MAHWAH, N.J. — Kristen Bushman of Mahwah might be more ready for Christmas than anyone.
She's made more than 150 Santa figurines by hand since January, each one costing her north of $100 in fabric and almost 8 hours of her time.
Her eyes are tired. Her fingers are stiff.
Bushman is exhausted.
Not enough to keep her from her passion.
"I love it," said Bushman, who runs Kristen's Kreationz out of a refurbished studio above her garage. "It's so worth it."
The idea for the dolls dates back to the holiday boutique at her kids' school in 2002.
"I took the bull by the horns," said Bushman, formerly of Fair Lawn, who has an art degree. "These kids weren't going to buy 50-cent pins for their parents, so I got some moms together and we made some handmade items."
She started off with bunnies. Then, someone at The Hermitage in Ho-Ho-Kus asked if she could make Santa dolls.
Bushman agreed, but the task was easier said than done.
"I went to my car and I cried," Bushman said. "But I had to figure out a way to do it."
The first batch didn't quite look like Santas. The legs were a little too long and parts were a little botched.
But people were buying them.
"Over time, I realized there was a market for Santa dolls," Bushman said. "Who knew?"
Fast-forward more than a decade and the Santa dolls are featured in 7 Neiman Marcus stores (from Paramus to Short Hills), a Bergdorf Goodman Store, The Hermitage and Bushman's own open house.
She'll even customize a doll using a client's grandmother's fur coat or childhood blanket.
Bushman will take a break from crafting for Christmas, but will pick it back up again in January for next holiday season.
"You really have to have an audience in order to create and if you don't, what's the sense?" she said. "That inspires me to keep making them.
"I love it so much."