Painting Ceramics: I Think We Found a New Hobby!

Recently I took Jessie and her friend Ashley to paint ceramics. Both girls really enjoyed it and I was surprised how long Jessie hung in there.  I love the things Jessie painted and we already have plans to go back and for her to make some Christmas gifts.  I think next time we’re going to get together a group of girls and their moms.

We have a ceramics place really close to us and I went the first time with a group of Down syndrome mamas.  We had a great mom’s night out.  I am still regularly using the tray I painted.  Right now it is on my counter with fruit in it.

I’m sharing some details that might help you decide if you would like to do this yourself and or take your kids or grand-kids.

How Much Does it Cost?

At our local ceramics place this is how it works: you purchase the item you want to paint and all the supplies are included for the price of the item.  They have items ranging in price from $3 to $30.

You can take as little or as much time as you want to paint.  You can work on your project any of the hours they’re open until you finish it–all included in the one cost you pay for your item. You can finish in one sitting or work a while and come back another day.

As a frame of reference for you, on this day Jessie’s bowl was $8, her mug $10  (or I could have that backwards), Ashley’s angel was $20ish (it’s very large) and my trivet was $6.

Choosing Which Type of Paints to Use

Glaze

Glaze paints leave your object with a shinier finish.  Although I tend to like matte finish in many other things, I love the look of glaze painted ceramics.  Personally, I haven’t seen as many things painted with acrylics that I just really love.

If your painted object will come in contact with food, you will need to use glaze paints.  With glazes, the color doesn’t look as vibrant when you first paint it, but comes to life when it’s fired for a 2nd time.  I show examples of both stages below.  Because it needs to be fired again, you leave it when you’re finished painting and pick it up later.  To get full, good coverage, you need to use 2-3 coats, letting it dry between.  Kids might get tired of re-painting the same area.  

This is Jessie’s bowl painted with glaze paints BEFORE it’s re-fired. It has a matte finish that will be shiny after firing. It’s hard to tell at this stage what your finished project will look like. The colors don’t look “true” at this point.

You can paint with fewer coats as long as you’re ok with coverage that isn’t completely filled in or is lighter.  Jessie didn’t want to paint multiple coats.  We still like how they turned out, but as an adult, I painted 3 coats on the two projects I have made so far.  If you want solidly filled in painted areas our ceramics place recommends 3 coats and letting it dry between coats.  It dries quickly so by the time you finish painting, it’s ready to re-coat.

Once it’s fired for the 2nd time your item is safe for food and microwave and dishwasher safe.

Acrylic

If you use acrylic paints, at our ceramic place they will spray with a sealer for you and you can take it home the same day.  The sealer adds a little shine, but it isn’t the high gloss of the glaze paints.  Acrylics are more for decorative items, they aren’t safe for food.

Why I Chose to Limit Jessie’s Choices of What to Paint

You may or may not want to help guide your child’s choices of what they purchase.  If your child doesn’t constantly create, their decorative ceramic project of any kind might be a sweet and treasured memory.

Jessie does arts and crafts year round.  She’s offended when I don’t display them ALL in the living room.  I’m just not a person who likes a lot of “knick knacks”.  It feels like clutter to me.  She makes so many things and there is a limit to what I can and want to display. In guiding her choice before we ever went I hoped (and it worked) to avoid potential hurt feelings.

I didn’t tell her what specifically to choose, but I told Jessie it had to be something she could USE, rather than an item that was entirely decorative.  I explained that if she made something decorative her feelings would be hurt if I didn’t keep it in the living room and that there wasn’t room.  We have been redecorating her room and I suggested she might choose a decorative bowl to keep her hair things in.  She was allowed to choose anything that could be USED in any way.

This might not be a hard and fast rule forever but that’s what we went with for now.  Since that time I’ve thought it might be nice for her to make something seasonal (fall, Christmas etc) to display.  On this particular day she wasn’t interested in that kind of item anyway.

