Candy Crafts

Now that the Christmas season is drawing to a close, it may seem time to put away Christmas decorations rather than make new ones, but we have one more simply sweet Finished Candiesholiday decoration idea.

This ornament is inspired by a french Christmas tradition.  French Christmas tree decorations are often simple things like fruits, sweets, nuts, and small toys. The French word for candy is “bon bon”. This craft uses recycled materials to make bonbons or sweets to decorate the tree.

All finished with Christmas decorations?  Try this idea for Valentine’s Day!

What You Need:

  • Clean 16 oz Plastic BottleSupplies
  • Scissors
  • Acrylic Paint/Brush
  • Clear or Colored Cello Wrap
  • Curling Ribbon

What You Do:

1. Cut the bottom off of the 16 oz plastic bottle

Cut bottle bottom

2. Paint the bottom of the bottle however you like

Painted bottle

3. Cut enough cello wrap* to wrap the plastic bottle bottom

* Cello wrap can be found in the wrapping paper aisle of most stores


4. Wrap the bottle bottom and twist each end of cello wrap

5. Secure the ends closed with curling ribbon

Wrap and tie

Alternative: Skip the painting step and just wrap a clear bottle bottom in colored cello wrap


Did you try this craft?  Show us what you made!

– Kayte

Can You Catch the Gingerbread Man?

Many of the Christmas traditions we share in America came from Europe. One of the tastiest traditions includes making gingerbread houses and people. GB DecorationQueen Elizabeth I of England is supposedly credited with the idea of shaping gingerbread into little men as it is documented that she served gingerbread men in the likenesses of important dignitaries at a holiday celebration.

In Germany, gingerbread cookies have been served at fairs and festivals for centuries. Germans are credited with the creation of the gingerbread house which was most likely inspired by the witch’s candy cottage in the tale of “Hansel and Gretel”.

Gingerbread men and houses lend themselves to Christmas tradition with their fun designs and delicious candy decorations. Take a trip to Europe this Christmas season by creating a gingerbread-looking decoration!

What You Need: 

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour*

¼ cup Salt

2/3 cup Water

Gingerbread Man Cookie Cutter or Butter Knife

Food Coloring/Sharpies/Acrylic Paint (optional)

*We used whole wheat flour to give a brown color to our decorations, but any all-purpose flour will work

What You Do:

1) Mix flour, salt and water in a bowl and knead until mixed into a soft dough

Dough GB Ingredients    Mixing dough
2) Sprinkle flour on a hard surface and evenly flatten the dough ball with your hands
3) Use a cookie cutter or butter knife to cut out your gingerbread man…family…or village!

Cut GB men   GB Family
4) Use the end of a paintbrush or a toothpick to make a hole at the top of your gingerbread man so it can be placed on an ornament hanger after drying

Head Hanger Holes

Adding Decoration:

If you have extra dough, you can color it with food coloring:
– Create a small bowl out of a piece of the dough
– Squeeze about 5-6 drops of food coloring into the dough bowl
– Knead and fold the dough ball until all of the color has mixed in

Coloring Dough     Colored dough

Use the colored dough to make hair, facial features and clothes for your figure

No extra dough? Use acrylic paint or Sharpie markers to decorate.

The gingerbread dough man possibilities are up to your imagination!

Show us your gingerbread creation!!

How can Turkey keep from being on the Christmas menu?

Find out when we read Turkey Claus by Wendi Silvano on Wednesday, December 18 and make Turkey Santas.

In this book, Turkey has made it safely through Thanksgiving, but once again finds himself on the menu as Christmas approaches. Without a moment to lose Turkey decides to get help from Santa Claus. Product DetailsWill Santa be able to help Turkey or is his goose cooked?

What do you have for Christmas dinner?

What is your favorite part of the dinner?

Is there something that you only get to eat at Christmastime?

Would you eat pizza for Christmas dinner?

– Robin

Who Stole the Cookies?!

This month our Milton’s Marvels of Science demonstration, “Who Stole the Cokies?” was written by Gallery Educator Bess. In it, we aim to solve a holiday party crime–the stealing of the holiday party cookies. Whoever the thief was, they left a few scattered crumbs and a few scattered clues. With a little detective work, we’ll find out which Clay Center employee is the culprit!

If you can’t join us to solve the crime by analyzing liquids, footprints, and fingerprints, you can at least try out our lipstick chromatography experiment at home!

What you’ll need:
lipstick (We’ve found that brands such as Wet n’ Wild and NYC work best for this experiment.)
paper towels
drinking glasses

What you’ll do:
First, pour a small amount of acetone in your drinking glasses.Then, cut your strips of paper towels so that only the very ends will be in the liquid when they are suspended from your pencils and into the glass. Once your strips are cut, tape them to the pencils. Then, draw a small smear of lipstick about one inch from the end that will be touching the acetone. Now, suspend your samples over the glasses and wait.Milton's Marvels of Science Demonstration "Who Stole the Cookies?"

