Tag Archives: Pottery Painting

Homemade holiday ornaments

When our three children were younger, we often enjoyed crafting homemade holiday ornaments together. The kitchen table, covered with old newspapers or a tacky plastic tablecloth, was transformed into arts and crafts central — covered with yarn, pipe cleaners, glitter, fabric paints and other raw materials.

When you’re out and about running holiday errands, hit your local craft or creative papers store for some basic supplies so you’re ready when the mood for holiday ornament-making strikes. Think felt, craft paints, embroidery floss, popsicle sticks, molding clay, jumbo beads and such. Even clear ball-style ornaments you can partially fill with paint and swirl around to make one-of-a-kind decorations.

Tree filled with homemade ornaments

Sometimes we had a separate Christmas tree just for the ornaments crafted by our children — like the one at right covered with felt shapes traced with holiday cookie cutters and styrofoam balls decorated with glued-on buttons. Even the yarn and popsicle stick “God’s eyes” they learned to make while listening to lore about my childhood summer camp days.

If you’re entertaining during the holidays, consider filling a tree with edible ornaments. Rolls of storebought cookie dough thickly sliced and baked make a tasty decor/dessert combo assuming you remember to punch a hole in each cookie with a jumbo straw before baking. Once your cookies are baked and decorated, just thread a pretty ribbon through the hole and they’re ready for hanging. A few will crumble, but that’s half the fun. Those go to your tiny taste testers.

For folks needing a bit of inspiration on how to get started, here’s a list of simple ideas. Pick the ones that work best for your child’s age and your own family budget — then gather the supplies and go for it!

  • Make holiday shapes with cookie cutters and either store-bought or homemade modeling dough (some doughs require baking before painting and decoration)
  • Fold origami paper into cranes or other shapes — or use scissors to make kirigami (cut paper) designs like snowflakes
  • Make heart shapes with wire or pipe cleaners, then add tied-on strips of colorful fabric around the borders
  • Roll ball-shaped ornaments in glue, then roll again to cover with glitter, sequins or tiny seed beads (old cookie sheets are helpful here)
  • Make frames for family (and pet) photos — using popsicle sticks, thin sheets of craft foam, braided pipe cleaners and such
  • Dip pipe cleaners in glue, then cover with glitter — shaping them into hearts, stars and swirls once they’re nearly dry
  • Cover bendable wire or pipe cleaners with colorful beads before shaping them into hearts, teardrops or other designs
  • Cut felt after tracing designs with cookie cutters, then embellish with stitches of brightly-colored embroidery floss

Consider a theme tree if your family has a special interest like animals or reading together. Book lovers can create their own bookmarks, then hang them from the tree — and make miniature versions of their favorite books by folding plain white index cards in half and drawing or coloring the front and back “covers.”

Folks eager to reinforce the importance of giving while downplaying more material aspects of the holiday season can make their own “good works” or “good wishes” tree. Try filling a tree with hand-decorated messages family members write to each other then share on Christmas eve or Christmas day.

Or making a special tree now that’s covered in strips of paper (like Chinese cookie fortunes) noting different good deeds — like “Make cookies for a neighbor” or “Volunteer one hour helping hungry families” — then let family members take turns opening the notes each day, and doing the good deeds inside them. Like an advent calendar for random acts of kindness.

Those less daring in the do-it-yourself department have plenty of craft kit options, including Shrinky Dinks, that’ll bring fast and relatively easy results. Also fun places like pottery painting studios.

Don’t forget the tried-and-true favorites from your own childhood days, including multi-color paper chains crafted from strips of construction paper. They’re inexpensive to make and easy for family members of varying ages to create while enjoying a spot of hot chocolate or apple cider together.

— Lynn

Coming up: Smart kitty, Spring art classes for kids


My tea party platform

These whimsical tea cups hang from a ceiling at the Children's Museum of Phoenix

As Monday night’s debate between candidates for the Republican party’s nomination for president was nearing a close, moderator Wolf Blitzer of CNN asked candidates to share something they’d bring with them to the White House if elected.

