By: Danielle Kearns
We love to support and encourage local enrichment around our community and the Connecticut Forum is a beaming example of an organization that instills creativity, curiosity, and questions within the community. It is a conversation starter, whether about hot topics, leadership, controversy, or art.
There is an upcoming event we'd like to put on your radar to save the date: The Photo Wonders of the World, which will include 3 panelists with unique experiences, stories, and photos to share.
Photo wonders of the world saturday may 11th at The Bushnell
Tickets are required and can be purchased online.
"At The Connecticut Forum, you will find open, honest, civil dialogue - the free and active exchange of ideas that allows us to question our assumptions, consider new points of view, entertain our souls and connect with each other, stimulated by discovery and enriched by our differences...no winners or losers, no 'them' versus 'us.' A civil community. A civil society. The Forum Family."
By: Danielle Kearns
We love a good fake-out at the claypen. We have customers ask us all the time, "I'm not very artistic. What can I do that's easy?" Not only are these customers looking for guidance, they're looking for something that won't be difficult, time-consuming, pressure-packed, and come out looking awesome! We love taking the guess work out and giving you easy tips and tricks to make just that happen. Here are our top 10 suggested painting techniques to try out upon your next visit!
1. specialty glazes
The typical glazes people tend to pick are called undercoat glaze. They are a specific color that, when applied 3 times, will be bright, shiny, and vibrant. What we call "specialty glazes" are what other studios might call pottery glazes. They are a form of undercoat that will change naturally in the kiln because of the extreme temperatures and create a variance of color. They come in both shiny and matte finishes and can completely transform your piece. Even crazier, they usually start as some wackadoo color in the bottle. For instance, our very popular vintage Christmas tree workshops were done with a color called "glass green," which starts off brown in the bottle!
Here's a fun one. You paint your pottery whatever color you like. While it's wet, lay a piece of lace over the piece in whatever coverage and pattern you like. Then, paint over that! Peel and, voila, it's as simple as that!
You read that right! Throw some paint, water, and dish detergent in a cup and mix it up. Using a straw, blow into the cup like you did when you were little to create rising bubbles. Once they've reached the top of your cup, tilt the cup over your piece of choice and allow the bubbles to fall where they may. They will begin to settle on top of the pottery and pop, leaving a color stain behind. Do the same with another few colors to give the piece a really impressive finish.
Every time we put out a mandala sample, people ask how we did it. It is currently one of our top replicated ideas, and it's so stinking easy to do yourself! We have a bucket of polka-dotters on the wall. Essentially, that is all a mandala piece is... polka-dots. The hardest part is finding your symmetry. The best way of determining that is to give yourself guidelines on the piece itself using a regular No. 2 pencil and sketching a design or lines to give yourself an image to work off of. No. 2 pencil burns away in the kiln, so people will be none the wiser.
5. fluid art
Take some paint colors of your choice. (We normally recommend between 3-4 colors.) Mix water into each container, about a 1:1 ratio, aka equal parts. Give those a stir and pour one on top of another into a larger cup (or bowl, if you're doing a massive piece). Don't even mix it. Just pour the contents onto the pottery in whatever motion your prefer. (I normally do a figure-eight or spiral.) Then start to tip your piece in all different directions and watch the paint start to move and swirl together and create colored layers. Once the entire surface is covered, allow the excess to drip off, hopefully in the sink or over a tray. If the sides or bottom of your piece got a little dirty, just wipe it off with a wet sponge and you've got another awesome (and easy) work of art!
6. splatter effect
Woah, here's a hard one. Pour paint. Take toothbrush or paint brush and flick paint at pottery. Done. You can also tape off areas (like our very popular canisters) to give the piece a more modern and refined look.
7. silk screens
Silk screens are just a more mature version of a stencil. It takes the same approach as screen printing on a t-shirt. We mix the regular paint (we find black works best) with a powder solvent that thickens to the paint for application. (It's kind of like adding flour to create a roux.) You dunk your finger in the mixture and spread the mixture all across the surface of the silk screen until the entire image is covered. Peel it off, and you've got a (hopefully) perfect replica of the original image. We have an entire binder of silk screen options available on a walk-in basis. We also have some that are reserved and only available for workshops and theme nights.
8. masking tape
Yup, just tape. Think of it like prepping to paint a room of your house and sectioning off the molding. Put tape wherever you wish to have white or a nice clean line. Paint each with your personal color palette. Peel the tape off and you've got a beautiful, clean, and modern design.
9. tracing + transfer paper
Have a symbol you absolutely love or an image you'd like to recreate? The answer is our transfer paper. Images can be traced and then transferred onto the pottery. Then, you treat it like a coloring book page and fill in the sketched images with paint. Transfer paper is available on a walk-in basis for an additional fee, but built in to some classes and workshops.
Over the winter, people went crazy for our cozy sweater mug. It is absolutely adorable and absolutely one of the easiest things to recreate on your own. This works best with pieces that have dimension or ridges. (The sweater worked perfectly for this.) All we did was paint the entirety of the mug our desired color... in this case that was pale blue. After painting the 3 coats on the mug, we took a synthetic sponge (we have plenty of them here) and wipes away the paint from the sweater's "threads," leaving the paint only in the nooks and crannies. I know, I'm giving away all our secrets!
