Christmas claybake

In that magical and ever-quickening flurry of days and weeks before Christmas, when lists are drawn up, gifts cached away, parties and visits joyously planned, there are also, for most families, the wonderful, glowing hours spent together making something special the holidays.

At artist Ruth Asawa Lanier’s house in San Francisco, the annual family get-together is Christmas Claybake.

From a simple mixture of salt, flour and water (we call it baker’s clay), Ruth, her architect husband, Albert, the six children, ranging from 5 to 14, and occasional guests of all ages, make, bake and paint (or leave untouched in the burnished oven-baked bisque color) delightful Christmas decorations like the ones shown here.

Everything used in the claybake is a household staple. To press designs into the clay, the Laniers use forks, bottle caps — anything that makes a good impression. On the next pages, we show a Lanier claybake in close-up, plus directions for staging your own.

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A Christmas claybake can cover a wide range of projects, from an intricate Christmas creche and a nativity scene which Ruth created, to an owl, a wide assortment of medallions hung on a Tinker-Toy tree and a wreath.

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