Have a Jolly Dolly Christmas

Safety Harbor crafter Sus Devnani creates one of a kind doll ornaments that come from the heart

susdoll2When the holidays roll around at the Devnani house, you can be sure that dolls will be a big part of the celebration. Christmas trees throughout the house will be strung with colorful miniature dolls, while wreaths and pine boughs sport festive dolls of their own.  These aren’t just any dolls, mind you, as each one is unique, painstakingly created by hand by Sus Devnani.

Sus loves the holidays, and rightly so.  Her miniature dolls are actually ornaments ready to hang on a tree or other décor. Most are Victorian-era ladies dressed for a chilly winter escapade. They sport frilly skirts and warm overcoats complete with accessories from felt hats and fur muffs to overflowing shopping bags and umbrellas.

It might seem like tedious work to some, but for Sus, a native of Denmark, it’s a hobby that brings her joy and a sense of creativity.

“I have always worked with my hands, so for me this is fun, I get to play all day,” she says with a smile. “When I was growing up in Copenhagen during World War II, my family had very little. My mother was a seamstress and my father was a creator, so we always made do with what we had.”

Sus’s dolls are 5 inches high. and no two are alike. The details are remarkable: Santa carries a sack of gifts, each one wrapped and ribboned. Some dolls carry wreaths or tiny Christmas trees or baskets of fruit, others are accompanied by dogs or small children. They all appear to be scurrying home on Christmas Eve.

“Each one is active, going somewhere,” says Sus as she lovingly picks through a worn satin-lined suitcase filled with finished dolls. “They remind me of the streets of Copenhagen when I was a child.”

There are nutcracker dolls and Raggedy Ann dolls and Kris Kringle dolls. For Halloween, Sus creates witch dolls complete with brooms and black cats and holding tiny pumpkins.

“People like the witch dolls,” she says. “One man told me it was the perfect gift for his sister. I had to laugh!”

A former antique shop owner, Sus has a beautiful collection of full-size antique dolls from around the world. They reside in specially built glass cabinets with a sweeping view of the live oaks and bay from the windows in her second-floor craft room. Here she works year-round sewing and gluing and designing. She estimates she makes about 500 dolls each year, which she sells online, at arts and crafts shows, miniature shows, and through several craft galleries.

“My father encouraged us to work and create and make things to be proud of,” says Sus.

Her father would be proud.

For a look at more dolls or to purchase online, go to www.dollsbysus.com or call (727) 804-1462.

Photos and Story by Marcia Biggs

Written for Destination Tampa Bay magazine