Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, September 21, 2001

Adams uses fabrics she picks up from her travels
around the world, creating a theme for ethnic Santas,
such as this Korean one, with wooden shoes and
accessories associated with the culture. This one
sells for $595. All her Santas are completely
clothed, down to their underwear.

Holiday touch

Santa's workshop operates almost all year
long in Kaneohe as Ione Adams creates
handcrafted renderings of the
jolly old Christmas saint

By Nancy Arcayna

Christmas is just around the corner, and one of Santa's helpers on the Windward side is already preparing for the fast-approaching holiday season. More than 300 collectible Santa dolls are lined up around Ione Adams' home, where she is busy putting all of the finishing touches on her 2001 edition of Santa Claus collectibles for home decorating.

Adams started creating the dolls five years ago, after retiring from a career in the retail business.

"At first it was just a hobby," she said. "One day, while on an airplane, I began to stitch an assortment of neckties that were given to me. I pasted the old ties together with embroidery to make my first Santa Claus."

The beards on Ione Adams traditional Santas, left,
are made of angora wool. These Santas sell for an
average of $475. Hawaiian Santas, far left, range in
cost from $435 to $445 and are accesorized with
ukuleles, mini hibiscus and other Hawaiiana.

The end result was a Santa cloak that she used as a centerpiece for a Christmas party. "When they saw the completed doll, many friends requested one for themselves," she said.

A lot of love and care is put into each creation. "Each Santa is a one-of-a-kind and requires 80 to 100 hours to create. Because I'm a collector myself, the dolls mean a lot to me," Adams said. "I don't like to sell them to stores, only to serious Santa collectors. You work on them for so long, you become attached to them. Most of them are sold to friends and by word of mouth."

Adams is shown putting finishing touches on a Santa beard.

One exception is the Santas that are on display at the Neiman Marcus fine-jewelry counter. "They are set up there with the million-dollar diamonds," she said.

The public will have an opportunity to see more of Adams' work tomorrow during the "Over the Koolaus" display of her 2001 Santa collection at the Ala Moana Hotel.

"Many people are overwhelmed when they see the displays. They don't expect to see that kind of intricate work in Hawaii," she said.

Adams graduated from Farrington High School and the University of Hawaii and never expected to be known as Hawaii's Mrs. Claus. "My friends started calling me Mrs. Claus or Ms. Christmas as a joke. They know how much I enjoy the holidays. They even started buying me miniatures to decorate my Santas. I'm always in Christmas mode. I only take a rest in January."

The Santa collectible dolls are all unique and made from scratch. Adams orders the hands, heads and angora wool for the beards from the Midwest. A different costume is designed for each doll. Adams extensive collection includes costumes made from Hawaiian quilts, and a variety of fabric she's collected from all over the world, including Paris, Los Angeles, New York, Milan, Korea and throughout Asia.

Each doll is accessorized to complement the overall theme. The Hawaiian Santa has a miniature ukulele and a haku lei. He's very popular, according to Adams, because people send him to friends on the mainland.

'Over the Koolaus'

Art display featuring Ione Adam's Santa collectible dolls
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Ala Moana Hotel, Pakalana/Anthurium Room
Admission: Free
Call: 561-3374 or e-mail

Adams also creates the traditional Santa with the crushed red velvet suit, and she's found her hobby has turned into a family effort.

"My daughter used to help me, and now that she has moved to the mainland, my husband helps. Clients all over the mainland want a different Santa each year."

Adams admits she can get obsessive about her work. "Recently, I made a Santa on a sofa with some bears. I couldn't stop until all of the bears had little outfits."

And all of the Santas are fully clothed, she explained. It's not just for modesty's sake. "It's more a matter of me knowing that each one is done and complete," she said. "These little old men definitely keep me quite busy."

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