SPIRIT LAKE - There may not be snow on the ground, but it sure feels like Christmas in Art on 16th, in downtown Spirit Lake. Over 30 handcrafted Santa dolls are scattered throughout the gallery; each one was created by Diane Dykema.
Dykema has always been into crafts and sewing. In 1990, she came across a Santa head with instructions on making it into a doll. She enjoyed it, so she continued to make Santa dolls for family and friends. Word spread, and she was able to create a business out of making Santa dolls; Whimsey was born.
In 1992, Dykema took her Santas to craft shows, while still working full-time at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. She eventually quit her job because she enjoyed making her Santas so much. For a short time, Dykema worked with a sales rep to get her Santas into stores. This wasn't quite as enjoyable, because she would have to make the same dolls over and over. Part of the fun was making each Santa unique.
When starting a new Santa, inspiration isn't hard to find. It could be a certain fabric or a fun accessory. Dykema pointed out her wine-inspired Santas; one holding red grapes and a bottle of red wine, and the other with green grapes and white wine.
For Santa's attire, Dykema takes apart fur coats and leather pants, and repurposes them for his coat and boots. She has had several requests over the years, including using wedding dresses and Navy uniforms to create Santa's outfits. She's also used family quilts and baby blankets. Other unique requests include making a Harley Santa, a Santa judge, a Santa minister, sports teams themed Santa and even a Scottish Santa, kilt included.
Dykema's husband Dennis is known for his landscape paintings. But his artistry doesn't stop there. He actually hand sculpts many of the Santa faces, and makes the stands for the dolls.
Dykema is very appreciative for Art on 16th for showcasing her Santas. "Their gallery and all they do to promote the arts in this area is outstanding! It's just one of the reasons Dennis and I enjoy living here," she said.
In the beginning, Dykema kept one Santa doll each year, but eventually, she ran out of room. Now her children and sister get one every year. Most of her customers come back year after year to purchase a new Santa for their collection.
Over 100 Santas are created each year in Dykema's studio. The Santas range in heights, from 19-36 inches, and they range in price from $90-325. Visit Art on 16th, 709 16th Street in Spirit Lake, to view Dykema's Santa dolls during December.
Corridor Gift Guide
Dykema is just one of many artists included in the Corridor Gift Guide. The Gift Guide highlights artist entrepreneurs and their products throughout the holiday season. Jewelry, photography, pottery, blown glass, books, music and more are included. Also find treats for those with a sweet tooth.
Corridor Gift Guides can be picked up at art galleries throughout the region, Chamber of Commerce offices and the Iowa Lakes Corridor office, located at 520 2nd Ave. E. in Spencer. Digital copies are also available on the main page of the Corridor's website, www.lakescorridor.com.