This interview is special to me. The owners of Kylerkraft Studio are my grandparents! They’ve always been, to me, great examples of living with positive intent. From their example I’ve learned that you can make a living doing whatever you love. Keep your passion strong – and you’ll be successful. I hope you enjoy the interview!
Tell us a little about Kylerkraft Studio. What do you create?
Kylerkraft Studio came into being in 1989.
I create original art dolls which are images of Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Belsnickel, St. Nicholas and santas by many other names and cultures.
How did you become involved in creating collectible santas?
Over 20 years ago I had a desire to make a santa figure to decorate my home. I had been admiring collectible art santas for many years prior but never could justify spending money for one.
I took a simple little santa-making class in which I made a rather primitive santa figure with a styrofoam ball for a head and a simple fabric robe for his costume. It was a cute figure but not exactly what I had longed for. Because of my desire for a collectible santa and my experience being a seamstress and crafter I recreated that simple little santa into a more acceptable figure.
I created a face by doing needle sculpture out of fabric and made a more intricate costume for the santa. I put the santa figure on display in my home and when people saw it they asked if they could commission me to make one for them.
I was thrilled that people liked my creation enough to want one for themselves and I was especially thrilled when I realized that I could earn extra money doing something I love.
Who taught you the art?
The first five years I was in the santa-making business I bought books on the history of santas in different lands, took a doll making class and practiced sculpting the heads out of a polymer clay.
For the most part I am self taught. I did take a two day class in sculpting heads, several years after I taught myself to sculpt, to fine tune my skills.
As a small business owner, how do you stay focused each day while producing your product?
I make the studio a pleasant place to be.
Early on my husband and I built a studio for me to work in.
Having a place to have all my supplies handy, and a place where I can go and work for a few hours and then leave everything where it is to go and take care of my family has been a blessing and has helped me to focus when I’m in a creative mode.
I think that another thing that keeps me focused is knowing that I have deadlines in which I need to be ready for art shows and special orders from customers. I allot time several days each week in which to work on my santa creations.
I make the studio a pleasant place to be.
You have 60 minutes of spare time in your day. What do you do?
I seldom have 60 minutes of spare time in a day but I do carve out time each day to take a brisk walk or ride my bike.
I find that when I’m outside in nature, enjoying the fresh air and my beautiful surroundings it helps me to sort out all that I have to do in a day. I also find that my creative juices flow when I am away from the phone, TV etc.
I consider my walks and bike rides to be a precious time when I can rejuvenate myself.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration in nature, in seeing a beautiful fabric that can be incorporated into a santa costume, in people’s faces and expressions, in the tender moments in life, in an object that I can use for a santa to hold, in the spirit the Christmas season brings.
I also get inspiration when a customer at a show asks me if I’ve ever thought of making a santa with a particular theme or a santa in certain colors of clothes or a santa from a certain country.
Lots of times I will be doing a task and for one reason or another I will be inspired to create a santa in a certain way.
In a struggling economy what do artists need to do in order to continue making sales?
For one thing, I have created quite a following of customers who purchase a santa figure from me each year or so.
I always keep in touch with past customers by sending out a newsletter each year.
The letter tells my followers what new designs I have created and what shows I will be selling at for the year. I also have a web site in which I post pictures of my santas on. In the early days of my santa making there used to be magazines devoted to the art of santa making. I was featured in many magazines, on TV and in an art book. All this free advertising really made my sales soar.
Now there aren’t many magazines that feature santa making so I have found other ways to showcase my work.
If I am asked to showcase one of my santas for a TV commercial for one of my shows I jump at the chance. If I am asked to feature one of my santas at one of my shows in the artist’s gallery I also oblige.
One thing I know for sure is that if an artist wants to continue making sales they need to keep their name out there and change their product style a little each year in order to keep the customers interested.
How do you interact with customers in a positive way?
Our customers that have been buying from us for years have become like family.
We (my husband is my right hand man) always respect what our customers tell us and we listen to them.
We keep in touch with our customers.
When someone new comes into our booth at a show we always greet them and tell them about the product and how it is created. I feel confident that everyone we meet and talk to feels welcome and respected.
One thing we never do is pressure anyone to buy from us. I make a “feel good” product that evokes love and the Christmas spirit–how blessed am I to be able to do that for people!