Hand-painted ceramics sweeping away stress

Friday, September 28, 2007 | 3:00 p.m. CDT; updated 3:34 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

The idea: I’ve been invited to a few pottery painting parties over the years, but was never able to attend one.

Painting pottery requires very little artistic talent, I was told. You simply walk in, choose a pre-made, white piece of pottery, select your colors and paint to your heart’s content.

The shop fires up the kiln and your masterpiece is ready to pick up in a few days.

I’ll admit I was a little leery about spending an hour with a group of people, painting a plate or a mug or another ceramic dish that would most likely never be used.

Friends had raved about the benefits of painting pottery: Conversation flows easier when people are focused on a task. Working with one’s hands after a long day can be as therapeutic as happy hour.

After a long workweek, I decided to try it.

The process: Entering the Mudroom at 1103 E. Walnut St., I was impressed with the variety of pottery awaiting an ambitious artist. There were mugs, dishes, tiles, figurines, vases, chess sets, holiday decorations, goblets and more.

I decided on a small bowl, and my companion chose a box for a gift, We picked out our paints and sat down, staring at our blank slates. My creativity hadn’t been this challenged since my Girl Scout days; I didn’t know what to paint.

Out of the blue, inspiration came. Hungry for popcorn, I set to work painting yellow kernels on the inside of the bowl and using fire-engine red to recreate a popcorn box on the outside.

Thoughts and musings: As we painted, my companion and I vented about our hectic schedules, swapped family stories and even dished a little healthy gossip. My perfectionism faded, and I began to enjoy the small imperfections in a project that was purely mine. Time passed quickly, and before we knew it, we had stayed an hour and a half, 30 minutes past closing.

We paid for our box and bowl, $7 and $11 respectively, plus a modest $7 per hour charge each for the space, paint, brushes, stencils, firing and artistic and technical assistance.

The verdict: Picking my brain in a non-work-related way provided much-needed stress relief and a practical piece of artwork. A few family birthdays loom, and hand-painted pottery trumps the crafts I made for gifts in elementary school.

Next time an invitation to a crafty ceramics bridal shower comes, I’ll clear my schedule, channel my inner Martha Stewart and go.

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