Lisa Mendoza, owner of Painted Pot’s three shops, needed a course to fill out her course schedule one semester, and basically said, ‘What the heck, I’ll take a pottery class.’ It was a life-altering decision.
From that serendipitous decision, as well as some mentoring from an acquaintance who owned a pottery business, Ms. Mendoza has become a mini-mogul, with one Painted Pot storefront in Bay Ridge, one on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, and the latest, a Park Slope location just off Union Street.
There was a lengthy hiatus before Lisa embarked on the Painted Pot adventure. She worked eleven years in television as a video editor, but grew dissatisfied with that career – in her words, she wanted “a change of life style’ and ‘daylight.’ Video editing, after all, means working in dark, windowless rooms.
From what this writer observes, this is a tidy, smart little business. It’s not, in Park Slope, primarily concerned with wheels on which customers mold wet clay on a spinning platform. Not at all. The store doesn’t have enough room for that. Instead, customers come in and paint unfinished clay figures. After the painting, the object is glazed, and the client ends up with an art object of his own making: that’s the primary business. There are other activities, of course: another option is taking small, already-cut mosaic pieces, of every conceivable color, and creating an original mosaic design, and producing a finished piece.
The space itself is roomy and sunlit, and very inviting. As Lisa says, the store area is used for “good clean family fun.” Mothers and children, or nannies and children, come in, choose an unfinished pottery figure, pick some paint colors, come up with a design and commence painting – the objects could be anything, really -- I saw a lot of animals and plates, for example. It would appear to be an ideal birthday-party activity, and indeed Lisa indicated that she does host a lot of parties in the store. Once the figure is painted, it’s dipped in a glaze finish, then dries, and in 5 to 7 days, the child or adult has a finished piece. How good is that?
Party ideas abound at Painted Pot: someone could celebrate not only a birthday there, but baby and bridal showers, bachelorette occasions, and even corporate/company events. There’s, of course, staff on hand for all of these occasions to supervise painting techniques, and keep things fun.
There’s one other major activity at Painted Pot: ‘clay hand-building’ is how Lisa describes it. Basically, without a wheel, participants mold out of clay their own shapes and designs, after which the object is painted, and glazed. At the end, the child has, again, made his own art piece to take home. ‘Clay dates’, Lisa asserts, are increasingly popular. ‘Mosaic parties’ are yet another option.
If a customer insists on the pottery wheel, Ms. Mendoza can accommodate: the store in Carroll Gardens has 14][!!] wheels in place. Classes to learn how to use the wheel are offered there every day : the next 10-week class starts in early April, and Lisa asserts by the fifth week, a student will be making his own pottery independently. Her instructors, incidentally, are all themselves advanced ceramists and potters, many of whom have mounted shows in the city. One feature that makes a lot of sense is that Lisa’s classes are all of different levels of ability, so students will learn from one another.
Park Slope is the latest addition to the ‘franchise.’ It’s not easy running three shops, and raising two young children, Lisa Mendoza suggests. She needs a strong staff – she depends, in fact, a great deal, in fact, on her manager Fayza Charrette, who oversees the multiple locations. But we residents of Park Slope all know it’s a family-oriented neighborhood, and Painted Pot would seem to be an ideal fit for the area.
By Jim Israel