Learn how-to create stripes, use a silk screen on pottery and banding or creating a rim in #ShopShowcase with Crafty Monkey in Cambridgeshire.
How did you get started?
It all started when on a friend hen do in July 2009 when we visited a ceramics cafe and painted a piece of pottery. I had great fun and found it really relaxing and a few months later I decided to get it on as an activity - at the time I was a buyer of activities for a red letter day style business. I got chatting to the owner of the first pottery painting cafe I rang up saying what a lovely business it must be to have and out the blue she said 'You should open one up', something inside me pinged and that was it, all steam ahead and 5 months later I opened the doors to Crafty Monkey - almost a year to the day when I did the activity on the hen do!
Where are you located?
The Crafty Monkey studio is located in the center of a lovely market town in Cambridgeshire called St. Neots and I also have an award winning garden office where I mostly work from (it won Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year 2015 Garden Office category and I got to meet the lovely George Clarke. My office has also appeared on national TV, in national press and is about to appear in a she shed book published in Australia and on a show in the US!).
We also take pottery painting, build a bear and other crafts out to schools, nurseries, children's parties and all sorts of events in the local area.
Which products do you specialise in?
Pottery Painting, Foam Clay and Build a Bear are the most popular activities for school age children we also offer decoupage.
Another big part of our business is hand and footprints in clay, as outprints in plaster, on pottery and on silver jewellery. People tend to come to the studio to do this mid week in term time when it's a lot quieter and we can spend time with the customer. We also get a lot of groups of mums and babies, i.e. nct groups, who come together to get gifts made before Father's Day and Christmas. Handprints and footprints on pottery can be a lot of fun as we can turn them into all sorts of animals or objects!
We also have our regular adults that come weekly, some will come on our adults night on a Thursday and mainly do pottery painting and others come in the daytime in term time (school holidays can get very hectic!)
Additionally, we offer commission pieces which are popular for weddings, new babies or for one off's - being a leap year I've just painted up a plate with the words 'Will you marry me?' on for a lady who is going to be proposing to her, hopefully, fingers crossed, future husband!
Kids parties are also very popular here and we quite often get a couple of bookings off the back of a party so we know we are doing something right!
Do you have a particular favorite product that you sell?
It's difficult to say as we do so many things and have hundreds of different shapes of pottery - it can take people 15 minutes to choose what they want to paint! But perhaps my favourite medium at the moment is foam clay! It's just so tactile and the colours are very vibrant and bright and it's also great for customers who do not want to have to come back to pick up their piece a week later once fired and glazed. We've seen some great creations with foam clay even from little one's and it's a big hit with the mum's and dad's who can't resist digging in and helping out!
What's on the stereo?
At this moment in time I have Adele's dulcet tones in my ears! Other popular CD's that get played are Dido, Morcheeba, Joss Stone, Nelly Furtado, Rebecca Ferguson - We try and play chilled music to create a relaxing atmosphere but for children's parties we may ramp it up a bit and we used to play the Mamma Mia CD which was a big hit with the kids but unfortunately its so scratched that it jumps a bit! We do have to be a bit careful though as some songs on some of our cd's have a bit of bad language in which isn't really suitable for little ears.
Where else should we visit in your area?
The riverside park is lovely on a summers day, or even a winters day when dry! We also have a museum in St. Neots that's popular for a visit and they often do things for kids in the holidays. St. Neots is also FULL of eateries - cafe's, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops and a couple of tea rooms. Betty Bumbles is very popular as it's like stepping back into the fifties and afternoon tea is their speciality. There's also a great milkshake bar called Shakie Jakes that is very popular with the kids and they sell all sorts of american junk food! Outside of St. Neots then Grafham Water is worth a visit if you like the great outdoors, it's a massive reservoir and it's great to cycle around or if you are more leisurely inclined then you can go and have a picnic and sunbathe by the waters edge on a nice day. Then a bit further out (20 minute drive) then Cambridge is a must which has far too many sights for me to list here. I think most of you will have heard of the place!
Do you host any workshops, classes or special events?
We used to offer regular workshops and classes in the school holidays of many different crafts such as jewellery making, glass painting, plant pot painting to name a few but now tend to put workshops on a ad hoc basis as school holidays can get really busy with people booking in to paint but we can put on special workshops if there's a group of people who want to come. We also get a lot of group bookings from schools, nurseries, brownies, guides, hen do's and team building events.
Is there anything else you'd like us to know?
We've been open nearly 6 years and we are blessed to have so many loyal and lovely customers who have over the years become friends of Crafty Monkey. I can't believe how the time flies but when you have 6 year old children coming in to paint that you did their hand and footprints on pottery when they were newborn it really makes you realise how quick it's gone! Over the years we've introduced all sorts of new things and at the moment I'm excited about screen printing onto pottery which I'm finding really exciting!
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