Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Dickens Universal’

It’s Snowing in Cambridge, Ohio

dickens-snow

‘Snowing’ the scene is one of the final touches in the warehouse by Cindy and Shana.

Oh the weather outside’s been frightful…frightfully hot that is. But inside Dickens Universal, it’s snowing! The crew at Dickens Victorian Village is busy replacing the layer of snow on 67  scene platforms.

Some think that the scenes are placed on the street in the fall, returned to storage, and then magically appear again the next year. This is not the case, as much hard labor in many areas is necessary to repair the winter damage.

The Creation Team, who make and maintain the mannequins, works all year round so the figures will look excellent when placed on the streets in late October. There’s usually a month off in January to let them dry out from snow and rain. Then the work begins.

Last winter wasn’t a terrible winter, but still freezing and thawing plus the wind caused great damage to heads and clothing alike. “The Travelers” provide a great example of some of the possible problems to be encountered.

lindy-and-tom-replace-a-shirt

Lindy gets help from Tom putting a new shirt on this mannequin..

The lady needed a new skirt this year and it has been discovered that upholstery material is often one of the best choices. Cotton does not hold up well. Donated clothing and material are appreciated and used as often as possible. Making new clothes requires time at home at a sewing machine as well as time in Dickens Universal, where mannequins are stored.

One very time consuming detail happens when each item has to be tacked down, or they would blow away when on the street. For example, a scarf must be stitched meticulously to the jacket. This could take a couple hours to make it secure enough to hold through the strongest wind.

shana-paints-a-face

Touching up the heads seems a never ending job. Just ask volunteer, Shana.

Their heads need some repair each year. Often it is just a touch-up of paint, but sometimes the weather causes the clay used in making the heads to crack, much like our highways. When water gets in that crack, it expands creating bigger problems.Paint cracks and varnish turns yellow, so repairs are necessary if they are to look presentable on the street for the season.

john-and-annie-glenn

Annie and John Glenn take their place on Wheeling Avenue this year. Sharon had to adjust John’s neck to fit just right.

Once in a while the entire side of a face may peel off, causing either cracks to be filled or a new head to be made. Hats in some ways protect the heads, but in others they cause a problem as mildew forms under the hats that tend to hold dampness.

universal-chuck

Making and repairing the frames has received great help this season from Chuck.

Inside each figure is a basic frame of 2 x 4s  and they all set on a raised platform to keep them off the ground and make them more easily seen on Wheeling Avenue. This is going to be the 11th year for Dickens Victorian Village, so some of these must also be replaced.

bob-and-lindy

Even founder, Bob, helps with ‘snowing’ as Lindy passes by with a clean shirt for another figure.

Around the base of each platform, a plastic skirt gives it a finished look. All skirts must be removed each year and thoroughly cleaned. Then snow is placed on the top of the platform in the form of white plastic, which is stapled in place.

sitting-mannequins

For now, those finished Victorian characters sit waiting for the end of October so they can make their annual trip to downtown Cambridge.

You can see that for “The Travelers” to be ready to make their journey in the fall, much time has to be spent for at least nine months of the year. Right now, even though there is no AC in the warehouse and work is frightfully hot, it’s snow time at Dickens Victorian Village.

Let it snow! Let it snow!  Let it snow!

 

 

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Dickens Mannequins on the Move Volunteers Make It Possible

What is a volunteer? Although this isn’t a Webster’s Dictionary definition, Margaret Mead seemed to understand the role of volunteers when she said:

Never doubt that a small group of thankful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

In the small town of Cambridge, Ohio, a group of volunteers may not have changed the world, but definitely have changed the face of Cambridge during the months of November and December. Over 200 volunteers work almost year round to make Dickens Victorian Village a big success.  As the director would say, “It takes a village to run things.”

After the Restoration Team worked at Dickens Universal all summer long to make and repair heads and bodies, fix or replace clothing, and even build whole new scenes, finally the day arrived to move them to Wheeling Avenue for Dickens Victorian Village.  This is no easy task to move 186 mannequins. Some of them were moved on an old trolley that was given to the village, while others were hauled on trailers.

