Pottery Studio Hours:
Monday – Friday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursday Evening (adults only): 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 12 noon to 5 p.m.
You may remember Barefoot Books from their quaint and colorful shop in Cambridge. But, if you haven’t visited their new Studio in Concord, you’re in for a surprise. You’ll still find all the books you remember, but you’ll also find clothes, toys, family activities and… a paint-your-own pottery studio!
The paint-your-own pottery studio itself resides in a small, brightly-hued room to the back of the store. Our late-summer visit found the room to be on the warm side – the kiln is in there – but there is additional seating within the main store area as well. Inside the pottery studio, you’ll find a table with preschool-sized chairs, as well as a table with chairs for older kids and adults.
First Step: Select Your Pottery
Barefoot has a variety of whimsical bisque pieces, many of which have practical use as well. There are plates, bowls, and cups, of course, but also boxes, goblets, spoon holders, and banks. They also have some tiny accent pieces, such as butterflies, ducks, and dragonflies, which can be added on a larger item in the firing process. Many of the items tie in to Barefoot Books themes and characters, so they can be paired up with a book as a special gift.
A color chart on the wall shows you what the colors look like once glazed and fired. While a staff person gathers your colors, you’ll wash down your piece with a sponge. My kids, who are 4 and 5, needed a little help with this part to make sure the whole piece was wiped off.
Next: Time to paint!
Barefoot Books has stencils and stamps to help with your design. You can also draw with a pencil, which will burn off in the kiln. The kids decided to free paint their plates. I was a bit concerned about their paint colors mixing into a giant, muddy mess, but the colors dry quickly and they were able to paint a variety of colors on and around each other with no problems. I painted a background on my plate and then stamped swirls onto it. I put several layers of paint on the swirls to help the colors really pop.
As expected, the kids were done painting long before I was, so the Pottery Studio Manager, Elizabeth Parise, took them off to wash their hands. When they didn’t return, I found out they had joined a story time out in the main part of the store. This is one of the best parts about being at Barefoot Books. You can make a day out of it, if you’d like. There are story times every day, and you may end up with an impromptu story if the store is quiet. There’s a “Caravan” with puppets, books, and other toys. On any given day, you may find crafts projects, concerts, dance classes, yoga, music lessons, and other fun activities. Some have a fee and/or require pre-registration, so do look at the calendar in advance. If the kids get hungry, there are some colorful bistro tables out on the sidewalk that are just right for a snack or lunch.
Elizabeth, who has been managing paint-your-own pottery studios for 15 years, took the time to explain the process to my kids. She showed them the pieces that had been covered with glaze, and then pointed out the kiln and some finished pieces. It takes about a week to get your finished pottery, which is food, dishwasher and microwave-safe.
I found the pottery pieces at Barefoot Books to be reasonably priced. I made a large plate that cost $16, and there are plenty of less expensive items. Each painter will also have a studio fee to cover the cost of paint and firing. Choosing a piece from the theme of the day will give you a 50% discount on studio fees. The theme of the day while we were there was Da Vinci, and the pottery piece was a tile with the Mona Lisa on it. They also host birthday parties and each Thursday they’re open late for grown-up painting nights. If you’re looking for something really unique, you can even make your own item out of clay, have it fired, and then paint it.
If Concord is a bit too far for you, here are some other Paint-Your-Own Pottery Studios. They all use bisque pieces fired into food-safe designs. Expect to pay a studio fee of $3-10 for paint and firing costs.
Made by Me! charges per half hour for their studio fee, so it may cost more if you’re in for a leisurely visit. They also have birthday parties and special events.
Glazed hosts birthday parties and special events, but will also work with you to do a fundraiser or create custom pieces. In addition to pottery painting, they offer glass fusing. You can create your own glass sun catchers, coasters, bowls, jewelry and other glass items.
Expressions offers both paint-your-own pottery and glass fusing. They do parties, but also hold a variety of workshops, especially during the holiday season.
In addition to the open studio, PYOP hosts birthday parties and private events. They will create custom pieces, and specialize in foot and handprint items. There are workshops and special events for both kids and adults.
Christy Matte is a local freelance writer and blogger, as well as co-founder of Boston Parent Bloggers. She blogs about parenting, travel, tech, and philanthropy at QuirkyFusion.com.