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From crafts to creches, artist loves Christmas

Staff writer

Christmas is a favorite time of year for Goessel crafter Lavina Schroeder.

“I just love everything about Christmas — the baking, the wrapping, the crafts,” she said. “I wish it was longer. I could have two whole months of it, and it wouldn’t be enough.”

Schroeder, a year-round ceramic, glass, and porcelain artist, admitted that Christmas is her favorite season because she loves to make and give different Christmas crafts to friends, family, and co-workers each year.

“This year I am making china painted Christmas tree ornaments,” she said. “There will have to be 20 of them for all the kids and grandkids.”

As she worked on the porcelain ornaments, cutting fuzzy colorful socks for snow hats, and popping on golden hangers, Schroeder said she got many of her Christmas craft ideas from the China Highlighters painting club.

“It’s a statewide club with chapters in Emporia, Derby, Wichita, and McPherson,” she said. “I’ve been a member for about four years now. We have teachers come in and teach us different things to do. It’s a lot of fun.”

Schroeder always has more than one craft going at a time and this week was no exception. In addition to working on the china painted tree ornaments, she was finishing lighted Christmas wine bottles, painting Christmas plates, and sanding wooden nativity figures.

“On the wine bottles, I use a carbide bit to cut a hole in the glass at the base to put lights in the bottle,” she said. “Then I use the china paints to make the snowman scene on the outside, and then I fire it.”

She has two kilns in the back shop at her home in Goessel and generates a lot of heat when making craft projects, according to her husband, Dennis.

“It used to be beastly hot in here,” he said. “So we wired the kilns up in my shop out back. It doesn’t bother me at all. I like it nice and warm there.”

Schroeder said she uses the kilns for many of her projects, especially the ones involving china painting.

“Some of these projects take two or three firings to set the paint,” she said. “I like to paint the first layer lighter, then I can fire it to set that, and if I make a mistake on the second layer it won’t mess up the first.”

Christmas plates currently under construction have different shades of holly and greenery and Schroeder showed how they exemplified levels of firing.

For her different wooden craft projects, Schroeder said her husband was a good teacher.

“He has turned wooden pens and ornaments for years on a lathe,” she said. “This year I wanted to learn how, so he has been teaching me.”

In addition to making pen and pencil sets, the couple also made wooden spool ornaments for their Christmas tree and as presents for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Schroeder said she was working on wooden cut out nativity scenes this year, and added that nativity figures were one of her favorite subjects to work with.

“I have no idea how many I’ve really made,” she said. “I just like to try a different version each year and love to get them all out at Christmas to enjoy.”

Painted ceramic, glazed porcelain, dry brushed clay, and a variety of other nativity figurines decorated Schroeder’s house for the season.

One of her more ambitious projects involved creating six or seven glazed ceramic 16-piece, nativity sets with some of the figurines 10 or more inches tall.

“I thought I had them all done and set them up,” she said. “But found out I was missing one of the wise men. I had to go back and pour another one.”

Schroeder does not buy green ware for her projects but makes it all herself, filling molds with slip (liquid ceramic clay) and cleaning, scraping, and firing it to her specifications.

This gives her a bit more creative leeway than if she had to rely on available forms.

“I like to look for something different to do each year,”
she said. “When I was working full time at Prairie View in Newton, I used to take angels to everybody there, each year.”

Schroeder worked at Prairie View for 10 to 15 years and each year took in 120 to 130 handmade angel figures for her co-workers. Some examples of those pieces can be found in every room of her house during the Christmas season.

“I don’t like to sell these things,” she said. “Then it would seem too much like work. I just enjoy making them and sharing them with others. That’s what I really enjoy doing.”

In addition to working with ceramic and porcelain figures and making wooden crafts, Schroeder said she enjoys tulle painting, especially poinsettias. Always on the lookout for new ideas, she plans to take a glass fusing class in Wichita next Saturday.

Last modified Dec. 15, 2011

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