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Blow Mold Christmas Decorations: Plastic Memories Still Glow
The soft glow illuminating from plastic blow mold Christmas decorations reminds many of us of our childhoods. Blow molds are those lighted holiday figures like Santas, snowmen, choir singers and reindeer. Displayed outdoors year after year, they had a tendency to become faded or scratched from the December weather—snow, rain or sun. Because they were made of injection-molded plastic, they looked pretty, well...plastic. But when they were plugged in and lit-up the lawn at night, they were magical....
Midcentury Blow Molds
Smaller Christmas tree decorations made by blow-mold injection have been around since the 1930s, but it was after World War II, when everyone was getting married, having children and moving to tract homes in the suburbs that "frivolous" things like plastic lighted Christmas figures became popular. Along with the large-bulbed C9 and C7-sized holiday light strands, families would decorate their lawns, porches and entries with the illuminated Christmas characters.
Blow molds have never been considered sophisticated. But, like most decorations or toys from another era, these plastic angels and snowmen are nostalgic and have joined the ranks of silver aluminum Christmas trees and color wheels in becoming vintage chic and collectible. Most of the holiday blow mold manufacturers have closed up shop or stopped production. Only a few, like General Foam, have not thrown out the molds and continue to manufacture the plastic decorations.
Some holiday decorators inherit blow molds from their parents or grandparents, while others have sparked their collection by picking up one or two at yard sales or flea markets. A smattering of full-blown enthusiasts boast collections that number in the hundreds.
Pile into the station wagon, crank up the Christmas tunes on the car radio, and enjoy a tour of lawns, porches and homes decorated with beautiful blow molds.Continue to 2 of 15 below.
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Flamingo in the Snow
This is a Chrismingo—a pink plastic flamingo that makes an appearance at Christmas time, often festooned in Santa garb or something perfect for the season—an ugly Christmas sweater, perhaps?
Some of the plastic blow molds were made by Union Products, Inc., of Leominster, Massachusetts. Union Products was a plastics factory in business for 50 years that was famous for giving birth to the iconic plastic pink flamingo lawn ornament, which was designed by Don Featherstone—a legend among movers and... shakers of midcentury kitsch memorabilia. Featherstone, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, was hired by Union in 1956 to create the pink flamingo to grace the residential lawns of suburbia. Union sold its copyright and molds (as in blow molds) to HMC International LLC in 2007.
Other big names in the holiday blow mold world include
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- Beco Products
- Carolina Enterprises
- Empire Plastics
- General Foam Plastics
- Judith Novelty
- NOMA Lites
- Poloron Products
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Displaying the Collection
Each December, blow mold figures decorate the lawn of the Freeman family of North Carolina. Megan Freeman and her husband started collecting illuminated blow mold Christmas figures about 25 years ago and now have more than 200 figures that decorate their lawn, porch, and property during the holidays.
"I got tired of blowing fuses all the time," explains Freeman, "so I made the logical step about 17 years ago of getting my electrician to install a separate service. Of course, all of... this has led to other traditions, such as Santa visiting on December 23rd or 24th. We're also the only yard I know of that lets people get out (of their cars) and walk around the yard."Continue to 4 of 15 below.
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Pick-up PenguinsBlow mold penguins stand watch in the front yard of the Pierson family of Boise, Idaho. Mike Pierson decorated his vintage pick-up truck with light strands to emphasize its classic lines. Inside the cab of the truck are two more blow mold penguins, escaping the cold temps. Not surprisingly, the clever design won first place in the area's holiday yard display contest.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Blow Mold Snowman on Porch
If you find that your blow mold decoration has faded or been scratched up through the years, it is possible to repair it. The Planet Christmas website is a sort of clearinghouse for do-it-yourself holiday decorators, including information on lighting, light and sound shows, and blow mold decorations, among other things. Carrie Sansing, a master at repairing and repainting blow mold decorations, provides detailed instructions for fixing up faded and broken blow molds on Planet Christmas. Among... Sansing's remedies:
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- Stripping paint from a blow mold
- Repainting a blow mold
- How to fix a ding
- How to repair a split or crack
- Stitching and adhesive
- How to replace a missing piece of plastic
- Soldering plastic
06 of 15
Blow Mold Santas
A collection of blow mold Santa Clauses from different manufacturers and years all congregated to light up a suburban yard at night.Continue to 7 of 15 below.