You can also just dab the sponge all around the piece and layer your colors. (We have sponges of different shapes and textures.) This effect always reminds me of the galaxy.
10b. a wash
I had to sneak another one in because, heck, it's just too easy not to tell you! A wash is just water and paint mixed together to make more of a water color effect. In this instance, you want to see the brush strokes! It's what makes the piece... but you have to work quickly. After the paint and water have been mixed up, start working as quick as you can around the piece. I find that purposely doing strokes in all different directions gives it a very natural look. Move the piece around to cover all of the desired areas before they begin to dry. Use a sponge to clean off areas you may have painted but want a clean finish - like the rim of a mug. Give the piece a finished looking by adding a silk screen. (See #7.)
Did you know that we have drawers and drawers of supplies that you are free to use free of charge? This even includes laminated technique cards that you can access and teach yourself how to do right at your table! Ask a Studio Associate where our technique cards are to try something new at your next visit!
By: Danielle Kearns
A child begins to establish their sense of self -- including esteem and self-representation -- by the age of five. There are certainly signs before then, which was incredibly apparent during my time as a preschool teacher, but they will begin identifying things on their own terms around kindergarten. Now, being surrounded by art on a daily basis, it is so interesting to see how that manifests in a creative space.
A two year old can (and will) have an opinion of which shade of blue they'd like poured into their palette. They sometimes possess a clear vision for their piece before they've even picked up a brush. This dinosaur is going to be purple. This ballerina is going to be blue. This bank is going to be yellow. Parents will often give color suggestions or try and steer children in one direction or another, but it's quite interesting just to see where a child naturally gravitates and what they will create if given the option.
It gets a little trickier when the item being painted is a person instead of an animal, figurine, or plate. "What about the skin color? What color do you want for that?"
We have found this particular article enlightening on the subject and would like to recommend it as a read for you this week. In a world that is ever changing, tolerance and self-love is something that should always remain a constant.
How do children of color learn to draw themselves?
By: Melinda Faukuade from The Outline
"Everyone is an artist, and everyone should be proud of who they are. It’s supposed to be an exercise in self-esteem, which even at a young age, children have already conceived — according to the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, self-esteem has already formed in one direction or the other by age five. Because art acts as an outlet a kid might not have elsewhere, taking note of how they draw and what they feel about it is important." - Melinda Fakuade
By: Danielle Kearns
It only takes 3 consecutive days in the mid-50s with sunshine for the whole population to declare IT'S SPRING! We are delighted to be able to open up the doors and let the fresh air and Vitamin D wash away our winter blues. We're also excited because warmer weather means it's time for your local farmers' markets to set up shop and supply you with all the summer feels... well, soon enough at least. It's only the first week of April and we're not completely done with snow just yet, evidently. But we are looking ahead and gearing up because it is April and we. are. ready.
If you're local to the West Hartford/Hartford area, I certainly hope you've had the chance to stop by the West End Farmers' Market, also affectionately known as WEFM, located right on Farmington Avenue. But if you haven't had the chance, please make the effort. You will not be disappointed.
A farmers' market is one of the best ways you can support a local business, but more importantly, a local farmer. I had the opportunity to attend Farm Aid this year at The Meadows and hear their committee (as well as a lot of super famous musicians) speak about the importance of sustainability, property + zoning issues, food culture, climate change, family owned and operated farms, and the general atmosphere around farms in America. Visiting a farmers' market and buying just one bunch of produce can be the difference for that farmer and their livelihood and future. We, as a country, need to make this more of a priority.
As a member of the West End of Hartford, I've been going to the WEFM for years. It is so exciting to see it regain new life and popularity with its new fearless leader - Joseph Abad - who took over last Spring.
The WEFM is one of those unique experiences that also lends itself to fun and entertainment for all ages. Aside from locally sourced veggies to stock your kitchen, you can grab a quick dinner from one of the local food trucks, get your face painted, maybe treat yourself to a massage, or even learn about composting at home. It's also a wonderful way just to meet other members of your community and keep connected to your city and town. The West End is particularly proud of its history and loves to promote community. (You can read more about the West End Civic Association and all it's doing in the neighborhood here.) But did you know that the WEFM served over 9,000 shoppers just last season? That's a lot of food. And because WEFM cares, they make it a priority to accept EBT/SNAP benefits to allow and incentivize residents to shop for fresh and local market goods.
For more information on all of this and more, check out the WEFM website, Facebook, + Instagram.
The market is open on Tuesdays at 385 Farmington Avenue:
Not local? Here's a list of all of the Farmers' Markets around the state of CT. This list is from 2018, so do note, there may be even more locations near you this summer.
The claypen recently hosted the WEFM's first fundraiser of the season. If you couldn't make it, you can still donate to the WEFM to keep "Connect Grown" alive.
For any questions or to volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications for vendors + guidelines can be found at www.WEFM.org.
2019 Special Events Calendar for WEFM:
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. Her previous experience includes teaching, writing, and photography. You can find her on Instagram and LinkedIn or reach out with questions via email.