Santa's workshop: Worthington man carves out a hobbyWORTHINGTON — Contrary to popular belief, Santa Claus does not live at the North Pole. The Jolly Old Elf has taken up year-round residence — in a variety of guises — at the South Shore Drive home of Shannon and Clea Rickert. Their home is filled with carved images of Santa — all created by Shannon. He crafted his first Santa in 1996.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Contrary to popular belief, Santa Claus does not live at the North Pole.
The Jolly Old Elf has taken up year-round residence — in a variety of guises — at the South Shore Drive home of Shannon and Clea Rickert. Their home is filled with carved images of Santa — all created by Shannon. He crafted his first Santa in 1996.
“I took a bad fall in 1995 and broke my pelvis. That was the first deer hunt I missed in 30 years,” he recalled with regret. “While I was convalescing, I needed something to do. I couldn’t stand to watch daytime TV.”
So Shannon took up carving and turned to the subject of Santa at the encouragement of wife Clea.
“She mentioned she’d like to collect Santa Clauses,” he explained. “I thought at first that I’d carve and she’d paint them, but she said no, she was only the collector. So I started painting them, too.”
That was 12 years ago, and Shannon has since carved more than 100 Santa figures; 93 remain in their home, and the few others have been gifted to others. Shannon doesn’t make Santas to sell, but solely for his own enjoyment and his family and friends. The Rickerts keep most of the Santas on display all-year round.
“I use bass wood,” Shannon explained about his base material. “It’s a soft wood, a little softer than pine. I usually rough it out on a band saw, get the waste wood away before I start carving. I started out working with an X-Acto knife set, but I soon got into the actual carving tools and knives.”
The images that come to life in Shannon’s hands aren’t typical Santa fare, either. Most of these Santas have whimsical personalities and are engaged in all manner of endeavors: parachuting, fishing, hunting, riding on the back of a Canadian goose, riding in a helicopter, on the back of a pig. One of his most elaborate creations is a turntable centerpiece upon which are perched Santa figures from around the world.
Shannon generally finds a pattern he likes in a woodworking book or magazine; sometimes he has to modify the drawings to fit his own needs. As his carving skill has increased, so has the intricacy of the finished product.
“I can be more selective now,” said Rickert, who also has the challenge of being lefthanded. “The simple ones don’t entice me. I want something that’s more unique.”
While Santa continues to be his main subject, Shannon also carved an elaborate mirror, based on a picture he saw of a grand prize piece from the World’s Fair in New York.
“I figured out how to make it. I studied all the details with a magnifying glass,” he explained, adding that he also fashioned the table that stands beneath the mirror near the front door of their home, along with all the other coffee tables in the living room.
Another showpiece in the Rickert home is a large Nativity set with exquisitely carved figures housed inside an impressive wooden stable. Shannon started by making the stable structure.
“I was so intrigued by this barn I saw in a woodworking book that I made it first,” he said. “The (Nativity figures) we had wouldn’t do it justice, so I started carving.”
As a nod to his own interest in woodworking, Shannon dressed Joseph in a carpenter’s apron.
“He’s working,” Shannon detailed. “He’s got another mouth to feed.”
The bulk of Shannon’s carving work is done during the time the couple spends in Arizona each year. He appreciates the portability of his craft.
“I needed something to do besides golfing, hiking,” he said, “something light and small that I could take with me.”
It’s easy for Shannon to get engrossed in his carving craft, and the hours whittle away along with the chips of wood.
“Time goes so fast,” he reflected. “I go out after breakfast, pour a cup of coffee, and the next thing you know, (Clea’s) calling me in for lunch.”