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I'd promised to take Jamie out for the day as a Half Term treat, but the weather forecast didn't look too good so we were racking our brains for places to visit that didn't rely on good weather. We often visit Chichester on a Sunday, just for a drive out, and had noticed that there was a relatively new shop there called Ceramica, Ceramica is a shop/painting studio where you can paint a plate or piece of china of your choice - as it was my Grandma's birthday at the weekend we decided to visit Ceramica and Jamie would paint her a mug.
There are currently only two Ceramica studios, one in Chichester and one in Godalming, Surrey. The Chichester studio is located in the City Centre, at 34 Southgate, Chichester. It is conveniently located for both shoppers and commuters as it is only a 5 minute walk from the train and bus stations and is within the main shopping centre if you wish to shop as well. If you are coming by car there are 5 pay and display car parks nearby.
During school holidays it is advisable to book a place as Ceramica does get very busy, we didn't know that we should have booked but we were lucky as somebody hadn't turned up so we were able to have their space. The studio did get very busy and people turning up without an appointment were requested to come back 2/3 hours later so it is worth booking unless you plan to combine your day with a shopping trip as well.
The studio is decorated in bright oranges and yellows and you can find lots of inspiration from the beautifully painted plates and other painted items that are displayed on the walls and on shelves around the shop.
Despite not being very big the studio is well laid out and each set of tables are adequately spaced out, ensuring that you have plenty of room. The studio seats approximately 30/40 people at a time, this may sound a lot but if there are 10 families of 4 it can and does fill up very quickly.
If you have made an appointment when you arrive you just need to check in at the desk and then you will be shown to your table which will already be set up and waiting for you, if you haven't booked and there is an available space a table will be laid up for you.
Before commencing you need to chose an item to paint - there are lots of ready to paint bisque items to chose from including mugs, vases, plates, bowls, jugs, soap dishes, egg cups, tea pots, money boxes, etc. Prices start from £2.50 for a coaster and go up to around £45 for larger speciality items. It is worth noting that there is also a £5 studio fee per person - this fee allows unlimited daily studio time, plus the cost of all materials, colours, glaze and firing - the fee is the same whether you chose to paint one item or 2/3 pieces.
Once we had selected our items to paint, a member of staff came over and explained in great detail what needed to do to achieve the best results. We were also asked if we required any drinks - there is a refreshments area within the Studio where you can purchase biscuits, cakes and hot and cold drinks.
Initially, we had to wipe down our bisque items with a damp sponge in order to remove any dust so that the paint adhered well to the surface. Once we had wiped down the bisque we were ready to paint.
The assistant showed us a small tile which had been painted three times, once with one coat, once with two coats and once with three coats - this enables you to decide the depth of colour that you want to achieve and the amount of coats required in order to achieve it.
The assistant explained that if you want to draw a design onto your bisque before you paint, there are special pens available that will enable you to do so - the pen will disappear once the item has been fired.
If, however, you don't have a very steady hand there is a selection of stamps or themed pre-cut stencils available, (e.g., flowers and leaves, seaside, alphabet, etc), or if you prefer you can design and cut out a stencil of your own.
If you are still stuck for inspiration you can browse through one of the many books available that offer ideas, or indeed you may even gain inspiration from gazing round the room and basing your item on one of the many wall hangings.
Each table has a wide selection of over 40 different coloured paints, each paint is marked with a unique number and there is a plate on each table which has been painted using all the colours - each colour has a label identifying the paint number so that you can see which colours and what the colour will look like once it has been glazed and fired. We were provided with a plain tile to squeeze our paint onto and were advised to write the paint number underneath so that when we run out we knew which colour to go back to. We were also advised to apply light colours first and darker colours afterwards, otherwise the light colours won't shown up very well if at all.
Bisque is actually quite chalky and is therefore absorbs the paint very quickly, however, in order to achieve the best results you need to dry each coat before you commence with the next - there are hairdryers provided for you to use to dry each coat.
After one coat, you will be surprised at how well covered your item looks, however, you do need to remember that although the coverage looks good on the bisque - once the item is fired, unless you have applied 2/3 coats you will only achieve a colour washed look with one coat.
I chose to paint a star fish soap dish. I gave the item three coats of lilac paint and then used a paint known as raised ink to draw small flowers onto each point of the starfish and a larger flower in the middle.
Jamie painted a mug - he decided to make it for himself in the end and not from Grandma! He insisted that it had to be black with elaborate designs of the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle from Captain Scarlet on the front and Mysterons on the reverse. Unfortunately, although he drew the SPV and Mysterons onto his design he managed to paint over the SPV with the black paint so he ended up only having Mysterons on the back. However, he was able to use the raised paint over the top of the black paint and chose a white raised pen to write 'Captain Scarlet' onto the front of his mug and then used coloured raised paints to paint the Spectrum symbol underneath in a multitude of colours. Despite getting himself into a real mess at the time the end result turned out quite well even though it wasn't as he had initially designed. All colours and glazes are completely food safe so he can use his mug which he is delighted about.
We spent about 3 hours painting but we took our time and I'm sure that you could still achieve great results in half the time.
Unfortunately, because the items have to be glazed and then fired you cannot bring them away with you. We painted last Wednesday and our items were ready for collection on Saturday, I believe that 3-4 days is average. If you are not able to get back to the shop to collect your work you can arrange to have it posted to you. The studio usually take £7 to cover postage, when the time is packaged up and has been weighed, it the postage doesn't cost that much they will post back any excess in your parcel.
We went back to collect our items on Saturday and were both very impressed - once glazed and fired the items looked really professional. In a couple of places Jamie hadn't put quite enough paint on and it was obvious, however, in general we were both really pleased and impressed with our artistic talent!
My soap dish cost £5.50 and Jamie's Mug cost £6.00 - on top of this we also had to pay £5 Studio Fee each and we ordered an orange squash and a cappuccino, the total cost came to £23.25. To be honest it was more than I had initially anticipated that it was going to cost, however, we had a really great time and both thoroughly enjoyed the day so it was money well spent.
Ceramica provides a great day/ half day out and is really good fun - I'm not very artistic but I had an excellent time and impressed myself with my capabilities.
Ceramica is not just for children - there were several younger and older couples painting when we went and I definitely be going back on my own when Jamie is at school to have another go.
If you live locally to a Ceramica Studio you may be interested to know that they also host Children's Birthday Parties, Office Parties and Hen Parties. You can even bring your own wine and they will supply the glasses and catering.
The Chichester studio is open from 10am - 5.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, from 10am - 9pm on Thursday and from 11am - 5pm on Sunday. During the School Holidays they are also open on Mondays.
For further information or to book you can contact Ceramica at Chichester on 01243 788 766 or at Godalming on 01483 527275. The Godalming studio is located at 60 High Street, Godalming.
Thank you for reading.
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