This Week: Dome-O-Rama

During business hours, Jen Funk Segrest designs award-winning websites. Later, in the dark of night (or perhaps any time at all), she fervently collects snowdomes. While snowdomes still remain ubiquitous in our nation's tourist traps, the art of the snowdome is in sad decline. Segrest has made it her noble quest to collect the best examples of snowdome creativity that humankind has produced. Her website, Dome-O-Rama, documents her collection with an easy-to-navigate retro design that is delightful.

When were snow globes first introduced? Who invented them?

Well they go back quite ways–late 1880s in France. Glass balls filled with oil and a white porcelain interior. Bears, Eiffel Tower, The White House… soon they were all over the world. By the '50s, they start being made in the classic blue-backed plastic form we know today from Hong Kong.

How did you become interested in them?

My husband and I went to Kentucky, Mammouth Cave specifically, and the area is so retro-tacky it was kind of like stepping back in time. I decided I had to have a snowdome to remember it by. Well, it was the last week of tourist season and they were all out! Couldn't find a one! So I bought a floaty pen instead, but was absolutely enamored of the idea of snowdomes. Went back six months later and got some!

What is it about them that continues to pique your fancy?

Besides the cheesy factor, many things. They are bright, tactile, and a little reminiscent of a bygone era. I don't know, but once you are hooked, you're done for, any collector will tell you that.

In your opinion, what makes for a superior, esthetically pleasing globe?

I only have the best type on my site. White base, blue-painted back, and PAINTED (not printed) interior pieces. Only Asians paid a dime a day can make a truly great dome.

Is there a snowglobe-collecting underworld?

Hmmm, I guess ebay. Other than the scouting of fleamarkets, ebay is the BIG marketplace. It can get pretty cutthroat at times and a lot of people have a lot of grudges against people who keep outbidding them or seem to have an endless supply of cash.

Are snowglobes mostly equal in value?

Oh no! Ones that aren't made anymore, or with odd locations no longer around, are worth far more! I saw a Dome from the '50s, the drive-through redwood in California, got for like $300 once. A dome from a mosque in Turkey I think went for like $500. It was old and an odd location. Overall, though, most domes go for $5-20. Age and location and being the RIGHT type, of course, making the price rise.

Which one is your most satisfying globe?

A dome from my Great Aunt that I got when she died, it's a vintage 1960s pedestal dome for the old Holiday On Ice skating shows. It's got two skaters on a teeter-totter; I like those, it's just so classically retro.

To what lengths will you go to get a favored snowglobe?

I dunno if I'm all that cutthroat, I'm pretty cheap. The most I've paid is $20, but I try to stay under $10 and it had better be nice. But we have been known to drive two hours off the main route to look for domes. All they sell anymore are ugly printed ones. So depressing.

Why did you decide to create a website devoted to your snowglobes?

I came into the game late. All the other collectors seemed to have them, and being a web designer I knew I could kick their butt. I may not have more than them, but my site rocks, lol.

What kind of reactions have you gotten to the site?

Actually, I get the best mail. A lot of people consider me some kind of expert. I'm just a collector. Some people think I sell the ones they see on the site or I know where to find some dome they saw on a TV show or a store 20 years ago.

Do you have any other obsessions that rise to website level?

Oh, I have four websites, lol.

One for my medieval reenactment research into medieval beadwork:
http://www.medievalbeads.com

One for my professional web designing services: http://www.verybigdesign.com

And http://www.domeorama.com/ and my Dome-o-Rama spin off site PixelDecor
(http://www.pixeldecor.com), which is my site for my retro design fascination. I offer retro computer wallpaper/backgrounds and desktop art.

—March 5, 2002

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