Home > Uncategorized > Week 8: I Try Something Artistic

Week 8: I Try Something Artistic

I used to me more of a crafty person. Crafty as in someone who does crafts, I mean. But, then with a family, a job, a house and, you know, stuff, I kind of quit crafts. Not just because of time issues, but also because, to be honest, I’ve had a few really spectacular failures–knitted scarves the size of tablecloths, beaded bracelets that came un-beaded at meetings–that sort of thing. But for my eighth week of doing something different, I decided to try my hand at ceramics painting. Here, in my new easy-to-read format, I’ve laid out 10 things you might want to know about this activity.

Why I chose this activity: because my daughter is home from college on spring break, and my oldest daughter was also around for the weekend. My idea was that we would work together on a project for my mother’s upcoming birthday. There are a number of ceramics places in the area. I chose The Painted Plate  in West Chester because, one, it was open on Sunday, and two, it didn’t seem quite as child-oriented as some others.  Also we wanted to paint a plate, so this seemed like the right spot. Here are the 10 things I found worth sharing.

1. Lots of people do this. My daughters have been to childhood ceramics parties. Other than that, we were novices, so the first thing that struck us when we arrived was the variety of people who were sitting at tables engrossed in ceramic painting. There was a middle-aged man and what looked to be his grown daughter working together on pieces that were truly artistic. There were mothers with children, but also other women like myself who had older daughters.  So it seems this is an activity with wide appeal.


A wall of possibilities

2. Decisions, decisions: 

Here are a few of the decisions we were faced with and which, at one point (or maybe two), threatened to overwhelm us–Which piece will we paint? What colors? What designs? How detailed do we get? Will this turn out ugly? My original idea was that we would each paint a salad plate. But  we immediately were taken with new ideas for nearly every piece we saw. Bowls, pitchers, platters, even a set of measuring cups. It took a while but we finally settled on a salsa dish and matching bowl.

Unpainted salsa dish

3. More decisions: After probably more discussion than Congress has had over the recent budget, we decided on a neutral color. Then came the design. The woman in charge handed us some design books to give us ideas (or something to argue about). What’s more, all around the store are pieces, painted by professionals, that provided the ideal look which we were pretty sure we could not achieve. We rummaged through bins of stencils. Fruit? Sunflowers? Checkers? Leaves? I found a detailed design featuring herbs that I knew would be perfect. No one was willing to attempt it.

4. Less is More: “It’s been my experience with these kinds of things that less is more,” my daughter Juliet said. Stacked against one wall were the recent finished pieces done by non-professionals. There were rainbow dogs, smeary stenciled flowers, mismatched colors and lots of features that just looked like they were done by, well, non-professionals. We agreed to keep the design as simple as possible, using puff paints and two colors.

5. Finally, we relaxed: Once we surmounted the stressful decision-making process, the painting part was actually quite relaxing. You need to layer on three coats of paint in order to achieve a smooth, even tone, so even three of us working on two pieces took a while. The day we went it was pouring rain outside. Inside, satellite radio played a terrific selection of appealing rock tunes while we listened, intent on our work.

6.  Too much less is just less: When we were finished painting, we drew on a design of simple triangles along the edges with puff paint. This looked great, but I didn’t think it was enough. More decision-making. More arguing. My daughters insisted I would ruin the whole thing. We finally agreed to add a stencil of the sun in the center of the small bowl. Then, more arguing and we added the same image in different colors to the larger salsa dish.

7. It wasn’t really a masterpiece but we felt like it was: “I like it so much I don’t even want to give it away,” Juliet said when we were done.

8. It’s not cheap: The salsa dish cost $26, plus a $13 studio fee to cover the cost of paints, glaze, etc. The bowl was another $11, plus half of that, $5.50 for the studio fee. So, over $50 all totaled. But hey, it was a masterpiece, so I think it was well worth the price.

9. You have to wait to get your piece: Even if you love it, you can’t take it home with you right away. The store employees glaze it (the glaze is an ugly green before it turns clear in the kiln) and put it in the kiln for you.

10. It really is a masterpiece:

The finished salsa dish!

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