Today is our six month anniversary at The Firestone.
This certainly wasn’t how we were expecting to celebrate. The studio was empty... on the Saturday of a holiday weekend. We had one person working. We spent the day anxiously waiting for the ping of an order to come through (yes, we cheer when it happens.) And, yet, we’re unsure of the future. For many small businesses, this situation has been a punch in the gut. We are riddled with uncertainty. We are unsure of the next path to take. And even though May 20th has rolled around and some businesses are getting to see their customers in person again, we just aren’t there yet, and to be honest, it’s terrifying. And we know our story isn’t all that unique. But as a business that barely got off the ground before the pandemic hit, this has been an especially difficult situation to navigate.
The past six months have been life changing and we have experienced some of the highest highs and the lowest lows. In a matter of weeks, we went from a construction zone, to a booming holiday season, to finally opening our cafe and wet clay studio -- things we had dreamed of and worked up to for years -- only to being forced to shut down to the public, cancel classes, and create an online store from scratch in a matter of days in hopes to cover the most basic of expenses. Electricity. Heat. Rent. Payroll. These things have remained constant despite every other unpredictable curveball we’ve been thrown.
Although we’ve felt the unbelievable support from the public through online ordering and social media, we’ve also had long stretches of time where we didn’t receive a single order. (Not exactly the kind of thing you run to Instagram to brag about.) We thought that by reopening the cafe for curbside pickup, we might stimulate sales, but it’s been a slow process when you know a lot of the world is still bunkering down.
Despite all of this, we are still trying our best to be grounded in gratitude e v e r y d a y. It’s not always easy, but we are making the conscious effort to persevere and stay consistent for our customers and our staff. We know we aren’t necessarily considered “essential” these days, but we also know we’ve been a landline for some living in quarantine and in need of an artistic outlet. We feel an immense responsibility to create and maintain sustainable jobs for our employees and create a comfortable, consistent, and safe work environment for them. We’ve had to come up with creative ways to hit all these marks, and we haven’t gotten it right every time. But still, we try.
It is our six month anniversary. So today and tomorrow and the day after that, we are asking you all to keep small businesses, ours included, in your minds and hearts because these are incredibly unusual times. This is an opportunity to support small businesses in the most spectacular of ways by placing orders with them. We are made with 𝗵𝗲𝗔𝗥𝗧 and we just ask you to share that love and pay it forward.
By: Danielle Kearns
Checking in on you all on day...what is this? 87 of quarantine, right? Well, it has certainly been an interesting time of late. Let us tell you - we miss you guys! The studios have been way too quiet recently and, although we know it's the right thing to do right now, it has not been easy on us as business or personally. We have had to adapt all of our operations, completely remodel our website, and bring our staffing down to the bare minimum. Everything has changed from our hours of operation, to ordering procedures, to stocking shelves, to responding to emails, to rescheduling and revamping classes. It has felt chaotic at times, but we have felt and appreciate all the love and support we have received. It means the world to us that, despite the ever-changing times and financial struggle that so many people are dealing with right now, that people are still CHOOSING to shop with us. Please know that every online purchase made goes to continue to support this small business, cover payroll, afford rent, and ensure that our studio doors will remain open on the other side of this health crisis and global economic decline. Here are some ways you can continue to support our small business during this time remotely. And keep in mind, many of these apply to small businesses that are struggling all over the place right now that could really use our support.
1. Like, Follow, Share, + Comment on Social Media Posts
I'm starting off with arguably one of the simplest ways to support us right now - and it happens to be FREE. We are staying as active as ever on Facebook and Instagram since it's our only way to interact with you all these days, so let us know you're there and watching. If you're following along in a LIVE class, send us a wave and comment from where you're watching from. If you've gotten one of our "to go kits," please, show us your family's special time painting them together. If you're drinking your morning cup of coffee in a mug you painted with us years ago, let us see it. Snap a picture and TAG US. It is completely free to share our posts, keep up with a conversation, and interact with us. It also helps other people in the community see what we're all about and reach a larger audience. We're in this together even though we're apart.
