When I was a kid, one of the things I got to do was "Go up to Green Bay" for a few days and stay at my grandparent's house. While I was there we would go on outings to museums or the mall, play games like Hi Ho, Cherry-Oh, and "do stuff". She had this great closet tucked behind an upstairs bedroom, under the eaves of the house, and from it she would pull artsy-craftsy projects for me and my siblings and cousins to "do". It was all great fun. Now my Grandma Naomi is in her 80s. She has eight grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren (plus three more on the way) and she is still pretty spry. She doesn't live in the same house anymore, so the closet is gone, but she still managed to keep up her reputation and find a pretty awesome project for the kids.
Yesterday, my sister, my brother and sister-in-law, our assorted kids, my mom, and I traveled "up to Green Bay" so that Great-Grandma could take the six biggest great-grandkids to "Paintin' Pottery or Bead It" a hands-on, walk-in art studio owned by her niece (I believe that makes her my first cousin, once removed). The grandkids who were too little to participate in the pottery painting project stayed at my grandma's house with most of the grow-ups, while I, along with my aunt and grandma, took the chosen six to the studio. I will freely admit that the idea of taking six kids, ranging in age from 3 to 8, into a pottery shop had me more then a little nervous, but it turned out to be a really fun and child-friendly environment.
First the kids had to choose a piece of pottery from a very extensive collection and then use a sponge to clean off their piece.
Next, they got to choose their glaze colors. That many bottles of "paint" was almost overwhelming to them. In the end we limited them to three initial choices.
Then, it was on to painting. This step was probably the easiest, although only the oldest kids might have understood the explanation of the glazing process and how the colors would be darker with more coats of glaze and after firing. Mostly they just wanted to paint.
You might have noticed the kids were not wearing smocks. I realized this a wee bit too late to do anything about it, and felt several minutes of panic. Then I was reassured that "it all washes out really easily" and my heart rate started to come down. In the end, only a surprisingly small amount of glaze ended up on clothes, shoes, faces and floor anyway.
My distant relation Carolyn and her employees were very helpful and full of suggestions and tips, which was nice when questions came up. Questions like: "Blair just used a wet sponge and washed the glaze off the back of her piece. Is that okay?" It turns out she just had to repaint it. Whew.
Great-Auntie Lynda was also full of fun, patiently trying to contain the littlest one's "creativity."
Once all the kids finished their pieces, they were labeled and dated and then left to dry and be fired.
In about a week, Great-Grandma can go back to the shop and collect the creations. Hopefully the kids will have them back by Christmas! I'm really excited to see the finished products.
If you ever get a chance to give pottery painting a try, I would encourage you to do it. If you live in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area you should check out my cousin's shop (there is coffee too!). I was very skeptical that the kids would last more then fifteen minutes or manage not to break anything, but I was totally wrong. They had great fun, broke nothing (!), and lasted for well more then an hour. It was a great hit with my kids, and I suspect they might be begging me to do it again sometime soon. Maybe I'll even join them!
Happy pottery painting, everyone!
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