Elf for Your Shelf

Artist Ken Wagle draws on his Pennsylvania Dutch heritage to create unique carvings of the North Pole’s biggest elf — Santa.

With his white beard and twinkly eyes, Ken Wagle bears a striking resemblance to Old St. Nick. So perhaps it’s fitting he creates carvings of him.

The Pittsburgh artist has been carving Santas since the late 1960s. Wagle, who is of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, often draws inspiration for his work from Belsnickel, a fur-clad, far less forgiving version of Kris Kringle.  

According to German folklore, Belsnickel would visit children the week before Santa’s arrival on Christmas to determine who was naughty and who was nice. Good little children often received treats. Bad little children, well, they got threatened with a switch.

Wagle also makes Santa ornaments, drawings and scrimshaw-like etchings of Santas on cue balls, billiard balls, bowling pins and Micarta.   

Available at:
Koolkat Designs, 691 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon; 412/341-2299, koolkatpgh.com 
Schoolhouse Arts Center, 200 South Park Road, Bethel Park; 412/835-9898, southartspittsburgh.org
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave, Shadyside; 412/361-0873, pittsburgharts.org


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