The Claypen's Facebook + Instagram
The Firestone's Facebook + Instagram
Our YouTube Channel (Has pottery painting techniques!)
Our Pinterest Board (Even more inspiration!)
You can even find us on LinkedIn | The Claypen | The Firestone
2. Classes + Reservation Refunds
Small businesses are hurting considerably right now, especially those whose entire business model is based on customer service and people physically entering their space. We host so many birthdays, team building events, meetings, gatherings, happy hours, special occasions, and our own classes and workshops. For so many people, our events may be the whole reason they know who we are in the first place. We invest so much of our time, energy, and expenses into running educational, interactive, and fun programming. But, since we have no choice but to close our doors to the public for now, we can't have those events and have had to reschedule and postpone literally everything. With that comes loads of refund requests. In most cases, small businesses like ours have already purchased all of the resources and materials for events weeks or even months in advance. Please, please, please know that we understand that money is tight right now, but requesting refunds will only further cripple a business that is already struggling. In our case, our policy is a credit. We will honor registrations and reschedule classes when we can safely can do. Class credit codes will be transferable when classes can be reinstated or can be put towards a to-go kit or virtual class if you call the studio.
3. Gift Cards
This soon shall pass. And when it does, the money spent towards gift cards purchased NOW will be considered an investment in the company so, we too, will be there when this passes. We offer physical gift cards that can be purchased over the phone with a credit card and mailed (free of charge) anywhere as well as e-gift cards that can be purchased right on our website. Gift cards can be used at either studio location as well as our cafe.
If you own some, wear it. Take a selfie. Tag us. Be our motivation. Give us a boost and shout us out because, most of all, we miss the feeling of a community of creativity. And man, our stuff is damn cute! If you don't own any, consider buying some. Who couldn't use a cozy (and clean) hoodie right about now? You've probably been wearing the same one for weeks in quarantine.
The Claypen's merch shop
The Firestone's merch shop
5. DIY To-Go Kits
We have added so many options right onto our websites and are updating them (literally) all the time. Keep checking in for more pre-packaged assortments, but keep in mind, our FULL inventory is also posted, so you can create whatever pack-up you like. We have options for canvas, wood/board signs, pottery, and brush lettering. Surf the website and build your own. You can even pick your own pottery paint colors now!
The Claypen's online store: pre-packaged to go kits OR build your own
The Firestone's online store: pre-packaged to go kits OR build your own
6. Virtual Classes
In case you miss us as much as we miss you, we have also launched our virtual class calendar which brings our staff right into the comfort of your house from either their house or the studio. We started off with doing some free Facebook Lives, but have gotten a little more technologically savvy and now can cross-stream on Zoom and Facebook on BOTH of our business pages. AND we have created "class pack kits" which are the perfect companion to our virtual classes BECAUSE they come with everything you need to do the class right along with us. All of the materials are pre-assembled for you so you have what you need to complete the project. Purchase ahead online and pick-up your class packs curbside safely and hassle-free. This class page will continue to be updated, so keep an eye on it!
Virtual Classes: Calendar + Class Kits
By: Danielle Kearns
The café has only been open for a week and it is already one of my favorite parts about this location. Admittedly, I spend a good portion of my days at The Firestone, so I have grown very biased when it comes to the delicious aromas coming out of our kitchen, but I can honestly say, our menu is fresh, unique, and delicious. It is the perfect pairing for the arts, but I just love seeing groups come in with homework or a good book to relax with a cup of tea. We pride ourselves on being one of the only options on Main Street open 7 days a week, with food offered every. single. day. Our menu is now up on our site.
Remember, this is only the beginning. More coming every week!
By: Danielle Kearns
We are so thrilled to announce that the café portion of The Firestone is now open for business. We decided to wait to announce until we were absolutely sure we were ready to serve and passed all preliminary inspections. Well, we were approved last week, got staff trained, did a tasting, and we decided to open this morning with a limited menu and a surprise Sunday special.
