San­tas in all shapes and sizes

Liver­pool carver cel­e­brates 25 years work­ing in craft

South Shore Breaker - - Local - VER­NON OICKLE ver­[email protected]­

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 eliz­a­beth­brown­wood­carv­

Ver­non Oickle

Wood­carver El­iz­a­beth Brown in her Liver­pool work­shop.

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