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
Who We Are
We are proud to announce our, sister location to The Claypen, West Hartford family: The Firestone | art studio + café, which will be located in Manchester, CT.
The Claypen has been a fixture of West Hartford Center for over 20 years. With many customers coming from east of the river, we’ve had requests to have an option closer to home as well as a business need for a larger space to accommodate parties and events. We have been working behind the scenes for quite some time to find the perfect location to meet all these needs and are ready to make the official announcement.
The Firestone | Art Studio + Café will open Fall 2019. We will be located right on Main Street in Manchester, CT, an area that is dedicated to growth and development and keeping its community at the focus. 1115 Main Street has a long history in the Manchester community and we’d like to respect and honor that. Pinewood Furniture was run and operated by the Ed Firestone, who has been a fixture on Main Street for over 24 years. Ed Firestone worked with us closely to make this exchange go as smoothly as possible and is onto his well-deserved retirement. We appreciate all of his cooperation on this journey and are excited to mirror his commitment to Manchester and the community.
What We Offer
The art studio at The Firestone will offer DIY projects, available on a walk-in basis as well as a variety of events. Our studio will be open 9am-9pm daily. During our open studio hours, you can create your own project, such as:
We will continue to offer workshops in both locations. The Firestone will utilize our party/meeting space to offer additional classes and educational opportunities. This party space will also be available for private parties, team building events and more.
In addition to the DIY arts, we will also have a café on site! Our emphasis in the café will be good food, sourced locally. We are proud to be teaming up with CT based vendors to provide our ingredients and beverage options, including:
Manchester, CT -- especially the downtown area -- is a thriving area for small businesses. We are fond of their atmosphere, proximity to other small businesses, its active community, and its plans for development and growth. It’s no surprise that Manchester has been voted Money Magazine’s #1 Place to live in Connecticut 2018! We have had requests for years to have something on the other side of the river available for customers who were often making the trek out to see us with small children and wanted to have something more convenient to them. Manchester is that perfect location.
Manchester is committed to long term growth. Their newest initiative, Downtown 2020 , exemplifies this commitment. We are proud to say The Firestone will be the first project to receive funds from the Manchester Downtown Investment Fund Loan Program. The Town’s Board of Directors established the program earlier this year to promote economic development by partnering with property owners to address contemporary code and access requirements that may serve as financial barriers for transformative property development projects.
Want to stay up to date with The Firestone project?
Connect with us on
We know you have questions! Please leave your questions + comments below for us to get you ready for this exciting new venture and your new favorite spot!
Local wellness boutique opens in West Hartford Center and has already made fast friends with The Claypen.
By: Danielle Kearns
There's a new small business in WeHa Center. Welcome b. kind to Farmington Avenue, a wellness boutique + collaborative space that focuses on organic products that will benefit your body, mind, and spirit. The space is warm and welcoming, filled with the romantic aromas of essential oils and bath bombs.
Although they've only been around for a few weeks, we have already had our first collaboration with them! Last week, they co-hosted a mandala night with us at our location, providing the DIY essential oil bar and wellness knowledge.
Their stock ranges from home goods, beauty products, chocolates, mixers, clothing, bags, candles, oils, and more. (Let me tell you, I've been using their migraine sleep mask most nights of the week, headache or not.)
And, going forward, if you come to paint at the claypen and we're on waitlist, you will be given a 10% off coupon to use across the street while you wait. How cool is that!?
We'll also be doing collaborative events in the b. kind space! If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below!
Mission: b. kind LLC is a wellness boutique and gift shop located in West Hartford, CT. Every product in b. kind is organic, natural, and hand-chosen to promote mindfulness and nourish the mind, body, and spirit connection. Monthly and weekly events will be held in the space, bringing together community members inspired to improve their lives and the lives of others. b. kind promotes a unique way of living - one encompassed by joy, health, wellness, and peace.
Local coffee, considered one of the best in the state, sources beans from specially selected farms and gives back with a wholesome, sustainable mission.
By: Danielle Kearns
Oh. My. Coffee. Never have I ever done a formal coffee tasting. I am pretty basic when it comes to my morning cup. I'll take it light and sweet, flavored and sugary, or even topped with whipped cream or a caramel drizzle. Sure, I like the taste of coffee, but I would pretty much need to be in a bind to take it black. However, I fully realize that the only way to truly know what makes each bean and style unique is to try it straight up! And it doesn't hurt to know the story behind the bean. I have a new found appreciation for coffee.
Did you know that a coffee bean actually derives from a cherry? There are multiple layers that make up the science of the coffee plant's lifespan, but it blew my mind to learn everything that goes into just harvesting the bean itself under all those layers.
I owe all this new found knowledge to Jeff Brooks, who has dedicated the past 8 years of his life to the free and fair coffee trade business. In 2011, he started this project, along with his wife Emily, and started giv coffee, craft roastery + cafe.
Mission: Giv Coffee is a coffee roasting initiative that seeks to utilize coffee's global influence to bring about positive change in international coffee communities, coffee consumers, and the lives of those in need.
If you don't know, giv actually provides wholesale coffee beans to many of your favorite coffee shops around the state. Giv sources their beans from farmers who will benefit from this relationship. Farms are chosen with excellence and standard in mind -- as well as the farmer himself. Giv only seeks fairly traded beans and have worked out fair prices for crops, giving back a portion of sales back to the farms themselves for continual growth and success. What a rockstar mission!
