AROMAS -- Barbara Scoles doesn't have to make the long trek to the North Pole to visit Santa's Workshop.
Scoles, 68, has her very own workshop dedicated to all things Santa Claus in the backyard of her Aromas home. However, instead of making toys for distribution across the globe in one night, Scoles makes Santas that are sold online year-round for customers around the world.
Scoles specializes in creating Santa Clauses that are rich in detail and elegance. She has created roughly 500 Santas in her career, averaging about 20 a year.
The tools of her trade are bandsaw, mallet and chisel. She uses two types of wood: basswood from Pennsylvania to make white Santas and butternut from Wisconsin to make black or ethnic Santas.
Her carvings are usually full body and stand between 12 and 16 inches, though she has gone as tall as 28 inches and also creates smaller Santas.
"I'll shade their faces, but I don't paint them," said Scoles, whose work is displayed at Reasons to Believe, a Christmas-themed gallery in Monroe, Wash. "I want the richness of the wood to show through. There's such a warmth to wood. If you color it with acrylic paint, you're covering that warmth up. I want my Santas to be warm, beautiful and extremely personal to those who have them."
A Michigan native whose family moved to Boulder Creek when she was 11, Scoles can credit "necessity is the mother of invention" for her foray into taking up woodcarving with a specialization in Santas.
"I never could find a Santa carving that I loved," said Scoles, who started carving in 1995 and began selling her work in 2000. "There were the Old World ones with the stern faces and the oh-so-jolly commercial ones, but I wanted a Santa with a beautiful face and beard and a pretty costume."
A member of the Aromas Hills Artisans as well as a number of woodcarver guilds including the Santa Cruz Woodcarvers Guild and the California Carvers Guild, Scoles said she travels often across the U.S. to take classes.
Scoles estimated that a single Santa typically takes 40 to 60 hours, though she sometimes spends up to 80 hours on a piece. Her Santas fetch between $500 and $2,400 and only one place locally carries her work, Dragonfly Gallery in Aromas, which has just a few of her works.
"For me, Santa is a representation of everything good that is in people," Scoles said.
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GETTING TO KNOW
BORN AND RAISED: June 13, 1944, in Pontiac, Mich. Early childhood in Tucson, Ariz.; her family moved to Boulder Creek when she was 11.
FAMILY: Husband of 28 years, Robert; son Paco Dietz, 42, a tattoo artist in San Jose; and one grandchild and two great-grandchildren.
EDUCATION: Graduated from San Lorenzo Valley High in 1962, Cabrillo College with an associate's degree in theater arts in 1964, and San Francisco State with a bachelor's degree in theater arts with a concentration in costume design in 1967.
A YEAR IN THE THEATER: Worked the 1968 season at the American Conservatory Theater as a wardrobe mistress. 'I worked building costumes and running production. We did 42 shows in 52 weeks at the Marines Memorial.'
UNIQUE EXPERIENCE: 'My son was born in the south of Spain when we were living with gypsies in the Sacromonte caves in Granada.'
DREAM DESTINATION: 'Alaska in wintertime to see the Aurora Borealis'
FAVORITE PLACE IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY: Bookshop Santa Cruz
FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SONGS: 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' and 'Jingle Bell Rock'
FAVORITE FEEDBACK: 'I love it when people tell me they never put my Santas away -- that they keep them out all year long.'
SHE'S GOT THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: She doesn't leave her Christmas lights up year-round, but has a sign in her front yard that reads 'We believe in Santa' that stays up all year. Has participated in Adopt A Family since 1984. Has donated at least two Santas a year for local fundraisers.
CONTACT INFORMATION: www.barbarascoles.com. Her work is also available at Reasons to Believe, a Christmas-themed gallery in Monroe, Wash. Call 877-7SANTAS or visit www.reasonstobelieve.com.