Sunday, March 1, 2009

Valentines Day Massacre: My attempt at painting pottery.

The Ceramics in the City studio, where all the magic happened.

For Valentines Day this year I took Jen to Ceramics in the City, a paint your own pottery store near downtown Denver. Valentines day has always been my least favorite holiday, but as far as V-Days go, this was a pretty good one. If you're looking for a good idea of something to do for a romantic evening with your girl, you can do worse than going to a pottery place and painting something. It's actually a lot of fun, and you can unleash your inner creative genius, which is always interesting. Another plus is that you'll have some pottery when all is said and done, and unless you're extremely klutzy, the pottery should last longer than flowers or chocolates.

As soon as I told Jen that we were going to be painting pottery, she knew exactly what she wanted to paint. She had designed some awesome looking bowls there in 2005, and I clumsily broke one a few months back, so she was going to create two new bowls to replace the one that I broke. I was less certain of what I wanted to do, but I figured that I would decide once I got there.

Little did I realize that they have ten kajillion different things that you could paint, from little ceramic figurines like elephants and turtles to platters to bowls to plates. For a brief moment I considered trying to paint a race car onto a plate so that I could claim that it was a NASCAR commemorative plate, but the humor of that one probably would amuse only me, and everyone else would think I was off my rocker. (Perhaps everyone already thinks this.) I finally settled on a mug, which I surmised I could put on my desk at work to hold pens or something.
The pottery place was doing a Valentines special, and the place was packed with couples enjoying the same romantic activity as Jen and me. I had never painted pottery, and didn't know the rules or the steps, but thankfully I had my wife who knew the program and shortly had me selecting paint colors and wiping dust off of my unpainted mug. They were playing some decent music, and before long we were off creating our masterpieces.
I had selected my colors of orange and navy blue (I later decided to also throw in some lighter blue as well as not to make my mug appear entirely Broncos related.) I was told that in order for the paint to look right, we would need to apply three coats to our pottery. I drew a design on my mug with a pencil which was a zig zag design because I thought it would look kind of cool. Jen got to work on her mugs with the efficiency of someone who knew exactly what she wanted and also knew how to get there.
I started with the orange, because the instructions said that you should do light colors first. The initial step of painting over my lines with the orange was rather simple, and I was beginning to get cocky, thinking that my mug was going to be amazing and that my design would become the basis of a whole new fad in mugware. This was going to be a monumental step forward in the art world, perhaps a new trend of mug painting would sweep the nation based on my inspired work in the field. I was excited at how well it was going to look, and barely even noticed how my design was beginning to look like lightning bolts going down my mug. Jen was hard at work placing even coats of paint with no design on her bowls. Other than having a different color on the inside of the bowl and the outside of the bowl, no other artistic flair was obvious, and figured that she would create some nice little items, but with less artistic integrity than my masterpiece.

The three coats of orange were already applied and I was ready to move forward with the light blue. That initial step had me feeling cocky that I would be done soon, and would perhaps need to paint a second item with my newfound talent. I moved forward to the light blue which I was going to place alongside my orange zigzags. This proved to be slightly more difficult, as I had to align the paint against a different color of paint and try not to cover over the orange with the light blue but still get an even coat of color on the mug. It was harder, and took a bit longer to get the three coats down, but I eventually got there. There were a few smudges and my lines were less refined that I hoped, but it was getting there. My design wasn't quite as crisp as I had hoped when I started, but I was still hopeful. Jen was pretty much finished by now with her two bowls and was putting the finishing touches on them, I figured I was two colors down, and one to go, so I was over halfway done, I thought.

Navy blue was when it really started to go wrong. Navy blue was the darkest color, so one wrong brush stroke could seriously alter my artistic vision. Plus, I failed to take into account as I was applying my first two colors that I was holding onto the mug handle while I painted which gave me more control to get the design painted smoothly and evenly, now I needed to paint the rest of the entire mug...including the handle. My smooth even strokes were turning into wild and crazy mug altering splatters. My ability to control my brushstrokes was waning and I felt as if I had broken my right arm and was trying to write a caligraphy love letter with my left hand, perhaps a noble idea, but the excecution left a little something to be desired.

Precision began to give way to a more base urge to get it done before the shop closed and they kicked me out. I did my best to get the first coat down and maintain my artistic vision. The second coat was when I noticed that I should see if my wife would be willing to paint the inside of my mug, which I just realized should be painted or my mug would look pretty weird. I was still sort of trying to not totally obscure my lines with the second coat, and by the time I was applying the third coat I just wanted it to end. I was moderately crushed that what had started out so well now most closely resembled a third grade art project. Perhaps there was some hope that I would avert complete disaster, but the masterpiece ship had clearly sailed.

Jen did a fantastic job with the interior of the mug, and I muddled through finishing up the exterior. It was something of a lightning bolt travesty, but the woman who worked there said it would look fine once it was fired. I was skeptical, but hoped she was right. Jen's two bowls were painted, but the colors wouldn't come in until they were fired, so we would just have to wait for the finished produce to see how they would end up.

A week later, we were able to pick up our finished product. Here were the final results.
Jen's pottery, simple yet elegant. Very nice.

My crazy mug.

Okay, so the final result was better than I expected for my mug. It doesn't look entirely terrible, and Jen's bowls came out amazing. I thought it was funny how similar our pottery matched our general styles.

Jen: She went simple but classy. Very attractive, very usable, didn't get too fancy with her scheme, just a solid execution of a solid idea.

Craig: Wild and flashy and a bit messy, at times hopeless, but in the end it turns out slightly better than my horrible fears, but far short of the glorious idea I have in my head.

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