Gnarly Gnomes


Written by Betty Wood
Photos and illustrations by RaeLynn Ricarte , Shawn Thorsson, Michael Dalder/Reuter, various
04 Sunday 04th September 2011

Certain things in life will always be uncool - permed hair, tying your jumper around your waist, scrunchies, Cliff Richards... The list goes on, but one item that won't be appearing on there is the garden gnome. That's right; this former beacon for the terminally-unhip has been reclaimed by the world of cool. We take you on a step-by-step guide to glorious gnomes, those gaudy garden critters we all love to hate.

Forget the gnomes 'round your Nan's house; the only fishing you'd catch these gnomes doing is for the enemy - with guns. They're made by Etsy seller Shawn Thorsson who creates  moulds and casts in his home workshop. Whether its the prone rifleman, granade slinging renegade or his machine gun toting dwarf - blast the crap out of cats that poo in your mum's flowerbed with these angry garden soldiers.

But not all combat gnomes are on rotation down at the bottom of your garden; these American military gnomes have gone roaming in Afghanistan. The mother of a Marine and president of the Gorge Heroes Club (which sends gifts and cards out to overseas troops) RaeLynn Ricarte started sending gnomes - painted in military garb - to local battalions serving in Afghanistan and Iraq after seeing one on the television. Enthusiastically, troops started sending photographs of the gnomes 'serving' in military situations in the middle east back to the USA, and the images became an internet hit.

But not all military associations are cool, as shown by Ottmar Hoerl's 1,205 Nazi gnome troop. The artist landed himself (and his legion of blinging Nazi numbers) in hot water when he put them on display in Nurembourg. It is an offense to publically display of distribute  symbols of nazism in Germany- flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans and forms of greeting such as the "heil Hitler" salute are all banned. Hoerl was investigated by prosecutors concerned that his instillation propagated Nazi iconography when they went on display in 2009, but Hoerldefended his political gnomes stating they "highlighted the danger of political opportunism and right-wing ideology" rather than commemorating the Nazis, adding "in 1942 I would have been murdered by the Nazis for this work". Touche.

If you want a garden hero, but not one dressed in camo-print, then how about making your very own Batgnome and Robin crime-fighting duo? Faster than you can say "holy guacamole", the Papier boy will show you how to customise a run-of-the-mill gnome and turn him into a crime-fighting superhero over at Keep those villainous snails and feral beetle-bugs at bay with Supergnome - he'll kick their asses minus the annoyingly one dimensional dialogue. "Holy semantics Batman!"

One thing universally acknowledged about gnomes is their uncanny ability to stand in the same position without moving for a long time. In fact, they never move. Or do they? Stealth is this gnome's middle gname; Ninja Gnome can dish out the 'five point palm exploding heart technique' in the blink of an eye, but you'll never see him do it. With his sneaky ninja moves, he's so disciplined in maintaining the sense of the inanimate, he won't even blink an eye when you're looking at him. He might look like all he wants to do it cuddle, but he's watching... and waiting.

Got gnome? Tell us your gnome related stories.

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