Many of you have probably noticed that construction continued since our opening in November both up front in the studio area, as well as behind-the-scenes in our warehouse kitchen. You read that right... warehouse kitchen. Don't forget, this location served as a furniture store just 4 months ago, so building not one but TWO kitchen areas took a lot of planning and time. We know you all were anxiously awaiting the big reveal and we're really proud of how far we've come.
Now, we ask that you bare with us these first few weeks and months as we get in the swing of things, expand our menu options, and train staff, but we just couldn't hold off any longer. We know customers were anxious to have options in-house. It just took us some time to get there. Construction is finally over (for now) and we're ready to supply delicious and decedent treats on the side of your designs.
For now, we are starting with coffees, teas, sodas, seltzers, egg sandwiches, and a cheesy, garlicky farro salad. But more. is. coming. Remember, we are partnering up with Shady Glenn ice cream, coming soon. We have a lot of menu items we expect to roll out each week. We want to keep things fresh and in-season. Oh, and did I mention we're making all of our own syrups to spice up your espresso drinks? Come visit us soon.
By: Danielle Kearns
Can you believe it's about to be a new year? And to top it off, a new decade? We're having trouble believing it ourselves!
And to celebrate the new year and a new location, we are going crazy for classes with a new and improved class calendar on our website for both locations. Now, you will be able to toggle between studios or view all to see our widened selection of classes.
We have added options for every art medium we offer, including glass fusing, pottery techniques, theme nights, canvas, board art, and more! We are even adding Wet Clay Wheel Throwing come February 2020 for "Try It Nights."
If you're not seeing something you want, send us a message!
Check out our Event Calendar
By: Danielle Kearns
It's not too late to create a memory and a gift this holiday season! The last day to paint at either of our locations will be Saturday, December 21st! That means you have the next 10 days to come in and make something special with us.
We have shelves of pottery options to help complete your mantel. We offer walk-in hand or footprint assistance for children on dinnerware, ornaments, platters and more. Custom lettering is an easy add-on to any child-painted art piece to mark their growth and development. Nothing is more special than holiday moments made here with family and friends around the table, surrounded by art, in a device-free environment.
And special this year, we have added some last minute vintage tree workshops and glass fused ornament making classes to our December calendar of events at The Firestone based on customer feedback! Check out everything we're offering here. Make sure to toggle between locations to see what's unique in the West Hartford and Manchester locations.
Gift cards are available for purchase at both studio locations and will be compatible at both The Claypen + The Firestone. We mail gift cards free of charge around the country. E-gift cards are also available online.
By: Danielle Kearns
Hey, strangers! It's certainly been a while, but we have been crazy busy between both studios while also gearing up for the holiday season and hitting ALL the local breweries with our continuously sold out vintage tree events. But we did it! We opened our doors to the public at the new location in less than 2 months.
We wanted to take a moment to check in and thank you for all the support we've received over these past few weeks. Both The Claypen and The Firestone have received so much love and attention, making us feel that maybe we're doing something right. Thank you to all who have come say hi and create with us so far.
You all have been so sweet and understanding of the process. And yes, there is still a lot to do! I know there's lots of questions on our progress, so here are the updates thus far.
We opened the studio side of our new space last Saturday, November 23rd. We had a phenomenal turn out throughout the whole day, not to mention a live band in the evening, which packed the house. (Thanks Pious Mantis!)
The cafe is greatly anticipated (by us as well, believe me), but it is coming along behind the scenes. We'll update you all when construction is done on that front and we're ready to start serving up delicious treats and frothing cappuccinos.
We're also in the process of expanding our board art design options and will be introducing new size options soon. We are reorganizing our glass inventory, just in time for our first Glass 101 class later this week. After that point, if you've taken a Glass Class at either of our locations, you'll be approved to come do glass on a walk-in basis at The Firestone. Classes are open for enrollment now at BOTH locations. Check out both calendars here.
The wet clay room will be opening in early 2020. I encourage you to join the mailing list or follow us on social media to get all the updates in real time.
There is plenty more to come, but let us know in the comments if there's anything in particular you're wondering about or looking for in our new space or this holiday season.
