As the winter holidays approach, people begin to retrieve boxes of seasonal items from closets and attics to decorate their homes inside and out. Sometimes the ornaments are keepsakes: objects passed down from family members, gifts from friends, mementos of a trip, or artwork created by toddlers who have since grown up. 

On Saturday, Dec. 10, Moab’s Desert Sun Ceramics Studio is hosting a Holiday Open House, where people of all ages (3 years and up to adults) and any or no experience with pottery can check out the studio, get their hands on some clay and create a new handmade keepsake ornament. The studio is at 1320 South Highway 191, next to the Canyonlands Field Institute. 

From 9 to 11 a.m., participants are invited to make Christmas tree luminaries. Studio owner Liz Ford and other studio staff will prepare hollow clay cones ahead of time, and open-house attendees can choose different shapes to make cutouts in the cones. After the open house, Ford will coat the “trees” in green glaze and fire them in the kiln. A candle placed inside the finished ornament lights it up like a decorated tree. The finished pieces will be ready to pick up from the studio within about ten days after the open house.

From 1-3 p.m., experienced ceramicists will guide participants in making their choice of several hangable ornaments: Santa Claus figures or round ornaments which makers can stamp with patterns or words. “Candy canes” made from red and white clay coiled together are another option. 

“We’re also going to have some ornaments that are just paint-and-take,” Ford said. They’ll be pre-fired and participants can use acrylic paint to decorate them. This is the route she recommends for small children.  

“Especially if you have little kids, they like to take what they make right away,” Ford said. 

On the other hand, she added, “Some people actually want to work with the clay, so we have that option.” The Santa figures will be sculpted from wet clay. 

Ford said walk-ins are welcome, but it’s helpful if people who plan ahead of time to come register on the website,, under the “Classes” tab. That way, she and her staff will have an idea of how many people to expect and how many materials to have prepared. More involved ornaments will cost $15; paint-and-take pieces will cost $5. 

Clay, paint, and underglaze can all get a bit messy, so Ford recommends participants to expect that.  

“Mostly we’ll be working with white clay, but it’s always a good idea to wear old clothes,” Ford said, adding that people with long hair may want to wear it tied back. 

A guided session like the Holiday Open House can be an easy way to dip a toe into a new craft to find out what it’s like. If participants are interested in learning more about pottery techniques, classes for beginners will be offered later this winter; check the studio website for more information.