Sue Bennett brings Santa Claus to town

At a crafts fair several years ago, Sue Bennett saw a handmade Santa Claus doll she really wanted. But the $400 price tag scared her off.

Not to be denied, Bennett examined ithe doll carefully -- the body, clothing, hair and accessories. As a craftsperson, she thought to herself, "I can make this."

And now, she does.

"They're just so fun to make," Bennett said from her Gardnerville home. "It's interesting to see how people respond to them -- their expressions."

Bennett, 58, said she prefers to make Santas to individual specifications, but also makes dolls called "Biker Dude," "Duck Hunter," "Classic Claus," "Chef Claus," "Duffer," "Fisherman Claus" and others.

Bennett has made Santas for about six years. Her most unusual is "Elvis Claus," which she sold on eBay for $230.

Her dolls are one-of-a-kind.

"The price of each doll varies. They range from $195 to $220. All dolls are signed and numbered. I do pay attention to detail."

Bennett and her husband, Bill, moved to Gardnerville from San Jose, Calif., three years ago. Bill Bennet is a retired engineer and, according to his wife, has a great eye for detail when it comes to her dolls.

"We're a neat team," she said. "The deal when we moved here was, I couldn't put anything in his garage. I wanted a room where I could mess around with my crafts and be with him, and now I have it."

Bennett said she spends a couple of hours a day making the dolls and working on other crafts. The Claus dolls are a toddler size 4 with a 40-inch waist and stand just just over 3 feet.

"I've special-made dolls, too, which is what I enjoy most," Bennett said. "I've made a lawyer in a three-piece suit, a Bishop Claus for the archdiocese in Connecticut, the Fisherman Claus is at Topaz Lodge, and Red's Old 395 Grill has the Prospector, a gold-panning Claus."

Bennett was a wallpaper hanger for 20 years. She recently has also become a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer.

"This is so I can help out because so many kids get lost in the cracks."

As members of Dayspring Christian Assembly, the Bennetts bake and donate cookies, candies, main dishes and more to homeless shelters and advocacy groups during the holidays.

"It's hard to find a market for these guys, but I don't want to make cookie-cutter dolls, either. It's just so much fun."

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