One scored big points by promising to grace the White House with one of our nation’s finest first ladies. The one who mentioned Winston Churchill’s bust is going to have a harder time at home for the next couple of nights.

One spoke of the children in his life and bringing their interests, including chess and ballet, to the White House — but only after promising to make room for it all by ridding the White House of its many czars.

One plans to bring along his Harley, another a bushel of common sense. All failed to recognize the most obvious necessity — a tiny little tea set for hosting tea parties with toddlers and teddy bears.

The debate reminded me of all those lovely tea parties I enjoyed with my children when they were younger. Of the hand-painted porcelain tea cups James’ grandma Julia once crafted with such care. Of the tea cup my daughter Jennifer once decorated at a pottery painting studio — yellow with cherries and other fruits painted around both cup and saucer.

I have my own tea party platform that goes something like this:

  • Tea parties must be held in tree houses or under dining room tables tented by colorful cotton sheets
  • Tea parties must have room at the table for everyone — even boys
  • Tea parties must include miniature cupcakes because they are dainty, have fewer calories and are easier to shove in my mouth
  • Tea parties must include slurping and straws and all manner of silliness and spills

Tea parties at home, park or beach are delightful — but so are tea parties at swankier places that welcome feather boas and sparkling accordian fans. Tea parties for a cause are also ever so nice.

I’ll feature tea party events and places in my next post. If your family has a tea party platform or tea party picture to share, please send it my way. I’ll post a few for readers during my next spot of tea.

Earl Grey with a sprinkle of fairy dust…

— Lynn

Coming up: A trio of teas benefiting Valley dance academies

Art meets Audubon

It's the perfect day to try a bit of bird-related art in honor of John James Audubon

John James Audubon, a naturalist and artist known best for his work with birds, was born April 26, 1785.

Hence today’s Google doodle with the beautiful bird theme.

If you’re feeling inspired to honor Audubon’s contributions to the worlds of art and science, consider making a bit of bird art with your children this week.

A few ideas…

  • Build a birdhouse — from scratch or using a kit.
  • Paint a bird at your local pottery painting joint.
  • Write poems about some of your favorite birds.
  • Take a walk to look for birds in your neighborhood.
  • Cut bird pictures out of old magazines, then use them to create a collage on canvas or poster board.
  • Use stencils to create whimsical bird designs along a wall in your child’s bedroom.
  • Plant a bird friendly plant in your garden.
  • Draw birds you see on exhibit at the Phoenix Zoo.
  • Look for birds in art exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum or Heard Museum.
  • Take a sketchpad and pens/pencils along to draw birds you see at the Desert Botanical Garden or Rio Solado Audubon Society.
  • Make bird designs by tracing your child’s spread out palm (a favorite with kids at Thanksgiving time).
  • Sew simple birds using felt and embroidery floss, then use them to create a hanging mobile.
  • Fold paper to make origami birds.
  • Use bird puppets or plush (like those from the Audubon Society or Folkmanis Puppets) to create puppet shows full of birds.
  • Read books about birds, then write your own bird stories.
  • Draw birds that start with thumbprints made using colorful ink pads.
  • Take photos of birds in your neighborhood or natural settings.
  • Observe different birds, then make up dances that mirror their movements.

If you’ve got an idea for a bird-related craft or activity, please comment below to let our readers know. Or send photos of some of your family’s bird-related artwork so I can add them to this post for others to enjoy.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix — which offers summer camps for children, as well as other programs for children and adults. Learn more about John James Audubon from PBS and the National Gallery of Art — and the National Audubon Society.

Coming up: Memphis meets movie theater

Update: The Arboretum at Flagstaff will hold “Saturday Morning Birdwalks” led by bird experts from local chapters of the Audubon Society during May, June and July. Admission is free and all ages are welcome. Learn more at www.thearb.org.

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…


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