Kathy Call hasn't always been nuts about nutcrackers.
For five years after her husband (American Fork's new police chief) bought her some wooden blanks to paint, she didn't dare touch them.
"I was too scared to do anything with them," Call said. "Once I tried it though, I fell in love."
Since then, she's created more than 400 uniquely individual nutcrackers, from Halloween mummies wrapped in cheesecloth to an American Indian in full headdress.
Over the past 19 years, she's customized nutcrackers into cheerleaders, woodsmen, soldiers and Santas with shiny gold bells on their toes. Some are little. One is on a rocking horse.
One set is being designed to match Christmas hangings. Another set resembles a particular family grouping.
She doesn't like to use a pattern or do one that's exactly like another. She prefers to make it up as she goes.
She has 30 in her personal collection and several in the works at any given time.
Depending on the order and the time of year, it takes her between two and three weeks to finish one.
"I just love the challenge of doing something different," she said.
She created a scuba-diving nutcracker after she and her husband discovered a passion for the sport.
She made a Scottish golfer with an authentic tartan kilt based on painstaking research.
There's one dressed like a pilgrim, a leprechaun with tiny pieces of gold in his pot, Dracula with a trick-or-treat sack, skiers with little poles, chimney sweeps with small brushes, a rope and a ladder.
She has pictures of each one, from the Brigham Young University lacrosse player to the Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour nutcrackers based on the characters in the movie "Somewhere in Time."
"They all have stories that go with them," Call said. "I get a request for something, and, I don't know, it just evolves. I just go by feel."
Call sells some of her nutcrackers at La Niche Gourmet and Gifts in Park City. Owner Jane Schaffner prizes them and says the tourists who come in are very happy to discover them.
"They're incredible, the detailing, the quality. I have people who collect German nutcrackers who tell me they think these are every bit as well done," said Schaffner.
Call likes selling her creations through La Niche, but mostly she fills special orders for friends and regular customers who recognize the kind of quality work she does.
"I'm a traditionalist. I'd rather do the kind that look good. It's not just a job, although I make some money at it. It's kind of a hobby."
It's a hobby only a few people take up because it's time consuming and hard to match the craftsmanship of German designers.
"I knew a few people who do this but not very many," she said.
It's also a hobby that wasn't popular with her family.
"My kids hate 'em. I think they were jealous of the time I spent on them," Call said.
Her husband is proud of her, however.
He's quick to brag about her talent and ability.
Her blanks supplier is impressed as well. He wants her to do one of him that resembles Geppetto in the story of Pinocchio."Will they become collector's items? I don't know," Call said. "I don't worry about that. I just sign 'em and date 'em."
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