- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Tammy Rosenbaum says the benefits of visiting her Made by You pottery studios go far beyond the actual trip itself.

"It's nice to see people come in and do something productive," says Ms. Rosenbaum, the district manager for the five Made by You studios in the Washington area and Pikesville, Md. "They actually make things they can use. It's not something like a color picture that hangs on a refrigerator, or those plaster casts that a lot of kids are familiar with. The parents get frustrated [with them] because they just sit on a shelf and you can't do anything with [them].

"But it's nice to get a lot of kids who get a big feeling of accomplishment when they make something like a plate they can eat off of. I hear comments from parents all the time who tell me, 'She eats off that plate every single night at dinnertime.'"

Made by You and other do-it-yourself pottery studios, such as Paint Your Own Pottery in Fairfax, the Mud Hut in Olney and the Clay Station in Ellicott City, Md., all have the same concept. Parents and children buy a piece of pottery off the shelves anything from plates and coffee mugs to piggy banks, decorative tiles and flower vases and paint the items at the studio. The studio provides all the paints and stencils, stamps and sponges. Most of the items cost between $15 and $40.

Afterward, the projects are glazed and fired and can be picked up four or five days later.

"There's a real social aspect to it," says Susanna Ekvall, owner of Paint Your Own Pottery. "We have a lot of little groups that come in, birthday parties and things like that. But we also have had bridal showers, office parties, baby showers, all sorts of gatherings. We let them bring their own cake and refreshments in and everybody has a great time. We'll have seven or eight parties here on the weekends."

When the pieces arrive at the pottery studios, they already have been molded and fired once by the manufacturers into what is called a bisque stage. At the studio, parents and children paint the pieces with colored glazes, and then workers at the studio coat them with a clear, nontoxic glaze to prepare them for the second firing process. That second firing (at about 1,800 degrees) takes a day or so and is done on the premises.

The whole process takes four or five days, so the studios suggest that prospective gift-givers make plans to visit soon if they're planning to make a Christmas gift. Ms. Ekvall recommends calling ahead for reservations during the holidays just to make sure.

Most studios also have year-round activities and seasonal events. Made by You has after-school activities on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and "Happy Hour" on Friday nights when serving pieces such as sushi ware and chip bowls can be purchased and painted for a discount. Paint Your Own Pottery offers "present of the month" classes to accompany different times of the year. For instance, in the spring, popular items include flower pots and vases.

And of course, the Christmas season brings a heavy load of visitors to the studios. Ms. Ekvall says Nativity pieces are particularly popular with children during the Christmas season. Ms. Rosenbaum says some families make yearly trips to her studios.

"We have a lot of families who come in and do sets of dishes," Ms. Rosenbaum says. "Kids come in and make tiles or salad plates every year for their birthday and it's kind of a visual history for them as they grow up to see how they've changed. People like to personalize their gifts by signing their initials and then give them as gifts to each other or the grandparents."

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