By: Danielle Kearns + Cait Pomales
We are so thankful to you, our customer, and would love to fill your November calendar with so many goodies to close out the Harvest season and get prepped and ready for the Holidays. Here is a preview of what's coming to the studio this month. Our events calendar can be found online. Sign up for any of these events there.
Toddler Time: Sunday, Nov. 3rd + Wednesday, Nov. 13th
Theme: tiny turkey tots
Age Group: perfect for 5 years old and younger
All of our Toddler Times include a read aloud story, take home craft project, pottery craft project, and nut-free snack. This cute little turkey is great for a kid's room, addition to your mantel, or accessory to your Thanksgiving table.
Toddler Time: Wednesday, Nov. 6th, Saturday, Nov. 30th
Theme: a frozen princess engagement
Age Group: perfect for 5 years old and younger
All of our Toddler Times include a read aloud story, take home craft project, pottery craft project, and nut-free snack. Your child can choose between a princess or a snowman. We'll be providing hot chocolate. We welcome and encourage your child to dress up!
Kid's Drop Off Event: Wednesday, Nov. 27th 4:30-7pm
Theme: Donuts x3
Age Group: 7+ [Drop off event]
Donuts + pizza + painting, oh my! Drop the kids off so you can go get all your last minute Thanksgiving prep done. We will even feed them dinner for you! The plan is to paint donut themed pottery + complete a step-by-step donut painting on canvas all while snacking on REAL donuts with a side of pizza. That's something to be thankful for.
Give Thanks, Eat Pie Tutorial: Friday, Nov. 15th 7-9pm
Age Group: any age
It's that time of year again...turkey, family, football, and... pie! Join us in studio to create this beautiful platter that will be the talk of your table. We will have pre-cut stencils ready for you to re-create the amazing lettering. Our trained staff will lead you step by step through this project on a pottery piece of your choice with real pie on the side!
Vintage Trees Workshops: All month long
Many of our events have already sold out, but keep an eye peeled as we add more, both in studio and held at other local businesses. Create a personal family heirloom, just like Grandma had.
By: Danielle Kearns
It may not be Halloween yet, but we are already look ahead to the holidays, that way we can ensure your personalized custom carved snowmen are here for you to create and paint. This is following our custom jack o'lantern sale that was hugely popular this year.
These cute little guys can be made uniquely your own. All you do is go to our online shop and pick which style of snowman you like best and what you want carved into them. (Orders are due by November 10th.) Then, allow a few weeks for these to come in as the process takes time. These will be delivered to our studio by December 10th unpainted, so you'll have to carve (ha!) out the time to come in and paint your snow-friend. Allow one week for your piece to be fired in our kiln.
Once ready, each snowman will come with a light kit that can be used to illuminate the snowman from within and highlight your personalized name or message. These are perfect well beyond December, especially here in Connecticut, so consider these your new best friend through March... or maybe even April.
Snowmen can be purchased right on our website in our online shop. More details and specifications can be found there, including character limitations and sizes|dimensions.
Comment below with your favorite!
By: Danielle Kearns
As our opening is approaching in Manchester, we are trying to meet our neighbors, and what better method than another brewery paint night!?
Urban Lodge Brewing Co. opened just a couple of months ago, and they are already hugely popular among the locals. So popular, in fact, that they've had to limit their hours to weekends to keep enough beer in stock.
The environment and ambiance is exactly what beer lovers are looking for, especially as we embrace our new Fall weather. As soon as you step foot in the brewery, you'll feel like you stumbled upon a cabin near the ski lodge in Vermont. The fire is crackling. The chairs so cozy. And the light so comforting.
This week, we held our first (of hopefully many) collaborations with Urban Lodge and celebrated with some of our Favorite Fall options -- canteen campfire mugs, round mugs, pumpkins, and jack o'lanterns.
Danielle is a CT native, She started at The Claypen in 2018 as a Studio Associate and quickly became a Team Lead and our resident blogger on staff. She now manages The Firestone, our sister studio in Manchester.