Short ones. Tall ones. Skinny ones. Fat ones. Thick beard or clean-shaven. Old World Santa or modern Santa. Traditional suit or customized to meet someone’s specifications.
When it comes to carving Santa figures, if you can imagine it, then one Liverpool artisan has probably made it. In fact, Elizabeth Brown says she has carved so many Santa Claus figures over the past quarter of a century that she couldn’t even begin to guess the number that she’s created.
“I don’t know,” she says from her Liverpool workshop. “Literally hundreds; probably thousands, I would guess.”
But there is no question, she agrees, Santa is her most popular creation and she has built her business around him.
“He’s very popular,” she says, explaining that she receives orders from all across Canada and the United States. She also has regular buyers who add to their Santa collections every year and she does commission work as well.
“If you’re looking for something special, then let me know what you want, and I’ll do it,” Brown explains, pointing out that over the years she has carved Santa in a Sou’wester, Santa in a cowboy hat and Santa is medical scrubs.
When it comes to carving Santa, she adds, nothing is too far-fetched or ambitious. “I like a challenge so I’m willing to try anything you’re looking for.”
And the size of the sculpture is no object, either, she says, noting that her largest creations have ranged from six to eight feet tall, to just a few inches in size. She’s even carved Santa earrings.
She loves the creative process, she says, explaining that her attraction to wood began at a young age, but she began taking formal wood carving lessons in 1993 while she was in Middleton.
“I just happened to see a flyer for adult education courses and one of the classes they were offering was wood carving,” she says. “I just knew I had to try it so I convinced a friend to go with me.”
While the friend didn’t stick with it, Brown says she remained committed, not only completing the class but also turning the hobby into a business.
“I just love it,” Brown says. “All I need is a sharp tool and a piece of wood and then the magic just happens. … I just find the inspiration in the wood.”
The idea of peeling away pieces of wood to reveal the treasure hidden inside is truly motivational, she says.
“It’s the process that appeals to me,” she explains. “I love the process of taking away what you don’t need until the wood reveals the secret. It’s truly beautiful.”
On average it takes anywhere from two to four hours, from start to finish, to carve a Santa, depending upon its size. Once the figure is revealed, she says it takes up to about four hours to paint the sculpture.
While the Santa carvings are by far Brown’s most popular creation, they aren’t all that she does. Another of her popular carving is the “wood spirit” which reveals itself in various pieces of wood.
“You can’t really control what you get when you do a wood spirit,” she explains. “The spirit is just there; it’s part of the wood.”
Her favourite medium is basswood, native throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere, as it’s softer, but she does use other species as well.
For more information, visit elizabethbrownwoodcarving.com.