A festive scene of wonder greets visitors when they walk into Bruce Miller’s workshop because he and his spouse Erine Allen have turned the space into a Christmas-themed porcelain village wonderland.
Nearly 140 porcelain sets fill 10 tables inside the workshop. From mini figurines carolling, sleigh riding and down-hill skiing — even a Grinch for good measure —to churches, town halls, a movie theatre, a train station, a Ferris wheel and a ballroom, the display will surely delight young and old.
There are also Roughrider-themed buildings to tickle football fans’ fancies.
The display is available between now and Dec. 31 — by appointment only — from 1 to 9 p.m., seven days a week. The couple lives at unit D-23 in the Prairie Oasis Trailer Court; to book a viewing, call 306-648-7664.
They will gladly accept a free-will offering and donate all money collected to the Salvation Army.
The initial interest
Miller began collecting small porcelain items about 25 years ago and would usually purchase items during post-Christmas sales. When he and Allen began dating 10 years ago, they began collecting full-size objects — and their assortment grew.
“We’re two kids in a toy store when we go to a garage sale and find something,” he said. “And then you come home, and you start checking them out and you find out, ‘Ooh, gee, that one’s a discontinued antique and it’s worth $175.’ And we pay $8 or $9 for it … .”
The hobby brings out the artistic side in them, Miller continued. They complement each other since Allen develops the ideas and he creates them.
They also do plenty of fixing and gluing, too, he added. Many items have small motors, so he takes them apart, oils them, finds new pieces, and rebuilds them.
Showcasing the villages
The couple initially opened their village in December 2020, but no one saw it because of pandemic restrictions. However, last year was the first time the public could visit and admire their collection.
“It changes all the time,” Miller said, noting they add and subtract objects as new ideas come to them.
They are always looking for new ideas and ways to arrange their village. They browse online Christmas village sites and share thoughts about what works — or doesn’t — with others.
“It’s just a big hobby, is what it is,” Miller said. “And we’re both into hobbies.”
The couple visits in-person garage sales and online marketplaces to find new pieces. About 90 per of their items are used; they purchased two objects this year using money from selling old pieces.
Miller and Allen were somewhat unsure of how many actual porcelain items they have, with Allen estimating between 100 to 140. Meanwhile, Miller believes they have more based on the auxiliary items — bridges, sidewalks, light posts — they have.
They began setting up the Christmas village on Sept. 1 and worked seven days a week so they could open on Dec. 1. They were late last year in promoting the village, so not many people saw it. They were also only open for about two weeks.
However, through word of mouth, the internet, and the media, they attracted people from Ponteix, Assiniboia, Southey, Regina and elsewhere.
An addictive hobby
The addictive hobby is a catch-22-type situation for Allen, who noted that when she lies in bed, she thinks she doesn’t want to do this again. But come the morning, she goes online to marketplaces and is excited by what she sees.
It’s all about imagination and what can be built, she continued. They built a house for a Grinch figurine, a ski hill, mountains, and other structures — because her mind is always going. Then she looks at the “beautiful work” others have done and seeks to replicate it.
One of Allen’s favourite pieces is a ballroom she bought from a former collector in Moose Jaw, while one of Miller’s favourites is a train set from Sears.
The couple added that they are looking forward to meeting new people this year, just as they did last year.