What’s happening:
The acetone is causing the pigment molecules in the lipstick to separate. Because lipstick uses several colors to make a particular shade, each one will be separated from the others over the length of your paper towel strip. In our story, we do this to figure out who was drinking from a glass we found at the scene.

A few things to note: Supervise children as they work with acetone, being particularly certain that they do not sniff or drink it. As an alternative to lipstick, you can try this chromatography experiment with  markers and water instead of lipstick and acetone!


Can there be too many baby penguins?

One lonely penguin discovers that a lot of baby penguins can be very fun, but they can also be very tiring. She soon seeks some alone time away from her newfound friends, but returns once again to have fun. Alone time is good, but being with friends is much better. 

Join us on Wednesday, December 11 when we read Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion and make penguin hats.

What is your favorite baby animal?

What kind of environment would your baby animal need to live in?

Would you be able to take care of lots of that same baby animal?

Would it be fun or tiring?

– Robin

Early Appalachian Toy – Corn Husk Doll

This year’s holiday exhibit, Trees of the World, takes you on a trip around the world to look at how various countries celebrate Christmas.  One stop in the exhibit brings you to an Appalachian Christmas in the early 1900s.

One of the toys under the tree is a corn husk doll.  These dolls were simple and inexpensive to make and could provide hours of entertainment.

This Christmas season, try taking a step back in time by creating your own version of a corn husk doll.  With some imagination, you can create dozens of variations of this doll.  Have fun!!

What You Need:Corn Husk Doll

  • Corn Husks
  • Container of Warm Water
  • Scissors
  • Twine/String

What You Do:

1. Soak dried corn husks in warm water until they are pliable (approx. 5-10 mins).Step 1

2. Stack 2-3 long husks together and fold them in half.

Step 2

3. Near the folded end, use twine/string to tie off a head section.

Step 3

4. Stack 1-2 additional husks and fold them in half.

Step 4

5. Slide these folded corn husks between the first folded husks to make arms for the doll.  If needed, adjust or cut one end to create symmetrical arms.

Step 5

6. Take 4-5 corn husks and overlap them around the body of the doll slightly under the arms to create a skirt.  Tie in place once the skirt is formed.

Step 6  Step 6.5

7. Cut the bottom of the skirt to the desired length.

8. Take 1 husk and fold it over one shoulder of the doll.  Repeat on the other shoulder with an additional husk.  Tie in place around the waist.

Step 8   Step 9

9. Finally, spread the skirt apart to allow the doll to stand on its own.

Enjoy your corn husk doll!


Trees of the World 2013


The tradition of a tree display at our museum has a long history. This year’s holiday exhibit is a 10th year celebration for the Clay Center; however, this holiday tradition stems back to the 1970’s at Sunrise Museum. The first exhibits, Trees of Nations, were designed by Charleston area garden clubs and featured trees decorated to represent various nations around the world. I remember touring this exhibit as a child, as I’m sure many of you do as well! In the early 1990s the exhibit transitioned to artist-designed trees. This exhibit format continued through 2012, while expanding to become a community effort that has included collections by area collectors and trains provided by local train enthusiasts. Each year the exhibit has changed in some way and now, for our 10th anniversary, we are combining many different elements of holidays past for an all new exhibit. The focus on traditions from around the world is back and the featured artists this year are area students. Since we have been open for ten years now (still hard to believe!), it seemed an appropriate time to honor our long history, and to celebrate the talent of young artists. Trees featured this year will be from several European countries such as England, France, Germany, Italy and Norway. The traditions aren’t limited to the Old World, however; trees celebrating the holidays in the United States – particularly the Appalachian region – and Mexico will also be on hand. We even get to see a tree from down under with Australia.

Appalachain Christmas       IMG_0269

One main difference with this exhibit is that as you tour with your students, or on your own if you visit us on weekends with friends and family, there is a concerted effort to make each display not only pleasing to the eye, but a true learning experience for guests as well. Labels accompanying each display will have the country’s flag, global location and information about that particular country’s holiday customs and how the student-created ornaments reflect these traditions. The learning doesn’t stop with the exhibit! Lesson plans were created for each country, with background information including profiles of scientists and artists from that country. Background information on the country’s holiday traditions is also included, as are instructions for the ornaments, so you can use them in the classroom if you wish. All of this information is accessible online, under our For Educators tab @ There are other great resources there as well, so take some time and explore!

IMG_0275    IMG_0271

We hope you enjoy our holiday exhibit and all of your experiences at the Clay Center. From all of us to all of you – Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noël and Happy Holidays!

-R. Lewis