Color outside the lines with purple donkey

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

I know I’ve written about my venture into ceramics before, and here I am doing it again.

My venture started when my kids were in the ceramics project while they were in 4-H, both in Butler and Harvey counties. They started when they were really young, and that’s where they initiated their art painting.

When we lived in Augusta, we used to go to a lady’s house by the name of Dixie, out in the country. She had her ceramics business out there, and poured and fired her own stuff.

We used to go out there at least once a month with the other 4-H’ers, and one time, I asked, “Can parents do this, too?” The answer was a ‘yes’ and so started my venture into painting ceramics.

This was more than 20 years ago. The first thing I painted was a jack-o-lantern, and then I painted a haunted house you could put candles in to light it up. I used grays and browns for that one. It even had little ghosts I painted white and glued to the building. Everything I’ve made I’ve antiqued.

This was something I could actually do with my kids. All my life, I’ve been into crafts and arts, so we did this all together. I usually paint either Halloween or Christmas kinds of things, like Santas (I have 10 in my house I’ve already painted and haven’t given away) and ghosts coming up from the graveyard.

My oldest son, Rodger, painted a variety of things, from a mushroom house to a Santa writing at a desk and a turtle. My middle son, Andy, liked to paint dragons. There was one expensive dragon piece of greenware, which is what the ceramics are called before they’re fired. We bought twice, and both times they broke. We finally had to give up on that piece. I think we bought them both in Hutchinson. They had a big greenware business there.

To explain, I’m not talking about ceramics that potters throw on wheels. These are made of clay or kind of a slip people pour into molds that resemble various shapes, so you buy them that way. Sometimes, you buy the greenware and have to clean it and then get it fired, and other times, you can just buy the bisque.

We spent a few years in 4-H doing the painting and my kids also were involved in the photography project. Imagine that.

Fast forward a few decades and for some reason, I decided I wanted to start painting Santas again, so I ordered some bisque off of the Internet and started painting.

I find it quite relaxing. It feels like I’ve accomplished something when I’m done and kinda takes away the cares of the world. I really enjoy putting certain colors together and mixing my own paints. I also like Santas that have a lot of detail to them, like one Santa I finished has quite a few stars on him I painted in a different color other than what the background is. There are also the memories that come with ceramics, of me and my sons painting. Robert, my youngest, even though he was too young to be in ceramics, painted some stuff when we lived in Augusta.

I had been the 4-H photography leader, but I decided to switch gears and try my hand to become a 4-H ceramic project leader, along with my oldest son.

Last Thursday night, the arts and crafts 4-H project had a meeting, so we combined our meeting with theirs at the new ceramic shop in the outlet mall. For a small studio fee and the cost of the bisque, parents and grandparents, other adults and kids can work in the studio, either painting a ceramic or putting glaze on it.

I decided to pick out a Santa there and paint with the kids. There were four kids in all, and then a couple of parents painted, too. My Santa has a donkey with him, so I asked a young lady who presumably isn’t old enough to be in 4-H and was there with her sister painting her own stuff. I asked her what color I should paint the donkey, and she showed me a paint called Purple Pizazz.

Now, I have a purple donkey. I figure if I want to go outside the box and color outside the lines, ask a small child what I should do. She probably was old enough to be a preschooler.

That’s kinda like life. Things can be more fun if you don’t always make things “the way they’re supposed to be.” Color outside the lines. Pick a donkey of a different color. Try to have a different thought process, whether you’re at work trying to figure out a problem or working on an art project.

Wendy Nugent is the features editor and lead photographer at Newton Now. She can be reached at 316-281-7899 or

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