The Evolution of the Santas

I have been interested in art and fine crafts of several forms since childhood. First it was sketching animal portraits, then textile/fibre crafts: sewing (custom dressmaking), custom upholstering, crochet and finally decorative painting most through self teaching and workshops

My craft of Santa making was, (and still is to a lesser degree), an evolution. I first started with a simple figure armature wearing a plain coat and hood trimmed with fur. The face was expressionless; a plain, fabric covered oval, no eyes, no nose, no mouth. These were very successful, but eventually I became bored with the 'blank look'. I began experimenting with carving facial features in styrofoam, covering them with felt, but applying no paint. Next, painted facial features on the felt ... still not to my satisfaction. I tried carving Polymer clay faces ... far too slow to suit me. I used the few faces that I had carved, as moulds for reproducing faces using a soft knit fabric and a stiffening agent. With much experimentation, I finally met with success. I now use faces, both my carved ones and porcelain, as moulds. My painting skills have evolved from very basic features to more life-like expressions. These firm, cloth faces, quite solid to the touch, are often mistaken for ceramic or porcelain.

Extensive research at the local library put an end to the plain costumes. Several books on Christmas legends and traditions revealed the evolution of Santa Claus from before Christianity to our present day Santa. I interpret these legendary figures, 17 in all at present, in my "Legends Collection". My "Classic Santa Collection" is inspired by the Santas found on old Christmas postcards from the Victorian Era and beyond.

I have two categories of original designs. One is "The Canadian North Santas", my interpretations of how our own Canadian Santa could appear. These characters have a rustic/woodsy appeal. My other designs, the "Fibre Art Santas", feature two styles: 'Patchwork Coat', created from pieced, appliquéd & quilted, rich fabric combinations; and 'Confetti Coat', fashioned from snippets of rich fabrics, laces, ribbon ... anything fibre; held in place by a layer of tulle (netting), then free motion machine quilted.

Another very popular Santa is the 'Tartan Santa'. These jolly fellows are dressed in the authentic Scottish or Canadian tartan of your choice. There are also Chinese Santas and a new Irish Collection, which features, 'Patrick' as a shepherd, then as 'St.Patrick' and also a novel Irish Santa.

I gain much satisfaction as each character emerges and as I discover yet another legend. I am delighted by the enchantment of visitors to my studio when they discover my Santas and their legends.

It disappoints me that the world seems to be keen to adopt the present day North American Santa, (a commercial creation), in place of the charming, legendary Christmas characters of centuries ago. In my own small way, I strive to keep the old Christmas legends alive with my interpretations of the Olde World Santas.

~ Shirley Ivison ~

  Exhibitions & Presentations

  Where to See my Work

  • Festival of Trees 2017 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2016 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2015 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2014 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Expressions 2014 - Belleville, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2013 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Expressions 2013 - Belleville, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2012 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2011 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2010 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2009 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2008 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Expressions 2008 - Belleville, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2007 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Expressions 2007 - Belleville, Ontario
  • The Probus Club, Belleville, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2006 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Festival of Trees 2005 - Tweed, Ontario
  • Expressions 2005 - Belleville, Ontario
  • Expressions 2003 - Belleville, Ontario


Shirley Ivison     4167 Hwy 37    RR 2   Roslin     ON     K0K 2Y0     CANADA
phone: 613 477 2869     E-mail: