Getting fired up about pottery

October 22, 2006|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to The Sun

Manuelita White spent years making pottery. But over time, the work became too tedious for the 50-year-old Bel Air resident. "I had to clean the pottery and then fire it," White said. "Then I had to paint it and fire it. Then I glazed it and fired it again. Making pottery took forever, and it was too much work."

After a lengthy pottery-making hiatus, White was told by a co-worker about a place where she could made pottery minus all the work.

Although she was skeptical, White tried it with her 9-year-old granddaughter, Emma Cummings of Hickory.

After her first session, White gave the experience rave reviews.

"It was absolutely great," she said. "The pottery is easy enough to make that anyone, with or without artistic talent, can create something."

White was alluding to her first excursion to Amazing Glaze, a retail shop in Bel Air that enables customers to create their own works of art without the fuss of typical pottery-making techniques.

To make pottery at the shop, customers can buy a membership costing $99 for individuals ($149 for families) or pay an hourly rate of $6, or a daily maximum of $12.

The basic premise of the sessions includes selecting a piece of pottery from one of 400 unfinished items ranging in price from $3 to $100, including piggy banks, picture frames, plates, mugs, trays, jewelry boxes and teapots.

Next, patrons scan books for possible design ideas. Once a design is chosen, the customers spend time picking paints from about 100 hues.

Then they paint their pottery.

Once the painting is finished, store employees glaze it, fire it and keep it until it's ready for pickup five days later. It's as simple as that, White said.

"It's so wonderful to go into the store after a long day and relax and mellow out while I make pottery," said White who creates pottery at the shop at least twice a month. "It's nothing like the old-fashioned way of making pottery."

Which is one of the reasons Lisa Lyons, the owner of the store decided to go into business.

"Making pottery is therapeutic," said the 41-year-old Phoenix resident. "The environment is calm and peaceful, and it's a great bonding time."

Alexander White, Manuelita White's son, agreed.

"When I have a bad day at school, and I'm angry or bored, I go to the shop and make something," said the Bel Air High School student, who makes items such as picture frames and piggy banks. "Whether I'm there with my mom or some of my friends, we sit around and talk about our day. It's great way to spend time with family and friends. And there's no excuse for leaving the shop until you're finished."

In addition to bonding with family and friends, there are other benefits, said store manager Courtney Christ of Abingdon.

"People can learn all about making pottery," said Christ, who earned a degree in fine arts in 2001 from Salisbury University. "They can come here and learn about how to select the right colors. They can also learn how to blend colors and how to apply paint properly."

And, it's fun for everyone.

"We get dads in here who are helping their children make Mother's Day gifts," Christ said. "And we also get divorced fathers who are bringing their children in so they can spend their time together doing something."

There's also something to accommodate everyone's tastes and abilities, said Manuelita White. "You don't have to have any artistic ability at all. Even if all you can do is paint a solid coat of paint on something, you can still make it look good."

White's granddaughter Emma recently completed a mosaic chair.

"She created a design that she liked with a blue sky and gold stars. She painted tiles blue and gold. And when she finished, she broke the tiles and pieced them together to create the design on the chair," White said. "And it turned out wonderful."

Even younger children can create in the shop with a little help.

For instance, some parents bring in infants to get a handprint or footprint for a plate. White brought her 2-year-old granddaughter Julia Cummings in to make a mug.

"Julia painted it a solid color, and it turned out adorable," she said. "It wasn't perfectly painted, but it was the best thing in the world to her mom."

And for those who don't want to make their own pottery, the staff will design a piece for them. And Lyons said she gets some pretty unusual requests.

For example, one customer asked her to make a plate with "Will you marry me?" on it so he could use it to propose to his girlfriend.

"He took the plate to a restaurant and had a slice of cake served on it. Then when his girlfriend ate the cake she would see the proposal," Lyons said.

Also the shop offers various birthday party plans ranging in price from $18 to $28 per child. The parties include a piece of pottery for each child to create.

And the finished products are amazing, Lyons said.

"When the projects are completed, it's like opening a present," she said. "I'm always amazed by the brilliant and beautiful colors and the creative designs people come up with."

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