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clay party/intro class advice

updated thu 15 apr 99


vikki dow on mon 12 apr 99

After being rained out for several week-ends and unable to sell my pots at
my local farmers' markets, I opened my studio yesterday. I had several
visitors who made purchases, and a friend brought her family by. The five
of them stayed for 3 hours, as I demonstrated throwing a pot and letting
them have a go at it. I gave them a little instruction, helped them center
and pull, etc. and showed them some hand-building techniques. Everyone
made something, albeit a bit clunky! We all had a blast, and I began to
think up a plan for expanding my business.

I had previously ruled out the idea of teaching lessons because I don't
have a lot of time or facilities. But now I'm thinking that I could have
Pottery Parties - for families or small groups (3-6 people). I thought I
could do the things I did for my friends, plus offer "paint your own"
bisqueware. Has anyone done anything like this? I know the paint-you-own
places are booming as people seek out creative expression without
necessarily wanting to commit to a course. People are fascinated by the
wheel... and I miss teaching (I taught aquatics before jumping head-on into
my pottery business).

So, I'm looking for feedback and advice. Rates? Safety issues?
Experience? Any words of wisdom appreciated!

Libby Still-Hanline
Stilltree Pottery
Berkeley, CA

Tena Payne on tue 13 apr 99

I have Raku parties.... just like tupperware, but with couples.... and
clay of course. I ask the host/hostess to invite friends to watch me
demonstrate a raku firing. I, naturally, have a display set up in the
home for sales. I encourage people to help in the firing (I take 5-10
pieces to fire on site). Everyone has a great time and are educated in
the process. (They get to see things break.) It's a great crowd
pleaser, everyone invited wants to come. I get to mix with the public,
answer questions, and get feedback. I do very well at these events... I
typically have 2 a month. My kiln is made of expanded metal supporting
ceramic fiber so it's portable.

So, just like other "party plan" type sales, I get subsequent bookings
and do give the host/hostess a gift. Works out really well for
everyone. It's like having my own show and I have no competition. !

Lemme know if you have questions....

in Birmingham, watching the hummingbirds dance in the dogwoods....
Do You Yahoo!?
Get your free address at

Grace Epstein on tue 13 apr 99

at the art at which i teach on week-ends birthday parties are done:
children come in and make greenware-have food-go home
i go in at another time and dip glaze
parent picks up pieces when glaze fired...and that's it in a nut shell
it works and kids have a good time!

Martin Howard on tue 13 apr 99

Children's Parties are a very good idea. They work and the kids are
wonderful to work with.

I charge the age of the child in Sterling Pounds each. So an 8 year old
pays =A38. He/she brings between 3 and 5 friends, who each pay 8=A3.

First they have a drink and a chocolate biscuit while I tell them a
story to introduce a theme for modelling. One was that we had a bad
summer and the fairies and all the other little people had few fungi
under which to build their homes. So, could we build them some new
homes? I had prepared simple up-side-down pots as starters. They then do
some modelling while one is on the wheel with me, changing after 15
minutes of throwing.

Of course, afterwards I turn what they have thrown, slip and fire
everything, then glaze and fire. Some bits, like dinosaur legs, fall off
and need attention. The parents and children certainly seem to
appreciate it and it gives the parents another theme for birthday

One little lad said =22This is the best birthday I've ever had=22. You can
imagine how I felt.

Financially it barely balances, because I have to spend 2 hours in
preparation (Oh for a de-airing pugmill=21) and then there is all the time
afterwards, plus making sure that nothing has too sharp edges. I don't
want to be the cause of any cuts. One or two of the adults/parents stay
and do necessary things like repeating to the children what I have said,
while I am on the wheel, showing them the loo, dressing them up in old
clothes, etc..

Of course, if the showroom shelves are full (hopes for the future) there
is the opportunity to sell some ware. At present I make sure that they
go with a copy of =22Positive News=22, the necessary antidote to all modern

I am rather deaf, so it helps having adult translators.

Sometimes I am doing this with esperantists from abroad who do not speak
english, so all is done in the International Language.

Martin Howard
Webbs Cottage Pottery and Press
Woolpits Road, Great Saling
Essex CM7 5DZ
01371 850 423

Lori Leary on wed 14 apr 99

Here is something I have done for short, one time kid workshops. I bet
it would work very well for birthday parties....hmmmm, need to try

Decide on a project. Some ideas and helpful hints:

Masks: use bleach bottles cut in half as forms.

Rattles: use prefired little balls of clay, they won't stick to the
inside of the rattle.

Creatures: just creatures from the imagination or books. Have them make
the creatures depicted in Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" (or any
kid's book).

Face mugs: handbuilt mug with a face.

Seated sculptures: (always a BIG hit... see " Children, Clay, and
Sculpture" by Topal). (sorry, don't have the page number with me)

Whistles: best for older kids.

Anything to get beyond the pinch pot syndrome (not that there's anything
wrong with pinch pots!).

Have the kids make their project. While their work is setting up a bit,
have them wash up and have their cake/snacks/presents, whatever. I
would have the food and drinks in a separate area (health and safety).
After that, I have them "paint" their work with colored slips. I always
have a bisqued piece ready to demonstrate glazing, and a fired piece as
an example.

I think that even in a party setting, it's possible (and important!) to
teach a bit about the entire process of clayworking. Kids seem to
really want to know how and why things are done. Another point, I have
found that when working with children, one has to give them a specific
project, then let 'em go at it. I think it is too overwhelming for kids
if you hand them some clay and say, "Here, make something." By giving
them a bit of structure, it seems to free them up to be really creative.
I love to see the diversity of the final results from a single group of
kids doing the same project.

As a marketing tool, you could advertise your parties with themes. I
had a good time thinking up names for my workshops....."Rattles and
Chimes"(rattles and windchimes) "Silly Sculptures", "Wild Things"(animal
masks), "Animules" (animals with a twist), Mug Mugs (get it?).

I enjoy teaching kids, they are so funny sometimes. I had one little
boy who insisted that we wedge on the WEDGIE TABLE. Now EVERYONE in the
studio calls it the WEDGIE TABLE.

Hope this helps,
Lori L.
Pawleys Island, SC