Wonderful volunteers lined up inside Dickens Universal while mannequins were loaded onto the trailers behind their trucks and vans.  Usually this is done on the weekend, but due to Hurricane Sandy this year, it was delayed. So men appeared after work to load their trailers and take them to the appropriate spots in downtown Cambridge. Keeping them in order wasn’t a big problem as they are stored in order at Dickens Universal.  It’s a long warehouse and there’s enough room to make it appear like a walk down Wheeling Avenue – just not as much sidewalk in between!

Once downtown, finishing touches had to be made. Skirts were attached around all the scenes, most containing more than one mannequin. Then everything needed to be securely attached as a caution from further wind storms. Long metal rods were placed beside some mannequins to hold them in place.

But when it is all finished, the volunteers have a sense of pride in their long year of hard work to make downtown Cambridge have a festive air.  Even though the hurricane had made its way north, rain still fell for the entire time of mannequin invasion.  One of the new scenes, The Blacksmith, was getting its first taste of being out in the weather.

Take a walk downtown to enjoy a look at days of old. Each scene has a descriptive plaque telling a little history of that particular scene. For the volunteers, work doesn’t stop here.  During the Dickens Victorian Village season from Nov. 2 – Jan. 5, the restoration team checks on mannequins daily repairing costumes, reattaching loose items, or sometimes even changing costumes completely.  These people really care about appearances and are very particular about each scene. Yet they have lots of fun working together! As Tiny Tim might say: “God bless them every one.”

Dickens Victorian Village is open in downtown Cambridge, Ohio from Nov. 2 to Jan. 5. Cambridge is easily located as it is at the crossroads of I-70 and I-77 in beautiful Southeastern Ohio.  Perhaps you will get a chance to visit this holiday season and feel the Magic of Dickens in the air.

Dickens Universal Begins Refurbishing

The sounds of power tools, sewing machines and vacuums fill the air as volunteers have their first work session at Dickens Universal, the new storage home for Dickens Victorian Village  in Cambridge, Ohio. This was former home to Universal Potteries founded in 1934 where beautiful pieces of dinnerware, tiles and even bricks were created and are collectors items today.  Plans for tours of the facility are underway for both bus groups and area residents. Even a trolley tour is planned for the next Dickens season.

Quite often the question is asked: How do you create this amazing display? No doubt it all begins with the amazing volunteers who help all year long. Many of the mannequins need restored so damage can be repaired from the winds and precipitation of winter months on the street. The figures are torn apart, repaired and reassembled anytime problems are noted. One may have a broken leg needing repaired, while another needs new buttons on their coat. All of this takes time and patience from many volunteers, who take pride in the finished products and the enjoyment it brings many visitors.

Quite an accumulation of clothing is available for use on the mannequins through kind donations from area residents and even from those who have visited during the Dickens season. Thrift shops are frequently visited by the volunteer crew to seek treasures that might be used on the figure displays.  This first night someone brought in a great pair of work boots, which may be used in a blacksmith scene. Another item was a beautiful shawl to wrap around one of the ladies,  plus a blanket, which will be cut into several pieces and hemmed, for use as a throw where the figures are sitting.

 Another area is filled with Dickens figures sitting on table tops awaiting repair to faces that had too much winter weather. This particular face has cracks caused by the wind, rain and snow of last winter and will be repaired and repainted by local artists before the new season begins.

One group removed platform attachments for dresses and  the snow-like covers,  so platforms could be repaired and perhaps mannequins moved from setting to setting.  Some volunteers were vacuuming figures and settings so that people could work on them more easily while another group of ladies were busy cutting and sewing dresses, blankets, and coats. Dickens Universal is without question a busy place!

In the center of Dickens Universal is a long, long room which they call Main Street. Here you see the figures as they will appear on Wheeling Avenue in downtown Cambridge next Dickens season, and in their proper order. This makes it easy when scenes are being switched around so they can see exactly how they are going to appear in the actual downtown setting. With nearly 200 mannequins, this is no easy task.

The Spirit of Cambridge rivals the Spirit of Christmas as many volunteers prepare for another Dickens season.  One lady remarked, “The average person has no idea how much work goes on behind the scenes to make this come to life during the winter months.”

Maybe someday soon you will get a chance to take a peek inside Dickens Universal as they create Christmas from long ago.  Once you see the friendly atmosphere and experience the wonder of the project, maybe you too will want to help make this another successful year for Dickens Victorian Village.  See you soon?

Open by appointment only.  If you have any questions or suggestions please email: info@dickensvictorianvillage.com

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