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Sterling woman creates custom Clauses

Works are ‘symbols of loving and a giving heart, and the joy of sharing’

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukval)
Dee Gann makes and decorates highly detailed, unique and personable Santas from her Sterling home.
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukval)
Dee Gann uses molds to make the clay face of each of her Santas, but manages to give each his own unique personality.
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukval)
The Fashinoista Santa, decked out with haute couture labels in a French theme, was custome made for a specific client. Many of Gann's customers return year after year to collect a new Claus.
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Gann will use found items and others she makes on her own to decorate her Santas.

STERLING – From the outside, Dee Gann’s home isn’t much different than the other ones on her street.

Inside her cozy living room, though, a handcrafted Santa sits on her fireplace. It’s one of many Gann has made over the past 25 years, and like most of her creations, he’s smiling brightly.

In his arms are toys of all kinds, most of which also were made by Gann. This particular Santa has a small wooden sled hanging from one of his arms. Gann painted the sled red and pasted an antique postcard to it.

Gann favors monochromatic colors for her highly detailed, vintage-inspired Santas. She also likes the red, white and silver color combination, which this Santa sports.

“I had a little white, Victorian little boy’s blouse from the 1800s, and so I started with that,” she said. “I like to use vintage clothing.”

Gann, 67, started her foray in the world of Santas in 1988.

“In the ‘80’s, I started doing the craft show at the mall and I made all kinds of crafty little items,” she said. “One day I made a Santa out of an old quilt and, voila, I found my niche.”

For Gann, the Santas are “a symbol of loving and a giving heart, and the joy of sharing.”

“The fun thing about Santas is they can be clown-like or they can be Saint Nick or a jolly, chubby Santa, ... you can make all different kinds,” she said. “It never stops. I can make a different one every day and never think that I’m doing the same thing over and over.”

Gann’s Santa bodies and wooden shoes are made by friend Glen Wicks of Sterling. Gann makes all her Santa faces herself.

One especially fun Santa is Fashionista Claus. This stylish Santa is armed with designer bags of every hot label, including Chanel, Gucci and Prada. This French-themed Santa, designed for a specific patron, sports a small golden Eiffel Tower and golden high-heel shoes.

Upstairs in a small studio is where all the magic happens. The room is packed floor to ceiling with scraps, fabrics and trims of every color. An endless array of tiny ornaments hangs from the wall.

A sewing machine sits quietly on a table, awaiting its next Santa outfit.

“I have such a variety of things in my studio that I can just grab anywhere and just find the perfect thing for the Santa,” she said.

Although Christmas decorating may be limited to November and December, Santa-making happens year round in the Gann home.

Every October, Gann has an open house, displaying and selling all of her creations from the year. Customers return year after year, and most are sold then, she said.

“I’ve had people fly in for my show. I have a gal that comes in from Nebraska every year,” she said.

In the hallway outside her studio is a black and white photograph of Gann taken when she was 6. Directly across from her is none other than Santa Claus himself.

Gann uses the photo on her business card. It is accompanied by a saying she particularly likes: “Find the child within you and you shall dance to the joys around you.”

“I just feel like, everybody has that little child inside of them, and it just draws happy memories of your past,” she said. “That’s what Christmas brings out of you, don’t you think?”

To see more

Go to deegannsantas.com to learn more about Dee Gann and her handcrafted Santas.

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