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Two chalkware figurines

Chalkware is a mainly American term for popular figurines either made of molded plaster of Paris (usually) or sculpted gypsum, and painted, typically with oils or watercolors;[1][2] They were mainly made in one of two periods: the first beginning in the late 18th century and ending by the beginning of the 20th century, the second being during the Great Depression. Those made during the first period were more serious decorative art, often imitating the more expensive imported English Staffordshire potteries figurines such as Staffordshire dog figurines; those during the second period were more typically somewhat jocular. Early chalkware was often hollow and can be difficult to find unblemished.

Judi Vaillancourt has revived the style using a fine plaster substance combined with confectionery moulds to create collectibles;[3][4] making them commercially available under the company Vaillancourt Folk Art.[5] Chalkware is still commercially available today using the moulding technique developed by Vaillancourt[6] at department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Macy's, and museum gift shoppes like Colonial Williamsburg [7] and Old Sturbridge Village.[8]

Carnival chalk[edit]

“Carnival chalk” refers to chalkware figures given out as carnival game prizes during the first half of the 20th century, especially during WWII. Later, they were mostly replaced by the more popular stuffed animals.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Grove Dictionary of Art, "Chalkware"
  3. ^ Staff Writer. (1988, August). Folk artists. Early American Life, Cover, 17, 40, 46, 49-50.
  4. ^ Lewis, Hal. "Top Folk Art Designers." (2008): n. pag. Web. 7 Apr 2010. <>.
  5. ^ Dees, B. (1997). Santa’s price guide to contemporary Christmas collectibles. Iola, WI: Krause Publications.
  6. ^ Elliott, S. K. (2013, April). In the studio with judi vaillancourt. Treasures, 14-16. Retrieved from
  7. ^
  8. ^ Staff Writer. (2011, November 21). Molding tradition: Vaillancourt folk art designs osv figurines from antique chocolate molds. Old Sturbridge Village Visitor, Winter, 10-11. Retrieved from