Crafting holiday villages and a career
December 24, 2013
From Chinese lanterns to hand-painted wrapping paper, paper is dressing up our festivities in new and unexpected ways. And now, resident Dawn Simmons is bringing one more decoration into the mix – holiday villages.
Simmons' cottages are made from quality card stock and are custom designed to complement any décor. They can even accommodate battery-operated tea lights to give a magical flickering effect, but the most functional aspect is the way they can be stored — all the buildings fold completely flat.
"I love the idea of a Christmas village, but where am I going to store it?" said Simmons, founder of Dimensional Paperworks and creator of the paper villages.
Simmons has always been smitten with paper — "the feel, the texture, all the designs you can make with it," she explains — but the village idea was sparked when she was researching the development of a children's toy project with a friend, who told her she should explore holiday décor that stores well.
She then tapped the expertise of local author and friend, Tor Lokvig, an author and illustrator of children's books, who happens to specialize in pop-up books. Known more specifically as a paper engineer, Lokvig helped design the three-dimensional pop-up houses with Simmons. The design folds down into itself, with no base or binding, like those found in cards and books; the duo is looking into patents.
The entire line took just one year to go from conception to hitting the shelves. Simmons notes that this season is primarily an initial test market run that is available only at local stores (My Favorite Things, Prospector Nursery, Heart and Home and Ben Franklin Crafts), as well as through Etsy.
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While she has plans to eventually offer more pieces, the initial line consists of a church, a colonial and cottage buildings. The village is reminiscent of the Pennsylvania Dutch cardboard villages popular from the 1920s through the 1960s, often referred to as putz houses. They are available in multiple colors with different embellishments and range in price from $7.95 to $12.95.
"They're really being well received," Tina Haller, owner of My Favorite Things in Nevada City, said. "I love it when people react to them before they even realize it folds up."
Simmons emphasizes that the true advantage, for both retailers and consumers, is the ability to store them in the off–season.
"Retailers don't need to give up a lot of shelf space to sell these items and consumers don't have to worry about more bulky boxes or fragile pieces," she said.
Another upside is Simmons' intention to keep everything made or sourced in America. While actual assembling takes place in Mexico, the pieces are manufactured in San Diego.
With positive feedback locally and from Etsy reviews, Simmons is crafting plans to significantly expand the products to include trees, sleighs, additional buildings and possibly trains. In fact, there are 35 items in a potential product line, including haunted houses for Halloween.
Originally from Colorado, Simmons moved to Nevada County from Southern California six years ago.
"I've been a real estate investor, corporate speaker for 18 years and commercial actor and singer. I'm sad to let it go, but it was time to move on, to (be) an entrepreneur or inventor, I hope," she added.
For more information about Simmons' Dimensional Paperworks and holiday villages, go to http://www.dimensionalpaperworks.com.
Freelance writer Katrina Paz lives in Grass Valley.