Calgary woman spreads joy — one gnome at a time

Janis Doherty had no particular interest in gnomes, and no background in sculpting. But as the artisan behind Gnome and Garden says, “When the time is right, it works — and it did.”

After recovering from breast cancer and then living through a year of the pandemic, Doherty didn’t know what to do with her life. Repeated musings and questions to her husband, a man who loves gnomes, eventually had him make the suggestion: “Why don’t you just make gnomes?”

“I had also spent five years working on myself and intuition and all that stuff and kind of connecting with who I really was,” said Doherty. “There was a creative side of me that had just diminished and I thought, ‘Let’s give it a try.'”

So last May, she bought some clay and concrete, and started playing around. She sold her first set of gnomes on June 14, and, inspired by the simple smiles and enjoyment people seemed to get from them, made more.

Lots more.

Doherty now sells her gnomes in 10 locations, including three garden centres, in Airdrie, Okotoks and Calgary, and since last June has sold 894.

The smallest, at less than four centimetres, is named Gnugget. The tallest stands nearly 18 centimetres. There’s also Gnorbert, Gnigel (the “disgruntled teenager” of the bunch) and Gnester, who has a bird’s nest perched on his head.

Even the ones that don’t turn out perfectly — the “mis-gnomers,” as Doherty calls them — don’t go to waste. Her friends take them for children and grandchildren to paint.

Through it all, it’s been more than a business for her.

“When I’m in my zone and everything’s going right … I am so peaceful, so happy, and people have noticed a difference,” she said. “I think it’s because I’m tapping into this creative side of me that was asleep, it was gone.”

With files from The Homestretch

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