It’s no secret that I love Christmas! I collect little cotton batting Santas with plaster molded faces. I also love the ones with chenille stem bodies or heads on a stem used as gift ties or floral picks. Some were made with celluloid faces, too. Some had hands made of the same material as their faces and some had pipe cleaner hands.
These were made in the first half of the 20th century in Japan. I have one that still has an Occupied Japan tag, but many just say Made in Japan. Santas in a similar vein were made in Germany and often have sleds and are stamped “Germany”. German Santas have more stern faces – kind of like my German ancestors in old photographs I’ve seen! I have a few of these also, but they are usually much more expensive than their Japanese-made cousins, so I don’t have as many.
I also have a herd of little stick-leg German putz sheep. Their plaster heads are often chipped – usually the ears suffer the most. Their legs are fragile and are sometimes loose or missing when you find them. Since most are white, their wooly coats attract dirt.
What I’m getting at here is that I have a bunch of these and have tried different methods of storing them to preserve them. Generally, our Christmas decorations are stored in plastic tubs on shelves in our basement laundry room. I worry about my vintage pieces down there with dust sifting down from above, humidity from the laundry, and the occasional river running through there if we have a wet year and a hard rain.
Getting ready to put them away this year, I first ordered some acid free tissue paper. I found some nice rattan trunks on sale and lined them with natural duck fabric to keep dust out. I figured the rattan would breath much better than plastic.
Years ago, Terri gave me a papier mache box that she had decoupaged with an image from a vintage Christmas card on the lid. I have always kept my little batting Santas in this box and used it for display during the holidays as well. It reminds me of a similar, though plain box in my mom’s Christmas decoration box that always held the special little ornaments like my Dad’s batting Santa that started me on the road to this collection.
The tissue paper arrived and I was planning to put the Christmas stuff away over the weekend. I found myself at Michael’s which was very crowded with shoppers. Weaving my way through the, I ended up by the papier mache boxes and shapes. For once they had a nice stock of boxes with lids that are 6 or 7 inches square. I bought four and since I was passing by the Martha Stewart craft paint (on sale!) I picked up a couple of bottles of Geranium and a couple of Beach Glass. The Geranium seemed the closest to the tomato soup color of the faded batting Santas and Beach Glass is just right in my favorite color range and looks good with the Geranium. I painted two boxes Geranium and two Beach Glass. They look so good together, I switched lids.
Now I am wrapping my Santas in the acid free paper and tenderly tucking them in the boxes. I can get quite a few in each box and the tissue paper will keep them from snagging on some of the guys who have exposed wires. I will put the boxes inside the red trunk in my famiily room or in one of the trunks which I plan to stack in my studio where the climate is better for them. I’ll do the sheep next.
I also plan to store my papier mache Santa boots that were originally candy containers, mercury glass bead garlands and mercury glass bead picks in my studio in the rattan trunks. Little feather trees and bottle brush trees will likely go in one as well. I make Santas and like to use some of my stash for accessories, so it makes sense to have it all in my studio, right?
Here’s a tip for batting Santa lovers: Sometimes the batting has gotten snagged and Santa is kind of wild and out of shape. Use a felting needle to reshape the batting and restore Santa’s tidy appearance!