Our Fun Day and the Projects We Chose

Jessie’s first project was a bowl, not one for her room as I had suggested, but one for eating.   Jessie loves hearts, but can’t draw them well herself, so the owner of the ceramic place drew the hearts  for her and she painted them.

This is after the 2nd firing.  I think she did two coats on the bowl and I know she only did one on the purple of the mug.  At that point she didn’t feel like re-painting what she had already done.   When she’s making gifts for others I’m going to try to get her to do 2 coats.  3 is beyond her patience, but if she only did one project 2 coats is very doable for her.

You know your kid.  I’m giving you these details to help you as you plan your trip to paint ceramics.

I LOVE how her bowl turned out!  Her favorite color is blue, she loves hearts and she likes a lot of sparkle.  We’ve already been using it and I know this bowl will be enjoyed in our home for a long time to come. It makes me happy when I open the cabinet and see it there.

Jessie’s brother, Evan, was actually the first person to use her bowl and he said it is the perfect size.  Since he said that it helped us choose what her next project will be, she’s going to make him a bowl for Christmas <3.

I’m showing the inside of the bowl so you can sort of see that the blue paint she chose actually has sprarkles in it! Not all glaze paints do, but there are some. This girl loves her sparkle.

Ashley chose an angel that she wanted to paint for her mom because her mom loves angels.  It took her several hours to paint but she never got tired of it.  And, her project taking longer helped Jessie to keep painting longer than she normally would.

Ashley did a great job! It took her several hours to paint and she enjoyed every minute, never getting tired. She wasn’t ready to stop till she finished and we were all starving and ready to get some mexican food!
Ashley’s favorite color is blue too 🙂

This is good fine motor work!

When Jessie finished her bowl and Ashley still had a ways to go on her angel Jessie chose a 2nd project, this time a mug. Her hands were getting a little tired.  Holding the bowl in position with her left hand while she painted with her right was a lot of fine motor work.  Because her hands were getting tired she didn’t want to paint a 2nd coat so you can see through the glaze.

Once the girls were set up with their projects I started working on mine.  I would stop and start when they needed help with more paint etc. so I purposely chose a smaller project so I could help them when needed.

I had not been sure how long the girls would want to paint but chose a day to go when we go stay as long as we wanted.  We painted all afternoon till we finished and our tummies were ready for an early supper before heading to church.

I am using this trivet (I painted something I knew I would use too!) by my kitchen sink with my handled sponge (that I use for washing glasses) and my scrubber on top of it.  I used a stencil they had to paint the medallions.  I painted 3 coats and then outlined with black using a pen/marker like thing they have for this purpose. You have to be careful not to get the outline too heavy but I would never have been able to do it with a brush!

Here are a couple of last thoughts/ takeaway’s from our day:

As with everything else, each of your kids might experience it differently.

  • Ashley easily stayed focused on her painting project without being tired of it or her hands feeling fatigued.
  • Jessie equally enjoyed painting but her hands did get tired and were shaking by the time she was finishing her bowl.  Having her friend there I was able to coax her into hanging with it longer which I think was good for her, since it was within her ability and not completely overwhelming.  I want to increase her attention span.  Working on something longer, to her stretching-but-not-breaking point is helpful.
  • Jessie LOVES to give gifts.  This will open the door for her to be able give gifts that are homemade with love that are an affordable price.
  • Now that Jessie has seen how the bowl has more full coverage and the mug does not, having that visual will help her to know the choice she is making next time.  Whatever she chooses is fine, but it was just words without much meaning to her when I tried to explain it the first time.  Just consider your first time with a kid a learning experience and fun without a lot of expectations.  

We really did enjoy it and look forward to going again soon.  If this inspires you to give it a try I hope you’ll let me know.  And I would love to see your projects too!

Till next weeks friends,

Josette

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2 comments

  1. Neat idea! My grandma was a ceramics super star. I’ve managed to keep two of her creations, and one of my sons broke one last week. grrr. Painting ceramics would be a DELIGHT for my kids too. Thanks for the tips!

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