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Heather Joseph-Witham: 2016-17 Faculty Development Grant Report

Reinhard Griebal

Reinhard Griebel, in his workshop at the Philip Griebel gnome factory and museum


In Spring 2017, I received a faculty development grant in support of travel to complete in-progress field research for a book I am in the process of writing. The book, Journey on the Gnome Road, is about gnomes, but not really. It is really about why we behave as we do: why we collect, why we display, what symbols have meaning, and the role that whimsy, kitsch, and belief plays in our lives. I explore these issues through people’s shared cultural behaviors with gnomes in a variety of places.

My fieldwork took me to Europe ... I spent time in Grafenroda at the first garden gnome factory in Germany – although factory is a grand word for the efficient workshop and small museum that exists. The great grandfather of Reinhard Griebel, the current owner, made gnomes there in the same manner that Reinhard does today - by hand, using molds and terra cotta, hand sponging and painting the pieces.

--Heather Joseph-Witham
Associate Professor, Liberal Arts and Sciences

Read Final Report [PDF]