The garden gnome's history begins with mid-19th century Germany. Phillip Griebel began producing terra cotta garden animals/creatures for people to display in their garden so that they may admire and remember the work the creatures do in the garden at night. The gnome, who existed as a willing and helpful character in German folklore was one of these creatures. The popularity of the garden gnome grew quickly, yet their production didn't grow further than Germany for a while.
Gnoming, or stealing someone's garden gnome, is a wildly popular "crime." The motive is to return the gnome to the wild, and there are organizations for the cause, such as France's Front de Liberation des Nains de Jardins as well as Italy's MALAG (Garden Gnome Liberation Front).
This was the beginning of sending a gnome around the world and taking photos of its journey to send home to the owner... (I believe the first incident occured in Australia in 1997. A note from the gnome was left behind for the owner and pictures followed. Owner was distraught. Great stuff.)
For more information, in English, check out Free the Gnomes.
Who doesn't feel a great sense of childlike mirth when you see a gnome?
Here are some special Etsy gnome finds...
LEFT:Gnome door, from NothinButWood. This 9"x7" hand crafted door is absolutely whimsical and would look great in the back yard. You can choose from several styles, and the cimney is available, too! I imagine one day playing in the garden with my future children, telling stories about the gnome in the backyard. Oh, and the door doesn't open (for humans)!
RIGHT:gnome hat, from pixiebell. I think this hat is really fun, and I would think it could bring a lot of joy to a dreary winter day. I would absolutely wear this.
LEFT:Gnome at dusk pillow cover, from Pixelknit. This pillow cover is loom knit and speaks so well to the quirky sophistication of many contemporary designs. The simple contour of the gnome could go a few minutes without recognition, but what a surprise when one of your house guests finally sees it!
RIGHT:Knit Your Own Gnome kit, from greenmountain. This seller has created a unique kit to make one of these adorable little gnomes with hand dyed yarn. Knitting kits have been popular gifts for a few years, but this one is so unique! Even a non-knitter would love this.
LEFT:Acorn Habitat Moss Terranium, from Betty's Love. This seller harvest her own moss and puts so much effort and know-how into these terraniums. The little gnome home is also hand painted. The terranium measure 4" tall and could be the purveyor of many a daydream if set on your office desk. Terraniums are so easy to keep alive and can be that little green something for the person lacking a green thumb.
RIGHT:Spring Garden Gazebo, also from Betty's Love. Okay, I am officially in love with Betty. This is a handmade deluxe gnome home to go in your terranium. How awesome??
LEFT:Mushroom and Gnome Gocco Embroidery Kit, from ricracsews. Another excellent gift idea, for someone else or just as a little gift to yourself. The kit comes with the hand gocco print pieces and instructions for embroidering the pieces. I love this.
RIGHT:Made to order gnome dress with miniature gnome baby, from germandolls. I don't have children (yet), but when I do, I am buying this. I think it is the single most adorable child's outfit EVER. How clever to have a pouch with a gnome baby??