Craftsman Corner: Ed Gilliam

Not long after I started working at my company I joined a few of the ladies for a day of antique shopping and a craft show. It was there that my co-worker Judy introduced me to her brother-in-law, Ed Gilliam, and his carved wood Santas. I loved that they were clunky and imperfect, and often times sort of angry looking. Judy said for that reason they were all self-portraits, although Ed was always just as nice as he could be to me. I believe that Ed worked for the railroad until an injury put him on disabililty, and then he started carving.
Brett fell in love with them as well, as evidenced here. We've picked up a few each year, and while we have a couple of the Father Christmas figures, we like the Santas most, and they make up the bulk of the collection. Brett also bought his mother a few as gifts over the years as she liked them too.
Some of them have things in their hands, a gift or a flag, or a sack of toys. Some just stand. We have a couple cowboys and one in his union suit. There's one vaguely shaped like a top, one like an egg, and one shaped like a Christmas tree with Santa faces on three sides.

I love the ones that don't smile.

Although the ones that do smile are fun as well. The little one on the right above is probably my favorite of all.

Ed was getting up there when we met in the 2002, and now isn't able to work anymore, so these are it. He and his wife sold their place in Paradise, Missouri (north of Smithville) and got an apartment in Smithville to be closer to family.

While it's sad that he can't carve now, it's nice to think of how many of these he's left behind. He sold them all over the country and had a nice little following, so there are lots out there. I think that sort of legacy would be appreciated by anyone who makes things for a living.


hello gorgeous said...

I like the first one. I prefer Father Christmas rather than Santa.

This is also why I need a gay husband - so I have someone to shop with!!

Karena said...

David I love these. They are wonderful Santas! Your collection is a very fun mix of shapes and sizes. Do you have any available at your Antiques booth for sale?

David said...

Hey there. Sadly none for sale, it's my personal stash =)

LenoreNeverM♡re said...

what a fabulousss collection! love how you group them together...almost like they belong in MoMa ;)
~Merry Christmas to you dear!

soodie :: said...

Hey did you have a birthday? I noticed a year added to your age? Happy B-day!

David said...

Thanks Soodie! It was back in October, I just noticed the profile error the other night =)

Toad said...

David, I love it. Thanks for adding to your blog roll, and my best to Brett.

Unknown said...

We lived in Kansas for a number of years. We met Ed in the mid to late 1980's and we frequently visited him at his shop (home) in Paradise. When family from California would visit, we always made a trip to Paradise to purchase his Santas. Ed's Santas are living in homes in California, Washington, Georgia and Kansas.We have 20 of his remarkable carvings - to include a cowboy and a santa sitting on a sleigh with metal wheels attached - which are my favorites. Ed was born on Christmas Day, he had fair skin, expressive blue eyes, pure white hair and beard and rosy cheeks - he could have been the Jolly Santa himself. Rest in Peace Ed. Your art lives on.