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
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
With construction underway at The Firestone, we are looking ahead to the fine details of everything we'll need to make the our opening amazing. So often, people come in to paint and create and are forced to leave early to grab a bite or a drink. We took that into consideration when planning out the new space and decided to add the cafe to make our customers that much more comfortable.
That being said, a lot goes into creating a commercial kitchen and crafting a menu. If you've ever worked in a place that involves food, you might know that it's required that there always be a ServSafe certified staff member present during food prep. But what is ServSafe and why is it key to the operation?
We believe that food should be sourced locally and seasonally as much as possible, but it is also imperative that regulations are following during the entirety of the food cycle. That means from ordering, to delivery, to cooking, to storing, and to serving you - or customer. For that reason, we have chosen to start out open day with 3 full-time staff members trained and certified with ServSafe at the Manager's level.
We are thrilled to fire up the oven and start serving you! Stay tuned for future updates.
Construction began this week on our new sister studio, The Firestone, opening in Manchester this Fall. Here's a behind the scenes look at the start of construction central.
By: Danielle Kearns
We are OFFICIALLY under construction at 1115 Main Street in Manchester, also known as our new sister studio - The Firestone. We have been asked since our announcement when our new space would be open, but understandably, construction is an unpredictable endeavor and we are just getting started. That being said, we wanted to give you all a sneak peak into the construction zone.
Although early in the process, we are already seeing major changes in a short amount of time. Many of you know this historic building as Pinewood Furniture, but it has already had such a transformation since we got the keys October 1st. We have pulled up the carpeting and hope to restore the wooden floors beneath. The walls have been knocked down that were used to create make-shift rooms. Old inventory has been put into storage. And we are now looking at an open-concept space bringing in tons of light and an awesome view of the leaves changing on Main Street.
The architect has been in throughout the week assessing the blueprints and getting the plan set for our week to week goals. We are hoping to make this renovation as quick as possible to get our studio doors open for you before the holiday season. Follow along on all of our social platforms to see day-to-day updates as this space completely transforms. Our website is currently being updated, so check out its makeover as well here.
Check out this epic video below of us literally tearing the walls down getting the space ready for you! Let us know what you are most excited to see in this renovated space and if you'll be visiting us come opening day.
Meet our pal, Ammie Williams, known in the industry for her brush lettering, informative technique sheets and videos, and her social media appeal.
By: Danielle Kearns
Don't mind us as we fan girl a little bit over here, but we're still riding that Convention high and thinking about all the rad things we saw and experienced. We'd love to highlight one of the our favorite artists who works the PYOP circuit like no one's business: Ammie Williams from Atlanta, Georgia. You may have seen her featured on our social media before because when we do get to see Ammie at industry events, it's like a college reunion for us.
Between visits, though, we are avid viewers of Ammie's Insta-story. This is probably the best place to follow along with her. Each month, Bisque Imports, one of the leading distributors in the industry, sends her a box of goodies to paint and experiment with. Sometimes, these finished products will be used for the item photo on the website. Other times, it will be a detailed tutorial video with technique sheets included. All in all, it's a great union of tips, tricks, and new products with our favorite southern bell whose style is best described as "something chaotic in the best way." That is because her pieces end up absolutely COVERED in color, cursive, and creativity... and let's face it: splatters galore!
Some call her the brush lettering queen. Her natural talent is just enhanced by the hours of training and practice she does from notebook doodles and iPad sessions on the couch. She has and inspired styled and has inspired us to be more passionate about a piece and less stiff about the approach. We would love to thank her for her dedication and enthusiasm she brings to the arts and would love to give her a public shoutout here to influence her brand new crop of fans.
Get to know Ammie on the Internet:
Bisque Imports Technique Sheets
Contributor of BI's Blog Spot
Annual Ceramic Art Studio Convention took place in Buffalo, New York this week with over 300 members participating in professional development classes and enrichment.
By: Danielle Kearns
Hello from Buffalo, New York! I am currently writing this between classes, trying to figure out what and when lunch is today, and grabbing my laptop for my business class later. I am overstimulated, under-caffeinated, and absolutely loving every minute of it. And I'm the newest of the new kids on the block here this weekend.
Not only is this my first ever Convention, but I still haven't had my first birthday in the "paint your own pottery" world yet! But that doesn't mean I'm not soaking everything here up with a synthetic pottery sponge.
Let's just say, we are fired up as a staff -- and not just because kilns are a main topic of conversation around here. Did you know that paint your own pottery (PYOP) studios are most often a part of the CCSA - the Contemporary Ceramic Studio Association. They are responsible for much of the professional development in our industry and provide a wealth of knowledge and materials to set each of our studios up for success. This year, the national Convention is being held for one week in Buffalo, and a few of us staff members are currently in the thick of it! This weekend is FILLED with classes, tutorials, trainings, product debuts, paint demonstrations, mentorship -- and our favorite -- a SNEAK PEAK of so many NEW bisque pottery options.
As a first time attendee, this has been an overwhelming but thrilling experience for me. Never have I ever been in one place with so many PYOP enthusiasts who have the same small business mindset and dedication to the arts as we have. Classes are offered daily, covering all the heavy hitting topics: ordering, hiring, human resources, marketing, techniques, planning, finances, and of course, general art tricks and tips. Since four of us went this year, a record for The Claypen, we were really able to spread out and hit as many of these classes as possible, gaining a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for the future at both The Claypen and The Firestone.
We hope that you have been following along with us on social media. If you have any questions about the benefits of being a CCSA member, feel free to comment below.
