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Crafting a Creative Christmas : Partridge of Song Still Adding Joy to Festive Season

December 25, 1986|Gerald Faris | Times staff writer

It's boom time for many South Bay artists, especially crafts people and others whose works make good Christmas gifts or decorations.

Maudette M. Ball, executive director of the Palos Verdes Community Arts Assn., calls the holidays an "everybody wins" time: Artists get a market for their work, and buyers get "something that is made by the human hand."

Times staff writer Gerald Faris takes a look at what some of those hands have been doing this holiday season.

When it comes to ceramic Christmas tree ornaments, this season's hits are lambs, angels and birds--including the proverbial partridge in a pear tree, says ceramist Lyn-Rae Ashley, who has been making these small decorations for three years.

While her work has been sold at holiday boutiques and crafts shows, Ashley said she gets her greatest enjoyment from making ornaments that appeal to her. "It's mostly for my own pleasure," she said.

On a more elaborate scale, Ashley's most popular holiday gift items have been decorative ceramic boxes, up to 14 inches high. "Sometimes, they have smooth lids, and sometimes there are added-on pieces that make decorative handles," she said. "They are used primarily for art objects in the home."

Although she was trained in painting and drawing, making ceramics in the studio of her Palos Verdes Estates home has become a "cottage industry" occupying most of her creative time, she said.

The firing technique Ashley uses to transform the molded clay into a finished ceramic has ancient origins. "It was used by early people, who would dig a hole in the ground, put in the clay objects, and then put combustible objects in with them."

Although Ashley experimented with this technique at the beach, she now uses a modern kiln, placing twigs, bark and seaweed around the clay before it is fired. The minerals from these objects are absorbed by the porcelain, giving it mossy green, peach, pink and bronze tones.

Ashley says she starts gearing up for the holiday season early because the major boutiques and sales start in October. Christmas is a good time for artists: "People are in a buying mood, for themselves and for others."

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