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Woodbury couple sets the holiday scene

Woodbury resident Bill Weir has put in more than 1,000 hours designing and creating items for his wife Diane Graham’s Dickens Village display. (Staff photos by Amber Kispert-Smith)1 / 2
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It was 13 years ago that Woodbury resident Diane Graham received her first Dickens Village building.

“I was fascinated by these houses,” she said of the collectibles. “The detail, the artistry.

“I have a bachelor’s in English so the buildings kind of just resonated with me because you can recognize the pieces from literature.”

Over the years, Graham’s collection grew from just a few buildings to 42 buildings in all.

“There are so many choices,” she said. “You just can’t have every piece that’s out there.”

Although Graham said she was perfectly happy to adorn her Dickens Village with white cloth to represent snow, her husband Bill Weir believed the miniature scene needed something more.

“It looked halfway decent, but I said we could do better,” he said, “so that’s what I did.

“These houses needed a little landscaping so I decided to make it.”

Weir, a retired landscape architect, has spent more than 1,000 hours over the past eight years creating and designing the landscape for Graham’s Dickens Village houses.

“Bill loves a project,” Graham said. “He loves to have something to work on.”

Like most winter villages, Graham’s Dickens Village originally spent most of the year packed away in boxes only to see the light of day during the holiday season.

But now, the village is divided between their permanent display in their lower level and their seasonal village which greets you as you enter their home.

“I don’t want to see these houses sitting in boxes,” Weir said.

Creating and designing

When Weir first started looking at landscaping options for the Dickens Village, he browsed through hobby shops and the items that came with the Dickens Village.

However, Weir was looking for pieces that were more realistic and unique.

“There’s a lot of that commercial Dickens Village stuff,” he said, “but I wanted to try something a little different.”

With a little help from hobby books and a lot of imagination, Weir has added a little life to the Dickens Village.

Some of Weir’s additions over the years have included: brick and cobble stone streets made out of vinyl floor tiles; water made out of blue paint covered with epoxy; a waterfall made of landscaping rock; potted plants and trees made out of dried plants and fake grass; steps and walls made from wall tile, sandstone slabs and river walks; and various stepping stones and stairs made from Styrofoam and wood.

“You’ve got to have a little bit of an imagination,” he said. “You have to make it look real. It took a lot of time just to research everything, but it was not a chore.”

Even though Weir designed and made most of the items himself, he did buy a few things from hobby stores and from the Dickens Village collection.

In addition to creating the landscaping, Weir also worked tirelessly to arrange the buildings within the Dickens Village.

“It’s not that different really than a city planner putting together a subdivision I guess,” he said.

“I just think Bill has a knack for it,” Graham said.

Graham and Weir’s Dickens Village is all but complete, with the exception of a few additions here and there.

“My collection was mostly complete before I even met Bill,” Graham said. “As fate would have it, my husband likes to do this sort of thing.”

“With a little imagination you are able to create anything,” Weir said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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