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!
Your top life moments that should be marked, celebrated, and remembered with hand-crafted keepsakes.
By: Danielle Kearns
For over 20 years, we have been a art studio that gives folks a space to relax, embrace their creativity, de-stress, and host parties and events. (We definitely host our fair share of birthday parties, showers, reunions, staff outings, and classes.) But we'd love to remind you of some of our most popular specialty items that can be created with the talent of our custom artists. Many of these suggestions are items that came to pass naturally with customer requests over the years, and we'd like to share them with you for an added bit of inspiration.
Here are our top milestones that can be marked with a keepsake made at the claypen:
We actually covered this exact topic in a previous blog post, which I'd like to link here. You can take this particular milestone moment in a lot of different directions, including gifts, guest books, artistic invitations, or photo frames.
For many families, the adoption process is a long, tedious, and necessary cycle, but with the ultimate reward of a completed, blended family. After making things official in court, families have come to the claypen (or taken a home-kit with them) to mark the occasion. Hand-prints are usually the most meaningful because they will show the passing of time in the future and bring you back to that moment when your child officially became yours.
After years of hard work, the end is near and your accomplishments should be recognized. These days have shaped you. Create an item to mark the occasion and remember all you've worked for. These also make the perfect gift!
We love our pets like the fur babies they are. We are a pet-friendly space and have done many a pup print over the years. We have had past customers come in with their brand new family member and even the day they had to say goodbye. We are always looking for an excuse to have a studio dog.
As difficult as it is, many people will experience cancer either personally or through the experience of a loved one. The day you're a told you're "cancer free" is truly a milestone and a day to be celebrated and remembered. For others, the cancerversary might be the last day of treatment... or maybe even the day of diagnosis. Whatever it might be for you, a cancerversary is usually celebrated yearly to recognize another day, week, month, or year of life. Five years is the mile marker for a (hopefully) future cancer-free as the statistic of reoccurrence decreases significantly. Celebrate this. Remember the fight. Recognize how far you've come.
don't forget our teachers!
Say thank you this school year to your child's teacher, librarian, bus driver, coach, tutor, babysitter, or teacher's aide. There are so many people that help to shape our child's self that it is important to let them know we appreciate their time and effort.
For more ideas, check out our Pinterest page.
Hall High School artists display work in end of year Art Show, including two of our own
By: Danielle Kearns
We would like to congratulate and recognize our seniors who recently displayed their work at the end of year Art Show at Hall High School. Danielle Weinberg and Lindsey Schmucker are two of our Custom Artists who will be leaving for college this fall.
Over the course of their time at the claypen, both ladies have contributed to our many samples, art displays, workshops/classes, and custom pieces. They are extremely talented, warm, gracious, and humble individuals. We will miss having them around the studio, but wish them the best and encourage you to drop them a comment below.
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
this silk city brewery is crafting beers and hand-crafted bars
By: Danielle Kearns
Can you tell we love beer? The whole point of art is to have another method of relaxation in this crazy world of ours. Beer just takes that to the next level. I've mad it a habit over the years to try as many craft breweries around Connecticut as I can get to. Most recently, I visited Labyrinth Brewery in Manchester. It was an otherwise quiet Thursday night, but you wouldn't have been able to tell that sitting at the bar. The place was packed from wall to wall with all different walks of life enjoying a pint, or a mug club, beer after work. The energy was both relaxed and energetic, a perfect synergy for the post-work crowd. The bar itself was dimly lit with their gothic lighting and decor. Dragons perched on the sides of taps while candles and lanterns alike flickered in the room.
I am a particular fan of sours, so I especially loved their pink guava... enough to have two. But the tap list has a little bit for every palette.
While sitting there, I couldn't help but notice just how historic and beautiful the architecture of the place really was. Labyrinth was started up by 3 friends in 2017, one of whom happened to be there that night and gave me a little insight. The building that makes up the taproom, production facility, and art gallery is over 135 years old. Manchester used to be known as a "mill town," so this building has been through it. When established, Chris, Sean, and Adam decided to keep the building as intact as they could and utilize the elements on the property itself. Trees had to be cut down in order to make parking spots, so they used those trees to make the bar, by hand, that spans the length of the facility. The space is beautiful and creates a warm and inviting atmosphere you should be sure to visit.