Beans are delivered "green" and batch roasted in house. They are then dispersed across the state to other coffee shops and served in their Canton location. So how does it taste?
Jeff offered us a tasting to try each of their currently offered styles. There are currently around 8 styles, each named after the farmer from which the bean derived. Tasting by "cupping" allows you to taste and try the coffee in its purest form without all the extras. You are experiencing something that's been brewed to the perfect rate and standard. I took home a bag of Leonardo Rosero. YUM!
Giv also has a cafe of their own right in Canton. Check them out for a cup of cold brew, a luxurious latte, or a fresh brew at
194 Albany Turnpike, Canton, CT.
For continued reading, check out their list of the top coffee spots in Connecticut, published this past week on Sprudge. Did your favorite make the list? Comment below with your favorite coffee spots in the state.
The Claypen's mission is to remain focused on sustainability and make purposeful business decisions to be more green-friendly and leave less of an impact on our Earth.
By: Danielle Kearns
Sustainability matters. We are all a part of this great big world, that is crazy and irresponsible at times, but it is our responsibility to be a part of the movement for a better future. We hold this as one of our main intentions as a small business and try and promote that amongst our customers whenever possible. Here are some of the little ways we do our part:
reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose
It's the slogan we grew up with, just kicked up a notch. We get a ton of boxes delivered to our space on a pretty regular basis. We hit all the R's when it comes to our big shipments. We make sure to use these boxes for all sorts of things. We wrap our parties in them. We organize inventory in them. We use them as splatter guards with art projects. And we even give them away! That's right.
We started an initiative about 2 months ago where local community neighbors can call us up and pick up our large packing boxes for their own at-home needs. We have helped a few dozen residents in this mission, most of whom needed boxes and packing material for a future move. And we gave them out for free. Our little way of helping the community. Any of the boxes we can't get use out of get fully collapsed and recycled in our cardboard specific dumpster. Those are boxes that are less sturdy, possibly ripped, or have run their course.
We are a BYOB PYOP studio, which often means people bring DRINKS. We always encourage our customers to leave their cups, bottles, and cans right at the table for us to take care of clean up. We rinse and recycle ALL of these items. From Solo cups, to Starbucks cups, and even straws. (You might even find a staff member or two cutting these straws up to avoid their impact on our water system and aquatic friends.) We completely wash out and recycle all of our our paint bottles as well.
We receive shipments from distributors around the country. We make use of everything they use in their deliveries to the best of our abilities. We donate a lot of our bubble wrap and packing peanuts to locals in the area who need it for personal needs. We reuse a good amount for our own shipments since we offer delivery of completed pottery for non-locals. When we have an overflow of these materials, we actually physically return them -- by the garbage bag full -- to FedEx, UPS, and USPS.
People will often ask us if we have water bottles for purchase in our studio. Nearly 90% of our staff use reusable water bottles from their own home which can be cleaned and refilled as needed straight from the tap.
In our efforts to keep people hydrated while still staying green, we have partnered with Hosmer Mountain Beverages, which will soon be carried in our studio. Their sustainability mission is something to be admired and replicated. They have stuck with glass bottle production for over 100 years. All of their bottles can be returned to one of their centers (or picked up if you sign up for their delivery service) for sanitation and then reused for future use. You can read more about Hosmer in our previous blog.
Water conservation also comes in the form of washing dishes. Art can be a messy medium. We go through many palettes and brushes a day that all need to be washed to maintain their longevity, integrity, and continual use. We have basins filled with water to allow brushes to soak before washing and lay our palettes across the sink floor so every hand wash prior will begin the cleaning process for us and reduce our use of water later.
The pottery itself is a means for sustainability. If you're going through one paper cup a day for your coffee (or, ugh, maybe even styrofoam), you can make travel tumbler for your every day needs. Our mugs, cups, bowls, and plates are microwaveable, washable... and thus, SUSTAINABLE!
We are no experts on this cause, but we are hoping to help encourage you to think twice about your recycling decisions. Leave a comment below about how we can best move forward in our recycling efforts or what's worked for you!
a local authority on taste, community, + sustainability
By: Danielle Kearns
I hope you've enjoyed some Hosmer Mountain Soda in your time, but if you haven't, allow me to make it your next obsession. They are my personal favorite seltzer and soda and are only made better since they're LOCAL and they have a phenomenal sustainability plan, which is one of my obsessions.
Originally established in 1912, Hosmer set the precedent for home-delivery service for the state with original drinks and recipes with "in-house blends" unique to them. They have stayed a consistent asset, making their way into restaurants, cafes, breweries, movie theaters, and now... our studio! In the coming months, we will be launching our partnership with Hosmer, which we're so excited about as we're seltzer kind of people. Look out for posts and update on social media. We are really excited about this one.
All of Hosmer's bottles can be returned directly to either of their locations, completely sterilized, and then reused. I go every 2 months to pick out my flavor, fill my crates, and swap out my old bottles. The process is quick, easy, and the best alternative to traditional recycling, which makes it even better for the environment. The seltzers are the perfect bubbly companion for all your summer cocktails. (My favorite is the lemon-lime.) The soda is phenomenal on its own. (You've got to try the black cherry immediately!)
Until then, visit Hosmer at one of their locations to stock up for all your summer needs:
15 Spencer Street
Manchester, CT 06040
217 Mountain Street
Willimantic, CT 06226
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. She now manages The Firestone, our sister studio in Manchester.