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The houses that Val built
Maybe the gnomes of Whimsical Woods helped Val Jackson receive some recent notoriety after years of knocking on wood. Val, a hobbyist woodworker by night and electronics consultant by day, has seen a spike in sales since Costco’s publication The Costco Connection ran an article about his business, which specializes in garden gnome homes, birdhouses and bird feeders.
Since last month’s issue appeared, he’s seen more than 100 orders come in for his found art and recycled wood products.
He and his wife, Nancy, have been selling variations of these products since 2008 with the Sequim Open Aire Market (see box about special April event) and online.
The Costco Connection story provides an overview of his business and features a picture of three large gnome homes, each weighing more than 150 pounds, that he installed in Discovery Bay.
Val wrote to Costco and received positive feedback from the bulk-commodity chain in January. Outreach to publications was part of his and Nancy’s plan to expand their business’ name. They also have added new shows in Olympia and Puyallup to their schedule this summer along with the Sequim market.
“Making gnome homes took off unexpectedly,” Val said.
He and Nancy started the business building birdhouses. They explored the idea of gnome homes after seeing Travelocity’s ads using a lawn gnome that travels the world.
“As a marketer, you see that ad and wonder how you can do something with it,” Val said.
“Their popularity began to take off,” Nancy said. “They keep popping up everywhere. People love them.”
Materials for Whimsical Woods are found mostly in the Jackson’s 14-acre backyard in Agnew. Val looks for dead logs and trees almost daily and never cuts down living trees.
“After bad weather is a good time to look,” Val said. “It’s really a collection of burn pile remnants.”
He then strips the bark off logs and wood before cutting holes and making roofs and placing specific pieces of wood and moss.
The Jacksons said when some of their friends go on vacation they sometimes bring back bags of moss from the areas they visited.
Last year, Val expanded his line to include gnome doors, windows and suet feeders.
While flipping through a magazine he saw plastic doors and windows for sale.
“No good gnome is going to live behind a door made of plastic from China,” Val said.
Gnome homes start at $65, birdhouses $35, gnome windows $10 and gnome doors $20.
The Jacksons continue to participate in the Open Aire Market, which opens May 5 on Cedar Street.
“It’s the gateway to the personality of Sequim,” said Val, president of the market’s board. “The market plays a big part in Sequim’s success.”
Val said it’s helped launch quite a few businesses, such as Jose’s Famous Salsa, Crumb Grabber’s Bakery and Rainshadow Coffee Roasting Company.
“Sequim is ripe with entrepreneurs,” Val said.
Nancy said they’ve done well at the market because they’re there every week from May through October.
“People come back because they know where to find us,” she said.
Val said they plan to continue being a part of the market and local festivals, making and selling the houses because it’s what they like to do.
For more on Whimsical Woods, visit www.whimsicalwoods.net or call 452-7308.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.