We are proud to call Labyrinth Brewing Company one of our new partners in collaboration.
save the date for our in studio tasting : june 14th
preregistration is required for this event
must be 21+
By: Danielle Kearns
Catered Claypen is one of the best ways to get your team assembled, motivated, and inspired. It's also just plain FUN! Our current studio space can accommodate a group of 6-30 people for an on-site field trip, with all materials and pottery available for you to choose in house. But if you're interested in having a larger (or even more private) gathering, we can come right to you. We offer corporate events in your office conference room, perfect for team building and creative inspiration.
When booking your event, you'll let us know what exactly it is you want to do -- from pottery, acrylics, canvas, to board art. We pack it all up, take care of set up and clean up, and will package all of your items as a group if it requires firing with a one week turn around time. It is a creative space, which undoubtedly allows staff to unwind, chat, get to no one another, and maybe even reveal a hidden talent.
Our most popular catered claypen is probably our dinnerware package. You choose from a 12oz mug, bowl, or plate to paint. Each person can choose what they want or would get the most use out of.
Thinking about booking an in studio party? Email email@example.com or just call the studio! For private events or a Catered Claypen, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CCSA Highlights 10 Reasons Why A Paint-Your-Own Pottery (PYOP) Studio Is Perfect For Off-Site Field Trips And On-Site Events
Discusses the benefits of an art-based team building event brought to you by the CCSA, the Contemporary Ceramic Studios Association.
By: Danielle Kearns
It's May, summer is just around the corner (we hope!), which can only mean one thing... it's wedding season! Once you're in my age bracket, it seems like it's standard to have five weddings a year. (Sometimes I even do.) Registries are more and more the "standard" when it comes to showers and bridal party gifts, but why not take it up a notch and have something made with us for a truly personalized touch.
We have very talented artists on staff who can make a gorgeous gift unique to your favorite couple. These pieces can be functional in someone's house, but they can also just be show stoppers for presentation and household decor. Here are a few of our favorite ideas for wedding gifts:
1. the wedding invitation
My favorite version of this over the top thoughtful gift is replicating the wedding invitation itself. If the happy couple spent weeks mulling over which floral decor and color palette they were most into, then you have an example of their taste and style right there. Most people now frame their wedding invitation or slap it in a photo album, but a round presentation platter with a stand that can be placed in a hutch, on a fireplace, or a built-in that is a direct replica of the invitation itself is an above and beyond gift. Not to mention, it's a huge conversation starter! People will be begging to know where and how you got it done.
2. the guestbook
If you're short on time or trying to stay on budget, you can pick a large platter with us that can have the couple's names and wedding date painted on. We will fire it here and have it ready in one week's time. (We can wrap it in a beautiful box too.) You can purchase a porcelain pen with us that can be used for guests to sign upon arrival to the nuptials. To make those signatures permanent, you just re-bake the dish at home in your own oven. Pair it with a plate stand and you've got the ultimate wedding keepsake.
3. their house, home, + heart
Our custom artists are amaaaaazing. No, really. We have a few samples around the studio of house front paintings. They are gorgeous painted representations of people's homes from the curbside perspective. They are such a lovely touch for any couple's "first home," or a keepsake after a major move to remember their roots. They are vibrant, warm, and stunning.
4. photo frame
Really simple one here. You can have the artists add the names and wedding date to any frame to make it customizable. Perfect for your favorite picture from the big day. This is a great idea for those who couldn't be in attendance or a gift sent in the mail upon their one month anniversary to say "We're still thinking and celebrating you!" ... and yes, we ship!
5. monogrammed dinnerware set
Forget the "Mrs. & Mrs." mugs. (Hello, people, that's not every couple's makeup. Get with the program.) Add a calligraphy-style brush letter monogram to any mug, bowl, or plate. Start with a mug for that morning cup of coffee, or bump up the personalization game and make it a set! Get a mug, bowl, and plate for a table of four to really push it over the edge. (You can even add a Christmas ornament to match!)
May we also suggest the claypen as a stop during your next bachelorette party. We are the perfect place to start popping bottles, loosen up, get silly, and travel onto dinner. We have a relaxed and fun vibe that can help to get the party started!
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
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.