07 of 15
A Flock of Sheep
A flock of illuminated plastic sheep rest patiently in the grass, probably somewhere near a blow mold nativity scene. Back when they were a staple in home and garden centers and seasonal decoration aisles of department stores, blow molds could be found in boxes labeled illuminated choir girl or lighted snowman yard decoration. The term blow mold was coined in the past couple of decades or so, probably for collectors to find on auction sites like eBay.Continue to 8 of 15 below.
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Nativity CloseupPhotographer Marcus Bradbury, aka Lumberg the Loquacious Llama, got a low, closeup shot of this blow mold nativity scene in Bothell, Washington, for a different, slightly strange perspective. Some decorators arrange their blow molds and other holiday decorations according to theme or character type, while others prefer a free-for-all, mixed-crowd party atmosphere.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Blow Molds Glow in the SnowBlow mold holiday figures take on a different appeal when they are lit-up on a lawn with a light covering of snow. This is the yard of the Freeman family in Cary, North Carolina, where they have more than 200 plastic blow mold figures, along with a few more contemporary decorations, like airblown inflatables.Continue to 10 of 15 below.
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Skinny Santa Blow Molds
Twin skinny Santa Claus blow mold decorations stand by a backyard swimming pool in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Some of the skinny Santa blow molds were made by Empire Plastics, which is no longer in business. It's possible that the skinny Santas were designed to resemble tall taper candles, which were also popular illuminated blow mold decorations.
The taller plastic blow molds are more likely to blow over in the wind, so seasoned blow mold decorators often secure them by inserting bricks or rocks... through the light holes in the back of the figure, or filling plastic bags with rocks or sand and inserting them through the hole to weigh them down. This method also discourages theft—as most holiday decorator thieves tend to swoop in and grab decorations quickly; the heavier the object, the less likely it is to get stolen.Continue to 11 of 15 below.
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Santa's Blow Mold Reindeer
Kelly, aka Eartha Kitsch, collects midcentury furniture, accessories, clothing, decor -- you name it. She also writes about her collecting habit and life in Nashville on her website and blog, Ranch Dressing With Eartha Kitsch.
For several years, Eartha scouted for plastic blow mold reindeer before hitting the jackpot one day at a local thrift store.
"I still dream of finding the entire vintage set of eight or nine reindeer and a Santa with a sleigh. Those are hard to come by," she... explains. Most of Eartha's blow molds have been found at estate sales, thrift stores and from her mother, who is also an avid collector of Christmas decorations. Like mother, like daughter.
"You know, I think liking them so much spurs from childhood. Blow molds were still huge when I grew up in the '70s, and there was just something about that magical glow that they put off. And I guess since they were reserved for holidays and only came out at specific times, that made them even more special.
Eartha continues: "And then you had the folks in my neighborhood when I was growing up who'd go completely overboard and fill their entire yards with them—the more the merrier. I still find it delightful when people do this—the people who mix Santa and the reindeer with nativity scenes, carolers and snowmen...things that shouldn't really even go together but for some reason they do go together when they fill the night air with that blow mold glow."Continue to 12 of 15 below.
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Florida Blow Mold Scene
Minor details like lack of snow and stereotypical winter scenes don't keep residents in warm climates from celebrating and decorating for Christmas, just like their snow-bound friends to the north. Vintage holiday collectors Larry and Tony in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, showcase a blow mold nativity set in their front yard, next to a palm. Like many collectors of Christmas blow mold lawn decorations, the two scour thrift stores, estate sales and online auction sites in hopes of finding... something old to add to their growing collection.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Candy Cane Blow Molds
Candy cane blow mold decorations add a soft glow to a highly decorated house in Wilmington, Delaware. While some purists prefer a blow-molds-only style of decorating, others enjoy combining types and eras of decorations—blow molds, the new inflatables, older homemade wood cut-outs. The more, the merrier!Continue to 14 of 15 below.
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Blow Molds Buried in Snow
The blow mold cast of the Freeman family's front yard Christmas display peer out from a massive snowstorm that was part of the North American December 2010 blizzard on December 25-27. A major nor'easter, the snow event brought cities to a halt from Florida to Maine and parts of Canada, and dumped 12 and 32 inches of snow in the areas affected.
As you can tell by the photo, several of the Freemans' blow mold holiday figures became weighed down by the sudden blizzard.Continue to 15 of 15 below.
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Blow Mold ChoirA plastic blow mold choir performs on a front lawn at a residence in Glenview, Illinois, near Chicago. "This is the biggest plastic blow mode christmas lawn display I have ever seen," says photographer Billy Ballhawk. "It's set to music with extensive computers. It is great ."