When Sheila Barabad and her husband bought their home — a midcentury ranch in the western suburbs of Chicago — they wanted to find quirky decorations that would keep with the property’s retro appeal. The journey started with pink flamingos, and Barabad fell into a rabbit hole of 1950s-60s lawn decor history that led her to the holiday decor she remembered from her childhood: Christmas blow molds. These holiday trimmings — sometimes called light-up lawn art — are made of melted plastic that is blown into a mold, then lit from the inside with light bulbs.
“They brought back this flood of memories from my childhood,” Barabad says, recalling a neighbor who had a Santa blow mold with reindeer in his yard. “I just loved it every single time he put it up, so I thought it would be fun to start my own tradition of decorating with the molds.” After starting to purchase blow molds this fall, her collection now consists of 34 blow molds — and it doesn’t show signs of stopping.
“I’m really curious about what people find at an estate sale. I found one that was local to me and I saw a Santa blow mold. I thought, Yeah, let me just go check this out. This Santa is 5 feet tall and I was like, oh my God, I had to have this because I’ve never seen anything like it before. That was my first blow mold. Soon after that, in that very same weekend, I think I acquired two more blow molds because I was just so fascinated with it.”
“What I found on a Facebook group was that this series of ice blow molds from a company called TPI weren’t sold for very long. Because they’re clear plastic, when you put the lights in them, all you can see at night are the light bulbs shining and you can’t really see the blow molds.”
“I have knowledge of photographic lighting, so I thought the best way to light these would not be with a light bulb, but to backlight these and reflect some light on a white background so that you can actually see the details of the blow molds at night. I had a theory that if I brought them outside and reflected light off of our white house behind the molds, you’d be able to see them. It works and it’s beautiful.”
“Ever since I started collecting, I’m hyper aware of them. It just makes me so happy when I see people even with just one blow mold in their yard because it just brings back this nostalgia of my childhood.”
“I constantly have my eyes peeled looking for more. If I’m looking on an estate sale website, or even Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, my eyes are constantly searching. It’s fun because it’s sort of like this obsession-slash-hobby that I didn’t have before. It’s just brought so much happiness.”