Rainy days and pink speckled elephants

The trio of hutches passed down from my maternal grandmother hold plenty of children’s art—including an assortment of masterpieces painted at various pottery-painting places throughout the Valley.

There’s the trinket box commemorating Jennifer’s role more than a decade ago in “Hansel and Gretel” with Greasepaint Youtheatre, the purple perfume jar shaped like a stunning piece of middle eastern architecture and assorted animals including a moose, fish, dolphin and duck.

Soon a new treasure will be joining our collection—the pink speckled elephant Lizabeth painted Monday at As You Wish at Tempe Marketplace. It’s ‘presentation week’ at ASA—when students are out of school except for scheduled oral presentations of projects they’ve worked on for well over a month.

Lizabeth and I spent day one of ‘presentation week’ hitting Tempe Marketplace—where we love to linger at the Barnes & Noble bookstore (I could spend hours just browsing their layers upon layers of magazines I rarely see for sale elsewhere) or take in a movie. (Added bonus: The In-N-Out Burger drive-through on the way home.)

This time we hit the pottery painting studio, then jotted in and out of stores looking for sweaters and other cold weather wear for her school trip to DC and NYC next week. It’s a great one-stop shop for trendy teen stores, and we often locate remarkable finds on their sale racks (save us some good stuff if you go).

By far the most fun we had was sitting together at a cozy round table next to the big picture window along the front of the pottery painting studio, where we could couple people watching with pottery painting. I enjoyed being in the moment but was also taken back to all the days I’ve spent girl time with my daughters doing arts and crafts.

I wonder how this was even possible for so many years now that they each become instantly glued to their cell phone once we’re loaded into the teen taxi and bound for new adventures.

Actually, I might want to give myself—and my hubby, James, more credit. Ours was a low-tech home for most of the kids’ childhoods, so books and art supplies got much of the recognition they deserve. (And Jennifer is still in search of that glue gun she needs for a current project.)

Painting pottery together is one of those activities that really has no age or gender limits. We got to the studio early and enjoyed some alone time—but were soon joined by a father and his middle school-age daughter, then a young couple and their elementary-age daughter. We didn’t see any boys on this particular day, but we’ve seen them painting pottery plenty of times before.

James’ mom still lines a wall of her kitchen counter with square jars each of our children painted many years ago. Christopher always got a kick out of painting lizards, frogs and other animals—while the girls loved little boxes to hold tiny treasures.

Never fear if you rarely awaken with an uncontrollable urge to paint pottery, or fear you’ll end up idealess once faced with that blank ceramic plate or photo frame you’d so love to turn into a sentimental gift for a friend or family member. Studio staff members are genuinely creative and helpful, and there are plenty of tools to help you find and manifest your muse.

The studio, one of several As You Wish locations in the Valley, has idea books and technique instructions on hand—plus hundreds of painted and fired samples of pottery art everywhere you turn. Yesterday we saw a collection of coasters painted with different abstract designs, a football painted with Phoenix Suns colors, plates painted with the names and wedding dates of couples nearing their nuptials—and much more.

We still bump into teachers who tell us they’ve held on to the artworks our children crafted for them through the years—including homemade candles imbued with tiny dried roses or other botanicals, homemade soaps with beautiful marbled colors and delicate nature scents, and painted pottery treasures like candle sticks, doggie dishes and more.

I had forgotten, until Lizabeth suggested we hit the pottery painting studio the other day, just how many special occasions we’ve marked with this activity. We’ve done pottery painting birthday parties, holiday cookie exchanges, former classmate reunions and oodles of one-on-one play dates with friends.

Consider visiting your local pottery painting studio during spring break—as a family or with friends. You can get an early start on teacher gifts, create a wonderful family heirloom like a plate with each of your handprints, or just choose something whimsical and fun like a pink speckled elephant.

We came home with plenty of good information to help us enjoy more mother-daughter moments in the future, including schedules of special events and discounts for this month and next. I also grabbed brochures on everything from hosting a party at the studio to using pottery painting in fundraising efforts.

You can learn more about your pottery painting options (and look for online coupons) at the website for As You Wish (which has studios in Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe).

Drop a line and tell me all about your own whimsical creations…

–Lynn

Note: Tuesday night Lizabeth and I attended opening night of “Avenue Q ” for mature audiences only) at ASU Gammage, so look for a review of that coming soon. Tonight (Wednesday night) you can enjoy a free screening of selected works by writer-director Peter Sollett (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” 2008) at Neeb Hall on the ASU Tempe campus at 7pm–to be followed by a Q & A with Sollett and the live ASU audience via Skype. Learn more at  http://theatrefilm.asu.edu/calendar/film_skype.php

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