Christmas Classic

Arbovale resident Arlene Rexrode has a treasure trove of ceramic Christmas decorations that she made in the 1990s. The most unique in her collection is the white Christmas tree above, which she altered by making holes for more colored pieces to produce a garland of lights around the tree. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

As a child, there was nothing better than the glow of Christmas lights filling your home with cheer and magic and, of course, the thought of presents.

One decoration that has been a staple in many homes for many years is the ceramic Christmas tree which sits on a lighted base. Whether painted green or white, decorated with multi-color or single color plastic lights or birds, the ceramic tree symbolized a homemade Christmas.

The trees became popular in the 1960s and 70s when crafty individuals bought greenware and kilns to make their own gifts. The pre-made trees were available at most craft stores, along with the glaze and paint. All one needed was a kiln and a little artistic ability to create beautiful keepsakes like the Christmas tree, snowmen, Santa and reindeer.

Arbovale resident Arlene Rexrode started her own ceramic business in the 1990s with her daughter, Becky McCarty. They created ceramic decorations and taught classes to help others learn the process.

“I think Becky is the one that got me into it because it was in her basement,” Rexrode said. “I didn’t have any place here to put the kiln and have the tables and everything. I went to Huntington to take classes. I didn’t know anything about it.”

Rexrode bought greenware to stock her store and taught people to make all kinds of themed decorations, with Christmas being the most popular.

During the Christmas season, you will find at least two ceramic pieces – made by Rexrode – in each room of her home. Trees, reindeer, vases and a complete Nativity scene are lovingly unwrapped and placed in a variety of areas to fill the home with holiday cheer.

Among those decorations is a very special Christmas tree that is Rexrode’s one-of-a-kind production.

At first glance, it may seem like a regular large ceramic Christmas tree, but when the lights come on, they reveal the extra time and effort Rexrode put into it to add flair. While most trees have colored bulbs or birds on the tips of each bough, Rexrode added holes for more miniature colored pieces so it would resemble a string of lights.

“I did it just to make more color, and I had the time,” she said. “I had to fire the kiln for students, and they would come to stay two or three hours, and then they’d want to go home. Well, then I had theirs to fire, so I had to stay down there and do something while I waited.

“I thought, ‘that would make it so pretty,’” she continued. “I was pretty particular in my decorations.”

The special tree holds a place of honor in the front window of Rexrode’s farmhouse, and although it can’t be seen from the road, when visitors pull into the driveway, their eyes are immediately drawn to the brilliance of the tree.”

more recommended stories