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If you're anything like me, you've been past that pottery place in Stuyvesant Plaza a dozen times and always wondered what it was all about.
It's easy to spend more than you think at the Pottery Place (my family of four's pottery projects ran more than $100 on each of two recent visits), but with a little planning, you can have a great time, a homemade conversation piece, and not break the bank.
When you first go in, you're greeted by the friendly staff quick to give you the rundown on how it works.
You get a quick primer on how to paint pottery and choose your allotted four or five paint colors. No appointments are necessary, you can just walk-in, but know that weekends are busier than weekdays. Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? Here's the lineup for this summer's Music Haven concert series in Schenectady's Central Park, which is now in its 27th season.
In a sunny corner of The Pottery Place, a young couple on a date paint designs onto pieces of pottery. The Pottery Place is a paint-your-own-pottery studio, the first of its kind in Huntington, and it's been so well received that within a year of opening it has grown into a new space at Pullman Square. The cheery, colorful studio invites creation and fellowship, which is precisely what owner and creator Laya Hutchison envisioned when she decided to take the plunge into a creative venture.
An accountant by trade, Hutchison has worked alongside her husband Scott Hutchison, a successful developer, for 20 years. But the idea persisted and was nudged along by Hutchison's two daughters, who had set the wheels in motion three years earlier when they happened upon a paint-your-own-pottery studio while visiting family in Iowa.
Confident in her ability to run a business but intimidated by her lack of knowledge and artistry in the realm of pottery, Hutchison started doing research. Meanwhile, as the process of creation goes, the universe was conspiring to nurture the endeavor. At a speaking engagement, Evans announced she was resigning her position in order to pursue music.

As anticipated, Hutchison's extensive research had taught her what she needed to know about the pottery business, including how to glaze and how to fire a kiln. Hutchison now has 10 part-time employees, including all four of her children, ranging in age from 11 to 21. Next, choose a ready-made pattern or come up with your own design, and choose your paint colors. Once painting is complete, the studio takes care of firing your piece in the kiln, and it's ready for pickup in seven days.
The activity is a refreshing entertainment alternative that's affordable, fun and appropriate for all ages and all types of events, from birthdays to bridal showers.
Fundraising opportunities are also available, and a mobile events coordinator is on staff to cater community events and projects. Plunging into a creative venture takes a certain amount of nerve, but the payoff can be sweet. And at The Pottery Place, Laya Hutchison says as she stacks ceramics into a kiln, things couldn't be better.
Once you're finished painting, you pay for your art and leave your pieces behind to be glazed and fired.
There's no wrong way to paint a piece of pottery and everyone's made to feel quite comfortable, regardless of skill level (no, seriously -- you don't know how many colors my kid painted a cat; look at that picture on the right!).
There are also stencils, stamps, and stickers available to help you create a one-of-a-kind design. Nearby, a mother and her middle-aged son, with time to kill between dinner and a movie, stencil patterns onto coffee mugs. After obtaining a master's degree in music, she moved to New York City to try to make a career out of opera.
She said she hoped to make a recording of songs with jazz pianist Bob Thompson, and while pursuing this dream she planned to piece together a living, which included teaching piano.
When Laura Evans stepped into the picture, Hutchison recognized that Evans' sense of creativity would complement her own business acumen.

Despite becoming adept at glazing and firing a kiln, she has hired a professional ceramics major at Marshall University; between the two of them, pottery is transformed into original handmade works of art. First, choose a ceramic; from teapots to tiles to pet dishes to letters of the alphabet, there are plenty of choices. Should you need to depart before your piece is finished, leave it in "Pottery in Progress" and come back as often as you like until it's complete. Laura Evans' CD with Bob Thompson, My Song to You is Love, was released in June and is now available for purchase. There's a great color board with samples of all the paint colors so that you can choose what you want based on what the final glazed and fired color will be (the paint comes out quite flat and dull looking on the unfired pottery).
And at a long table, a group of children enjoy birthday cake after creating individual works of art that will double as party favors.
Her opera career did not work out, however, and two years later she returned to Huntington to become the executive director of the Huntington Symphony Orchestra. She asked Evans to manage The Pottery Place part-time, allowing Evans the flexibility she needed to pursue her music, and Evans accepted the offer.
Prices range from $4 to about $95, depending on the piece, and the prices, plus tax, are all-inclusive. That grandchild turned out to be Laura Evans' first piano student ? as well as Laya Hutchison's youngest daughter. They've worked together "from the ground up," says Hutchison, and it's proven a successful partnership.
There's everything from plates and vases to mugs and pet bowls, cell phone and business card holders, seasonal decorations, teapots, figurines, and more. The two times I've been there, the studio was filled with a mix of families, friends, and couples.

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