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Magical keepsakes: Christmas fireplace

On Christmas Eve, millions of children throughout the world ask, “How does Santa get into our house? What if we don’t have a fireplace? Or a chimney? What if we’ve just moved? What if we always lock the door? What if? What if?”Winter 2007On Christmas Eve, millions of children throughout the world ask, “How does Santa get into our house? What if we don’t have a fireplace? Or a chimney? What if we’ve just moved? What if we always lock the door? What if? What if?”

Gisele Oram has the answer. Santa has a magic key.

Oram designed her first Heirloom Santa with a magic key for her grandson, Brandon, nine years ago. This Santa stands three feet tall, and weighs about 20 pounds. It was made in memory of the boy’s great-grandmother from articles of clothing and materials that belonged to her.

“I made this Santa for Brandon so he could have something to remember me by in the years ahead. There is a bit of his great-grandmother in this Santa too because the material was from her dress and the fur is from the collar of her coat,” she says.

Everyone who sees Oram’s work wants his or her own St. Nic.

“I’m also a big Christmas person and I just love doing this!”

Oram has been sewing since the age of 12 and has enjoyed a successful career as a seamstress for the past 35 years.

Although she is now retiring, she will continue creating Santas for the sheer joy of it.

So far she has hand crafted close to two dozen large Mr. and Mrs. Santas, smaller two-foot-tall Santas in both traditional Victorian dress and more traditional Santa attire, as well as an adorable assortment of ceramics.

Her custom Santas begin with a basic wire cage stand to which she
attaches the arms, legs, head and face. The face is a ceramic face mask made by her friend Carmen Therrien.
Oram then handpaints the features, colours them with face makeup powder and bakes them in the oven. Once this process is complete, she paints the face with acrylic paint and uses make up for detailing. The hands are individually made from polymer clay.

It can take two to three weeks working full time to make one Santa.

“Occasionally I have a few friends who come over to help. Thank you to Ann, Annie and Carol, who will come out to help me when I’m stuck,”says Oram.

She also sews all of the outfits with Victorian vintage materials. The ensemble is completed with the addition of gold braided trim and a walking staff. She purchases material for Santa beard and hair from a local costume store.

“They take on their own personality and life when I start designing their outfits. Sometimes I put the hat on the left side of the head or see how it looks on the right side. That’s when they start to take on life-like qualities.”

Each Santa carries a bag with toys or gifts. And a magic key.

For many years Oram and her husband, Harold, have donated a Mr. or Mrs. Santa Claus for a raffle to raise money for cancer research.

“It makes someone happy at Christmas and makes me feel good knowing there is a little piece of me out there,” says Oram.

For more information, phone 522-2783.

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