Many have called Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines the official Song of Summer. But for Dennis Brown, Burl Ives’ A Holly Jolly Christmas is a more appropriate summer jam.
For the past 43 years, Dennis has been hand sculpting and painting Santa Claus figurines. After 16 years in Kirkland, he now works out of a little cottage in Bothell’s Country Village where it’s Christmas in July, April, November – pretty much all year round.
Dennis has hand sculpted 10,000 Santa Claus figurines and looks quite a bit like the iconic character himself.
“Over the years, I don’t know if I’ve started to look like them or if they’ve started to look like me.”
Every day is Christmas at Dennis’ home where he has 1,500 pieces of Santa memorabilia on display all year round.
“There are Santa Claus pictures hanging all over the house all the time and I have a huge Santa collection. They’re all handmade Santas. Our silverware has Santa heads on the handles. We use them every day. And then we have a life-size Santa sleigh. It’s over 100 years old. It’s in the garage because my wife won’t let me hang it from the ceiling.”
Famous people like Loretta Lynn, Charley Parker, Bill Gates, and Paul Allen have his figurines in their homes.
“I’ve also done them for the White House, starting with Nancy Reagan. I have a piece in the Reagan Library and I have several pieces in the White House. I have friends that are Secret Service agents and these Secret Service agents have actually seen them in the, I think it’s the Blue Room, where the china is. When it gets switched over for the holidays, they’ve actually shown me pictures of my pieces in the display case.”
The owners of Country Village were so dead set on having Dennis move his workshop there that they offered him free rent and…
“A clay company, that I’ve used their clay for over 40 years, about three years ago decided that they were going to provide me all the clay I could possibly ever use. So I get about 125 pounds of clay shipped to me every month.”
After sculpting thousands and thousands of little bellies full of jelly and long, white beards, he never tires of creating the character.
“I think he’s real. I think it’s the magic of it and I think it’s the spirit of giving and sharing. That’s why I use a lot of my pieces for charities. Because it’s more than just making money selling a Santa Claus. There’s a spirit that comes from what he represents.”
The public is welcome to pop in and watch as Dennis sculpts 400 Santas that will be sold at Christmastime. But if you miss him this year, you can certainly catch up with him the next.
“How do you retire from something that you truly like? I don’t know how an artist truly retires because it’s a part of you. How can you retire when you don’t really think you work?”