It could be said that Mark Klaus was born to be Santa. Raised south of Cleveland in Seven Hills, Ohio, Mark grew up in a family where having a 12 foot span of Santa, sleigh and reindeer suspended from the ceiling was a yearly tradition. Each year along with his older siblings Gene and Karen, the three kids went tree shopping with Dad, Klaus style. “Just image a 16 foot tree with a base 10 feet across,” Mark chuckles. “Dad would get a running start and literally smash the tree through the front door.”
Underneath the tree itself, his father who was a carpenter, created a world of ice-skating Barbie’s and cardboard villages. And although he grew up with Christmas in his bones, it was his mother Marion, who brought the spirit of Christmas to life all year round. “She was the kind of person that when she told a story, she had to stand up and act it out,” Mark remembers.
A singer from the big band era, Marion sang in the church choir and had Mark’s friends thinking of her as mom. Tragically, she died in a car accident when Mark was just 16.
Since then, Mark has been creating the spirit of Christmas for everyone. He started out in high school with “Santa Run By” appearances on Christmas Eve. Dressed in a Santa suit and camel hair beard, Mark would schedule times to run across the lawns of the neighbors. As he’d go running by the windows, he’d wave to the kids inside whose parents whispered that they could hear Santa on the roof.
Although he’s not available for run by’s any longer, Mark ‘fessed up to his funniest ‘run-by’ incident. “I was doing one final night’s ‘run-by’ through the backyard, waving to the kids,” he chuckles. “The next thing I knew I was flat on my back, looking up at my hat and beard that were hanging on the clothesline above my head.”
Fortunately, the child inside never saw Santa bite it in their backyard, but their grandmother did call Mark’s home to make sure Santa wasn’t heading to the emergency room.
These days, Mark fashions holiday collectible ornaments from the safety of his home studio in Hinckley, Ohio, close to where he grew up. His hand blown or sculpted pieces take up to two months to create. This year, he is celebrating his 10-year anniversary as a Home Shopping Network featured artist.
Mark says that family memories are what he really creates and his ornaments are the vehicles. His work takes on the magic of angels, snowmen, nutcrackers, reindeer and of course, Santa’s. The pieces are painted in vibrant colors and feature intricate details.
One creation is The Mark Klaus Hand Painted Memory Clock
that is actually a way to store memories. The back of the clock has
20 scrolls that are
removable. The idea is to remove a scroll on Christmas Day, write a memory
and store in the clock until the next year. Mark’s latest creation
is an ornament titled “Guardian Angel.” The wings form a
heart shape and the angel is carrying a newborn baby to earth.
In addition to his tiny ornaments, Mark has also designed giant Christmas sculptures. One was a 30-foot Santa’s Castle made out of an old barn. It featured a candy room with a conveyor belt loaded with goodies, gingerbread houses, and 50 thousand lights. On Thanksgiving Mark and his brother were frantically finishing Santa’s Castle for opening day and decided to work through Thanksgiving dinner. But by 8pm, friends were bringing their holiday guests over to help complete the project and to deliver Thanksgiving dinner to Santa and his elves. The spontaneous gathering was a gift that meant much more to Mark and his family than the castle itself.
That was in 1990 and although he hasn’t built another castle yet, Mark’s collectibles are drawing attention from the rich and famous.
His creations have been in the gift bags at the Radio Music Awards and seen on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rocking Eve. But you don’t have to be rich to own one. His prices are in the range between $25.00 and $40.00 each are available for purchase at the Home Shopping Network’s website at www.hsn.com. Mark also has his own website in progress at www.markklausworld.com
While Mark is busy year round with Christmas, he does make time for other art sculpture as well. Currently he is creating an Indiana Jones style set in the basement of his home. It features sculpted rock and stone on the walls and piles of treasure. A work in progress, Mark and his kids, who are 11 and 13, have a blast entertaining friends.
Mark envisions that other people will catch on to themed living as well
and he hopes to be their consultant when they do. In the meantime, Mark
is content to be Santa.
|© Melt Magazine 2004|