at one time.” Synneva’s lefse chef gnome has a proud perch above her desk. “It was satisfying to make our own little gnomes. I now understand the process and feel that I could make one on my own,” says Synneva.
It was so people could make their own gnomes that Lynn wrote her book, The Recycled Gnome, published last January. The book gives instructions and inspiration to make 20 different gnomes. The book keeps with the recycling ethos.
“You use materials that you probably already have around your house,” says Lynn.
Now, you can have a gnome around your house, which is even better.
To learn more about Lynn’s recycled gnomes, you can find her on Facebook at: Gnomes by Hjelmen or ordering her book, The Recycled Gnome, at amazon.com.
For information about classes at Norway House, visit: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy of Norway House unless otherwise indicated
This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.