Join the organization
Contemporary Ceramic Studios Association
Great for FAQs + finding a studio near you
Paint Your Own Pottery
A big thank you to all the sponsors + contributors that made this weekend so special, especially:
By: Danielle Kearns
Let's talk about glass, baby! A few weeks back, we did a blog on bottle slumping -- an option that is available for glass fusing here in the studio. You can read all about that here. But there's a lot more available in terms of glass. Most notably, draping and slumping. Both options will allow the glass creation to take on a shape that will slowly melt in the kiln to create a fold or curve to the edges. But before I go there, let me break down where it all begins.
Glass fusing might be a term that confuses some. It most often get confused for glass blowing or stained glass, but glass fusing is a little bit different. It is an art form that basically means you do the arrangement of glass and the kiln does the fusing for you. We teach you how to (safely) cut and assemble glass in the forms of scrap, pebbles, frit, or rods. These will all go on a base tile, which will ultimately determine the final piece's shape. Your job is to create a visual you like by arranging the glass fragments and keeping them attached to the glass base using either hair spray or school glue, believe it or not.
The glass will then go into the kiln for its first load. This round will actually be the fusing step where the top layers will melt and adhere to the bottom base, ultimately "fusing" your piece as one. For many, this may create the final project. This is perfect for sun catchers, wall hangings, night lights, coasters -- or really anything that can be flat. But if you want to make things a little more interesting, you can opt to have your glass shaped. This requires a second go around in the kiln where a mold will be used to achieve that shape.
A slump is the most basic. It uses a mold in where the glass will be laid and the kiln will do all the work. The temperature is the perfect rate where the glass will take the shape of the mold, creating subtle, smooth curved edges. This allows the piece to be slightly more functional in your house -- this a soap dish, appetizer dish, or even a catch all. The "slump" technique is also how we achieve those bottle slumps everyone loves.
A drape makes for a more exaggerated shape. In this process, the glass is put on a mold that resembles an upside down tumbler. The glass will then melt down in the kiln, creating more dramatic edges. This sort of piece is most often used to create a candle holder. The final form will never be exactly the same every time and the weight of the piece will play a part. Check out the rainbow glass in the photos below to see the crazy curves that came from this drape.
Want to know more about glass fusing? Send your questions to us in the comments section below and we'll be sure to answer them. Glass workshops are live on our website. Register for them here.
You heard it here first! Glass fusing will only be available at our West Hartford location for a couple more months. During the holiday season, glass fusing will move to The Firestone, our new sister studio in Manchester and will no longer be available on a walk-in basis at The Claypen.
By: Danielle Kearns
As we are expanding, we want you to get to know us a little better. The heart of The Claypen is a staff who love coming to work, creating something special, and interacting with our customers. People often remark on the beautiful sample pieces decorating our studio and storefront, so we'd love to start by our highlighting our very talented artists who are responsible for most of our samples and commissioned pieces.
Danielle W is a recent graduate of Hall High School. Growing up, she was surrounded by the arts and decided to keep it as a focus. Her specialities include drawing and painting, especially with colored pencils, water colors, and mixed media. She enjoys both abstract and realistic pieces, which is befitting since she considers life an expression of art. "Anything and everything is art. And art can be incorporated into everything you do, everyone can do it, and it will always keep you learning," she says. Danielle will be attending the University of Vermont in Burlington this Fall where she will be working towards a BA in 2D art with a studio art major at the college of Arts and Sciences.
Visit Danielle's LinkedIn
Lindsey is a West Hartford local and first heard of The Claypen when she attended a birthday party here as a child. She's now been a Custom Artist here for almost 2 years, while simultaneously studying AP Studio Art with a concentration in acrylic painting at Hall High School, where she recently graduated. Her style utilizes vibrant colors and experimentation in both the abstract and realistic. When painting pottery, she prefers a more minimalistic approach and loves playing around with fonts and calligraphy. Art has always been a favorite subject and hobby for her. Lindsey will be attending FSU in the Fall and hopes to be accepted into the Interior Design Major in the Fine Arts College.
Gleidymar is the newest member of our artist team. She is inspired by botanicals and keeps herself busy working both at the claypen, local farmers markets, and keeping up with her online Etsy shop. She has a Studio Art minor with a concentration in ceramics from Wheelock College. She did two independent studies there to enrich herself further into the arts. Her online shop highlights hand embroidered patches and totes. She has assimilated quickly into life at The Claypen, and we couldn't be happier to have her aboard.
Shop Gleidymar's Etsy Shop
Explore Gleidymar's Instagram
These are some of Gleidymar's favorite pieces she's painted so far at The Claypen. We have to say, we love them too!
By: Danielle Kearns
We were proud to be donors for this year's Cruisin' on Main Street - an annual event that brings Manchester together for the combined love of cars and community. We were thrilled to be a part of this event and get to meet some of you in person to chat about our upcoming recent announcement about The Firestone opening this Fall.
It is one of the oldest car shows of its kind in the Northeast, which has drawn in over 400,000 spectators since 2001. Our table highlighted some of our art mediums that will be available on a walk-in basis with the classic Cruisin' logo. Attendees were invited to come up and ask about our new space and enter to win one of these awesome pieces of art.
Congrats to our raffle winners!!!
Fused Glass - Megan Gagnon
Ceramic Platter - Alan Bieber
Cruisin' Linoleum Stamp - Steve Bradley
Wood Sign - Linda Zimmerman
Canvas Painting - Tricia Enderli
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.