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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Artist makes ornament for governor's tree

  • Amanda Smith has been working at Clayworks since it opened in 2003. This year, her work is displayed on the governor's Christmas tree in Topeka.
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  • Amanda Smith has been working at Clayworks since it opened in 2003. This year, her work is displayed on the governor's Christmas tree in Topeka.
    The ornament was commissioned by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. Jon Zehnder, director of advocacy and policy for Disability Supports of the Great Plains Inc., which runs Clayworks, said department officials have been complimentary about what goes on at Clayworks.
    "We got together and talked about what we could do for our clients that's different and fun," Zehnder said of how Clayworks got started.
    Located on McPherson's Main Street, Clayworks is a place where people with disabilities can create clay sculptures and decorations. Clayworks then sells these items, and the creators get 100 percent of the retail value. This allows people with disabilities to earn a living and contribute to the community.
    "This provides a good employment opportunity for people, many of whom have never had jobs before," Zehnder said.
    Smith made four of the ornaments, one of which will be on display at the capitol. The department will decide what to do with the other three.
    The ornaments bear the words "Merry Christmas" above the department's logo. Zehnder said it's one of the most complicated pieces to come out of Clayworks.
    "There was a lot of detail," Zehnder said. "I don't know how many stars are on it."
    Smith said she enjoyed the challenge, though the ornaments took several weeks to create. She said pulling them out of the oven after glazing was her favorite part.
    "It seems like when we do our pieces, it's always Christmas because you never know what it's going to be like," Smith said.
    Zehnder said while this is the first time someone from Clayworks has had an ornament on the governor's tree, other pieces are scattered throughout the United States and internationally in places like Japan and Ireland.
    "It's really incredible," Zehnder said. "We've had a lot of good comments online."
    Contact Josh Arnett by email at jarnett@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @ArnettSentinel.
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