Jacksonville Woman Brings Santa Claus To Life

With just some plain clay, a Jacksonville woman is making the holidays come to life. Suzanne Espenlaub turned a simple hobby into a tradition that is garnering a lot of attention.

"I've had people walk up to him and speak to him," said Espenlaub of the five-foot sculpture of Saint Nick. Espenlaub has showed off her creations at several places in East Texas.

So, how did she start her hobby? "Well, I saw a Santa magazine that had some women who did this so I thought, 'I really would like to try that,'" she said. Since she first tried it last year, Suzanne has made six Santa sculptures. Her first one was even featured in "Doll Crafter" magazine.

Espenlaub has a room set aside at her home just for her Santa creations. "It starts with the head," said Espenlaub. "It's kind of like painting a painting. You know when you're done. So, when I do, when I see the face finished, I know when it's done."

She makes the hands and ears and builds a "skeleton" made out of pipe for it. After stuffing Santa, she dresses him with the clothes she made for him, puts his hair, beard and eyebrows in place, then paints his face and hands. "I don't think I can make two that are exactly alike," said Espenlaub. Each sculpture, she says, takes on a life of its own.

Suzanne's Santa is on display at Austin Bank on Commerce Street in Jacksonville. Two others can be seen at Gerry's in Jacksonville.

Suzanne says the price of her creations runs anywhere from $750 to $3,500.

Oralia Ortega reporting, ortega@kltv.com