Find Your Inner Artist Through Ceramic Painting

Pottery and ceramics date back thousands of years, when man found that wet clay could be formed into a bowl shape.

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When left to dry, or better, placed into a fire, it would harden and hold water. Today, while some pottery is still hand thrown, placed in a kiln to dry and used as mugs, bowls, vases, and the like, ceramics has developed into an art form expressed by everyday people.

The Evolution of Ceramics

Outside of the artists who design and color their own pottery, the hobby of painting ceramic pieces evolved in the 1930s during an otherwise dark period in American history. Kilns, molds, and glazes emerged for use by the at-home hobbyist. Similarly, clay tools and brushes followed. The results stemmed from the desire of everyday people, not necessarily artists, to be able to mold a piece of clay and further create their own design through the colors and glazes affordably offered.

Mold and glaze manufacturers developed a certification program for individuals, mostly store owners and employees, to be able to teach the ceramic arts. The idea boomed for decades with ceramic shops offering molds and/or precast products to private individuals to create and paint. The aspiring artists didn’t need to invest in a kiln as shop owners offered the service of kiln-firing, which in-turn kept customers returning to their stores.

Paint Your Own Pottery

In the mid-80s, the demand started fizzling out, in part because the demand for new molds and different ideas dwindled. But, the concept didn’t take long to re-emerge in the early 90s with the idea that it may be more fun to paint with friends in a group atmosphere than alone at home.

Creative shop owners once again started carrying ceramic supplies with pre-modeled clay designs, paints, glazes, brushes, and tools, but this time with the focus of creating the artistic atmosphere in their shops. Through classes and parties, individuals young and old, could come in, pick their piece and jump right into painting. The all-in-one price was based on the size of the molded art, the paint it would take to cover it, and the equivalent to an equipment-use fee.

Today there are paint-your-own ceramic stores in cities, large and small, throughout the country. Some are independent while others are part of a franchise. With many you can go in and work on your project most anytime during their regular hours, no group needed. Others continue to promote the class and party atmosphere. And, yet some still sell supplies, so you can work at home and return your work ready for the kiln.

If you are looking for a new way to express yourself, or a relaxing hobby to put down the electronic devices and slow down our day, check for a paint-your-own store near you.

Old School Fun at Your Local Block Party

You could meet your neighbors by going door-to-door with casseroles or plates of baked goods,

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but the block party has become a popular way to get to know and socialize with those who live near you in a fun, party atmosphere. While block parties or neighborhood gatherings are held around the world, the idea first took hold in the U.S. during the World War I era. Neighbors in New York met to sing, mingle and honor local boys who were serving overseas. In the 1960s, block parties became more popular as families moved to the suburbs and wanted to connect with their neighbors.

From large urban areas to small rural communities, block parties are a way to form bonds, talk about neighborhood issues in a friendly way and enjoy food and games. Residents can customize the block party to meet their needs and bring people together.

What Do You Do at a Block Party, Anyway?

Many block parties have a theme that dictates the type of food and activities. Sometimes this will be related to a holiday like the Fourth of July, where people gather for a cookout and fireworks, or will revolve around food, like a taco night or ice cream social.

Keeping the kids entertained is an important part of a block party where families live. Running a sprinkler, setting up games like ladder ball or holding a water balloon toss can keep those of all ages interested. Neighbors may also decide to hold a clothing or book swap, where people bring what they no longer need and let others help themselves.

Emphasizing Safety

National Night Out, which encourages neighbors to get together in the evening to increase safety, is another common reason why many areas organize block parties. Started in 1984, NNO has grown to involve more than 38 million people in 16,000 communities who gather on the first Tuesday in August to build relationships and talk about safety in their communities.

For those block parties where neighborhood safety is on the agenda, police officers and firefighters may be invited to attend. These public safety officials can bring equipment and talk to residents about ways to stay safe and work together.

Finding the Right Space

Because every neighborhood is different, the right place for a block party might be one neighbor’s large yard or an area park. In many cities, residents can apply to block off a street or two in order to hold a larger gathering. Any space you choose should have room to set up tables that hold food and games as well as chairs and blankets for hanging out.

Positive Social Outcomes

Social relationships like those formed at block parties can have positive outcomes, like reducing crime (since neighbors are looking out for each other) and improving mental health. Besides being fun, block parties help individuals increase their social capital by encouraging people who live near each other to form stronger bonds.