santas Juelie McLean's talent for sewing was passed down from her mother and both her grandmothers. Several years ago she saw a handmade Santa doll in a store window. "Before I knew it, I had made five or six of them," she recalls. And so a business was born. Today, as the Santalady, she averages about 20 handcrafted Santa dolls a season, each unique and dressed in leather, fleece, wool, and vintage fabrics embellished with sequins and beads. "I've just finished one with a dark teal suit with embossed gold poinsettias," she says. "I handquilted the fabric to accentuate all the petals with metallic thread and added gold-tone beads." Juelie sometimes even incorporates a Keepsake Ornament into her dolls.

Retired teacher, former photographer, doll maker, and--oh yes--Web site designer, McLean is a contemporary "every woman." But it was her discovery of the lore of the old world Santa Claus that had a profound influence on her.

"I started researching Santa and was fascinated," says Juelie. "Santa is the epitome of caring, loving, and giving, while expecting nothing in return. He is something every child--and grown-up child--can believe in." And so, while Juelie and her husband, Dan, may live in picturesque Bozeman, Montana, their house might as well be at the fabled North Pole. From a chain-saw artist's rendition of Santa that greets guests at the front door to Juelie's cross-stitch Santas lining her hallways, Santa is firmly in residence. There are Santa cookie jars, figurines, antique postcards, and Santa plates by Haddon Sundblom, the artist who created the "Coca-Cola Santa."

But it was Keepsake Ornaments that started Juelie down the road paved with Christmas collectibles. She and Dan discovered Keepsakes in 1975, only two years after the line debuted. "We were impressed," she says, "with their quality and artistic charm and liked the idea that each one commemorated a certain year." The two soon tracked down an ornament from 1973 and another from 1974. "But our one-a-year quota didn't last too long," laughs Juelie. "I've quit counting how many we have--I'm sure it's well over 500!"

Although her Keepsakes collection is wide-ranging, Juelie is particularly attracted to Santas. Her favorite is Santa's Deer Friend from the 1998 line, "because of the high quality of the detailing and the Nordic theme," she notes. "I'm half Norwegian and wear my grandmother's bunad, a Norwegian traditional dress, at the holidays." She owns the full series (from 1990 to 1999) of Merrie Olde Santas. "I also love the 'tin' Santas. In particular, I'm partial to the 1981 tin St. Nicholas and the 1991 Jolly Wolly Santa designed after the old'roly-poly' Santas."

Much as Juelie loves anything that depicts Santa, she also has many other collections. "One of my sons is named Luke after the title character in Cool Hand Luke, she says. "Luke was born six months before Star Wars came out, but of course he thinks he was named for Luke Skywalker so I collect all the Star Wars Keepsake Ornaments for him. I collect sports figures for my other son. When my first grandchild was born, of course, I bought Baby's First Christmas, but I also want to earmark ones such as Waddling Duck for him."

The empty nesters plan to turn a bedroom into a year-round Christmas room. "We'll have a brass bed with a Christmastheme quilt and some artificial trees, but the basis of the room will be our Keepsake Ornament collection," says Juelie. Come Christmas, she displays many of her favorite ornaments on a tree; but the bulk of her collection is in storage. Until the Christmas room is completed, instead of visions of sugar plums, she'll have to content herself with visions of "shelves going all the way up the walls, holding all the Keepsake Ornaments." To visit Juelie's Web site, log on to

For Keeps - The Official Publication of the Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Collector's Club
PHYLLIS SCHILLER is the associate editor of For Keeps.
Portrait of Juelie McLean by Tony Demin
Background photo by Robert Lorenz

Return to Santalady's Main Page

To Continue Exploring the Santalady's Site:
Newest Santas
Santa Gallery
MT Man Santa/Kiyuwaste Dolls
Santas From Your "Wedding" Gown
Meet the Artist
Brief History of Santa
Gift Givers of the World
Santalady's Antique Santa Postcards
Santalady's Victorian Christmas GIFS
Webdesign by Juelie
Vintage Santa Musical DVD
Santa Bulletin Board
Santa Collector's Bulletin Board
Santalady's Book Shoppe
Santalady's Favorite Links

Santalady's Awards
Christmas Games
Doll House Accessories
Juelie's State Flower Garden of GIFS

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