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three pictures showing close-ups of painted pottery craft with pancake recipe as gift idea

Custom Painted Pottery Gifts (make for the best keepsakes!)

By Brenda Ponnay

We’ve been painting our own pottery as a hobby in my house since forever but we recently discovered a new use for it: including recipes on platters, plates, and even mugs (like in this craft)!

Simple DIY gift idea, right?  These are great as handmade and personalized gifts for grandparents and loved ones on  Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and birthdays. They become special keepsakes.

photo of very tall stack of fluffy pancakes on plate in background and white mug with pancake recipe painted on it in foreground

It all started because I decided to paint our favorite pancake recipe on a mug because I’m terrible at memorizing recipes (or anything for that matter) and the recipe card I use a lot was covered in spots from all my messing cooking mishaps. Problem solved. Now I have the often-used recipe on something handy that can be washed in the dishwasher. It’s brilliant.

Another advantage is that when my kids want pancakes for breakfast they bring me a cup of coffee in this specially-painted now-heirloom mug as a not-so subtle hint. Since I LOVE having a fresh cup of coffee brought to me, so I usually oblige.

See how that works? Win, win!

two photos of painted white mug craft with pancake recipe and cartoon on it in foreground and very tall stack of fluffy pancakes on plate in background

So how does make some special painted pottery you might be wondering?

I will tell you and I’ll share some simple tips and tricks that we’ve learned over the years.

photo of teen girl and grandmother painting pottery with paint brushes in hand at a studio

Tip #1: Find a DIY painted pottery studio near you.

Google it. A lot of pottery studios are franchises and rates can be steep. Ask about their studio fee per person ($6 per person is standard here in California) and a range on pottery prices per piece before you make a date.

If you are looking to make a mug or a plate, make sure they stock them before you drive all the way there. A lot of studios specialize in figurines and can run low on more practical items. Figurines can be fun but trust us, you can only find so many places for painted kittens and unicorns before your house feels cluttered AND they are super hard to get rid of because of the sentimental factor.

Tip #2: Bring a friend and make a date out of it!

Painting pottery can be really fun to do together because it gives you lots of time to chat while you are making something really cool. It’s just the right amount of doing and talking. Lots of studios allow you to bring snacks and in my case, if you are a working mom, you can even bring your laptop with you and get some work done while your kids paint. Call ahead and see if they offer wifi. Many studios do.

three pictures of supplies and teen girl at painting pottery studio ready to make her craft and gift

Tip #3: Buy your own brushes.

Studios provide brushes for you but they are usually quite worn out from constant use. You can do yourself a huge favor by stopping by your local craft store before you go and picking up a few inexpensive but good fine-tipped paintbrushes. The studios will have plenty of wide brushes but nice fine-tipped brushes are usually not in as good shape. Play it safe and bring your own.

photo of writing pancake recipe onto a white mug to make painted pottery craft gift

Tip #4: Paint three layers.

This really is a trick that experienced pottery painters live by. One layer of paint will fire very streaky and brushy. This is not something a newbie to pottery painting will know because when you are painting your first layer, it looks great.

The streaks don’t show up until after your piece is fired in the oven and it’s too late to fix. So take your time and do three coats. Also, don’t be discouraged when the paint is muted and not the color you picked from the paint sample. Pottery paint always goes on lightly and burns brighter in the kiln. This is definitely a challenge when you are first starting out but you will get the hang of it.

Tip #5: Beware of Black Paint.

When it comes to fine lines or writing on pottery (especially in black paint) you don’t need to do three coats. The three coat rule only applies when you are filling in/painting big spaces. In fact, black paint is such a powerful color that even the smallest smudge will stick.

You have to be really careful when using black paint. As a general rule, when painting pottery, you can wash your paints off and fix errors, BUT black paint likes to hang around even after the most rigorous washing. So use black paint wisely.

Or be like me and learn to love your mistakes and imperfections, that’s what makes a homemade gift charming and one-of-a-kind!

photo of upside down mug to show how to paint inscription on personal pottery craft

Tip #6: Don’t forget the details!

It’s really fun to sign and date your work. Especially if it’s something you or the kids are giving away as a gift and will be used for many years to come.

I love turning a mug over and seeing my daughter’s messy five-year-old thumbprint and remembering the time we spent when she was little. It’s also fun to paint inside a mug. Paint a silly face that will only be seen when the liquid is drained. Unexpected surprises like that really make pottery a personal gift. Personally, I love to write inside jokes that will keep us laughing and remembering for years.

Tip #7: Plan ahead.

Most pottery studios have a week turn-around from the time you finish painting your pottery to when it has been glazed and fired and ready to pick up.

So if you are hoping to make Christmas gifts, for example, make sure you book your studio time in advance. Sometimes studios can book up fast for the holidays or even unexpected events like vacation camps. So call ahead and make sure your gift will be ready by the time you need it! There’s nothing more disappointing than showing up to a birthday with an IOU coupon while you wait for your gift to be finished.

Hope these tips help! Happy Painting!


About the Author

Brenda Ponnay

Brenda Ponnay is an author and illustrator who loves to craft and make big messes when she’s not working on her books. Whether it’s painting, baking, drawing, making castles out of card...

Brenda Ponnay is an author and illustrator who loves to craft and make big messes when she’s not working on her books. Whether it’s painting, baking, drawing, making castles out of cardboard boxes or just doing the laundry with flair, Brenda Ponnay has learned that what really makes her happy is being creative every single day.

You can read about all her crazy adventures on her personal blog: Secret Agent Josephine.

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