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Pipka's Christmas in July
By Jeannie Hoffman and Sponsored by Lakeshore Motorsports LLC
Jul 27, 2011 - 9:00:00 AM
Santa aka John W. Hansen.
I was driving through Sister Bay with the top down trying to beat the heat with my three sons last weekend when I spotted Santa and Mrs. Claus. These were not the run of the mill, fake Santa and Mrs. Claus that you find around every corner at the malls in December. This was Santa with the most beautiful, and genuine, silver beard and mustache. Mrs. Claus looked timeless with her warm smile and classic cherry jewelry made by Pipka. They were standing in the shade of the trees among a bounty of bulbous hydrangea blossoms and bursting lilies in the gardens that surround Pipka’s shop. The scene looked so inviting that I had to stop. Santa immediately offered each of us a crisp peppermint candy cane and sat with the boys for pictures. After chatting for a bit with Santa and Mrs. Claus we all entered our names in a drawing for a Pipka Santa figure. Pipka appeared at the door to the shop and beckoned us in with the promise of samples of teacakes. Even if I could have resisted, there was no stopping my sons. We entered through the side door where a museum of the history of Pipka Santa figures can be viewed.
We all made our way through the shop to the central table, which held a variety of moist little cakes and a choice of hot or iced cherry coffee. I have called Pipka’s a shop. In truth, it’s more of an art gallery. The shop is filled with Pipka’s original designs and creations from jewelry to wall collages and sculptures to her famous Santa figures. I was so intrigued by the beauty and the warmth of every detail of the shop and all of Pipka’s creations that I hoped that I could convince her to tell me a little about herself and what inspires her. I approached Pipka as she attended to customers and asked if she could spare a moment. Pipka graciously offered to sit and chat a little in the museum room where a history of her Santa figures is on display.
Art pieces using vintage found objects including jewelry.
Many wonderful items to be found at Pipka's!
It turns out that Pipka is a self-taught artist. She began with importing German furniture, painting and stenciling and teaching the craft to others. As it sometimes happens, the full bloom of Pipka’s talents and business success came through trial in her life. During a time when Pipka was experiencing the difficulties of divorce, her mother, who was visiting family in Germany, relayed information about a traditional style of German painting called bauernmalere. She also sent some of the paints and materials for this art form to Pipka in Sister Bay. Pipka was inspired through her own travels to use this paint style to create images of St. Nicholas. Like Christmas in July, sometimes the best things come at unexpected times. Pipka’s Santa images became so popular that she had a hard time keeping up with the demand. An outside producer now takes the images and creates a larger number of them for purchase. These Santas have become popular collectibles. The Santa images have become Pipka’s favorite creation. She explained that St. Nicholas is an idea and image of peace and giving that cuts across cultural boundaries. The message is one that she hoped to convey through her work. The importance of heritage, peace and giving come through in her art and gallery.
It’s the spirit of the person behind this business that comes through and makes it shine. Pipka has loads of good spirit. Whether you call him St Nick, Santa, Kris Kringle or another of the various names, he represents the spirit of giving. To Pipka and many people who covet her pieces, the figure also represents their heritage and warm memories.
Entering the drawing for a Pipka Santa.
Santa & Mrs. Claus and friends.
I asked Pipka what her favorite thing about Sister Bay was. She said that the people who come into her shop. Pipka says that working directly with the people feeds into her creativity. She prefers the one-on-one nature of her studio over working in isolation. "It's like inviting people into your home," she reports. Pipka appreciates that her creations touch people at an emotional level. "Thank you God," says Pipka. If you missed Santa in July you will have another chance to see him in October at Fall Fest. He will ride in his white sleigh to Pipka’s. Don’t miss it. You can visit Pipka any time Monday through Sunday 10am until 5pm. Enjoy! Pipka's Online Gift Shop
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If you are looking for interesting places to visit and things to do, you're in the right place. This monthly digital magazine features articles that help you get the most out of Wisconsin's magical Door Peninsula. The opinions and recommendations herein are solely those of our contributing writers.