Heather VanGostein is hooked on ceramics. The teacher from St. James painted her first piece in December, when her mother-in-law and sister-in-law wanted to make Christmas trees. She came along to Ceramics by Denise in Patchogue and made a snowman cookie jar.
Now, she keeps coming back to the studio. "It's just very relaxing," says VanGostein, 37. Her husband, John, 36, joins her. "We're pretty competitive," John jokes. When he saw Heather's cookie jar, he said to her, "I can do that."
"She called me on it. So now I'm doing a bank for my nephew," John says. On a recent morning, he was painting a bear bank for the soon-to-be 2-year-old.
"Most people make the assumption it's all about kids, but we have a lot of adults who like to come," says Marilyn Yu, owner of Muddworks in Great Neck. "Couples come as a date."
Here's a selection of local ceramics studios where grown-ups can paint, too:
CERAMICS BY DENISE: 676 South Country Rd., East Patchogue, 631-758-4855
Cost: $6 studio fee per person includes three hours of time and all paints and glazes; customer also pays for the selected piece of pottery
This is one of the few Long Island ceramics studios that offers what's called "greenware." That means owner Denise Polchinski pours the mold, but the customer sands and cleans the piece. Then it's fired in a kiln, and the customer returns a week later to paint it. Polchinski also offers bisque - already cleaned pieces that just need to be painted, which is what most contemporary ceramics studios offer.
Her rustic studio is a carpeted storefront, with pieces on metal shelves. Maggie, Polchinski's white Westy, accompanies her to the studio for the morning sessions. Pottery choices range from $5 for a snowball ornament to $52 for a big religious cross. Other examples include rabbits for Easter, a "beloved pet" piece with either a cat or dog atop it, a lighthouse and a giraffe wearing a sweater.
Cost: $8 studio fee (half-price on Tuesdays)
This funky studio has a big, white peace sign painted on its plate-glass front window and Claynation is written in red, white and blue. The pieces are all painted with a purple glaze that makes everything foodsafe; customers paint over it. Examples of pieces include a ring holder for $8, an olive tray for $20, a working lamp with parts for $50 and a wastebasket for $60. The studio's adults-only ladies night is 6-10 p.m. Tuesdays - attendees can bring their own food and wine.
CLAYTIME: 46 Gerard St., Huntington, 631-425-6133
Cost: $8 per hour ($6 per hour ages 12 and younger), plus cost of selected piece
The studio is in the heart of Huntington Village, surrounded by other shops. "I'm making a pitcher, because I needed one and I figured I would attempt to make one instead of buying one," says Jen Bamberger, 37, of Melville, who was spongepainting her piece on a recent afternoon. Pottery choices include a tissue box cover for $22, a goblet for $16, tiles for $4 each, and a cookie jar for $35. From 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays, the studio's adult night is BYOB, and costs $8 for three hours of painting time.
Cost: $8 for one hour or $12 flat fee (two paint for the price of one on Wednesdays)
Employees help you fill your egg-carton-like pallet with colored paints from the wall of choices. Pottery selections include baby shoes for $7, deviled-egg tray for $22 and Judaica such as a "Shalom" box and Star of David. The studio, in the heart of Great Neck, has a room downstairs for parties. On Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m., the studio is open to patrons ages 16 and older - BYOB.
Cost: $9 per hour ($7 ages 11 and younger), plus cost of pottery
This tiny studio has a kiln tucked in the corner. Pottery choices include a salad plate for $9, a note holder for $10, light-switch covers for $9 each, a sushi plate for $21, a spoon rest for $12 and a set of salt and pepper shakers for $16. On Thursdays, ladies can paint three hours for the price of one from 6 to 9 p.m.; the same deal for men and women 6-9 p.m. Fridays.
Cost: No additional studio fee; the price of the piece includes your pottery, paints and studio equipment.
This bright, airy studio seats 60 people; it also has a separate room for private parties. Items include mugs for $24 each, dinner plates for $34 or platters that start at $42. The studio also specializes in pieces that are personalized, such as a light-up pumpkin that has your family's name carved into it for $38. "You don't need any artistic ability or prior experience. Just drop in and we show you how pottery painting works," says owner Karen Rifai. You can also take a class in which you create your own ceramic pottery starting from a piece of clay; $98 for four sessions. The studio hosts a BYOB wine and cheese party 7-9 p.m. on Fridays - ARTrageous provides the cheese, patrons bring the wine (reservations required).