Every night Laura's father was busy, working on a large piece of wood and two small pieces. He cut them with his knife, he rubbed them with sand-paper and with the palm of his hand, until when Laura touched them, they felt soft and smooth as silk.
Then with his sharp pocket-knife he worked at them, cutting the edges of the large one into little peaks and towers, with a large star carved on the very tallest point. He cut little holes through the wood. He cut the holes in shapes of windows, little stars, crescent moons and circles. All around them he carved tiny leaves, flowers and birds.
One of the little boards he shaped in a lovely curve and around its edges he carved leaves and flowers and stars. Through it he cut crescent moons and pretty twists. Around the edges of the smallest board he carved a tiny flowering vine.
He made very small cuts. He was cutting very slowly and carefully, making whatever he thought would be pretty.
At last he had the pieces finished and one night he put them together. When this was done, the large piece was a beautifully carved back for a smooth little shelf across its middle. The large star was at the very top of it. The curved piece supported the shelf underneath and it was carved beautifully too. And the little vine ran around the edge of the shelf.
Her father had made this shelf for a Christmas present for their mother. He hung it carefully against the log wall between the windows. Her mother stood her little china doll on the shelf. This was a doll made like a good quality plate or tea cup. Long ago the best plates and tea cups came from China, so anything made that way was called ‘china’. That is why high quality pottery is called china, with a small c.* China with a big C is the country.
The little china doll was a woman, who wore a china bonnet on her head. A bonnet is a type of hat. This doll had china hair, which hung against her china neck. Her china dress was laced across in front and she wore a pale pink china apron. She also had little gold covered china shoes. She was beautiful, standing on the shelf with flowers and leaves and birds and moons carved all around her and the large star at the very top.
China clay (Kaolin) is so-called because it was first mined on Kauling (high ridge) hill in Jianxi Province, China. It produces a hard, white, translucent pottery. Nowadays china clay it is chiefly mined in Malaysia and Cornwall (UK) but the name has stuck.