By Rachel Parker Dickerson
Two former teachers with a love of art have created a place in downtown Conway where children and adults can learn, play, and make their own functional pieces.
Jennifer Seifert opened Doodles for You paint-your-own pottery studio at 931 B Locust Avenue in July. Her interest in painting ceramics goes back several years. She was painting dinnerware sets to give as gifts at a paint-your-own pottery studio in Little Rock. Then she found a place in Conway - Not So Artsy - where she could paint her own without the drive.
"I told my husband, by the time we paint three whole dinnerware sets we might as well have our own store," she said.
When Not So Artsy went out of business, she bought part of the shop's leftover inventory. She saw the "For Lease" sign at her location on Locust Avenue in February, signed the lease, and spent some time remodeling before opening in July.
"I love painting," she said. "Since school started I really got a chance to paint. November and December were crazy. I've painted a few special orders and samples for the store. It's therapeutic when you start to paint. A lot of my customers say, 'I have no other worries. I'm just concentrating on what I'm doing.'"
Seifert was a teacher six years ago. Since then she has stayed at home with her children, but she always made crafts at home, as well as painting pottery.
"This was something I always enjoyed," she said.
Seifert noted the store also carries custom sewing by Holly DeBoard, including bibs, aprons, smocking, monograms, etc. She is also adding paint-your-own T-shirts section for children. The children will paint a design which she will then apply to the shirts with a heat press, she explained.
Seifert said she has also booked a booth at the annual Bridal Fair on February 22. She said she knew a bride who had a shower at a paint-your-own pottery studio.
"Her every day dinnerware is what her friends and family designed and painted for her," she said.
Seifert said she has also had an engagement take place at her store. A man painted a special ceramic box for the ring weeks ahead of time and arranged a whole evening of painting pottery with his beloved before he popped the question.
Chris Massingill formerly taught art at the elementary level for Conway Public Schools and is certified to teach K-12. She has a BFA in ceramics from the University of Central Arkansas and is trying her hand at being a full-time artist. She recently joined Seifert at Doodles For You and is teaching classes on hand-building in clay and hand-throwing (making pottery with a wheel).
Massingill offered a class on making Christmas ornaments out of clay during the holidays, and now her students will learn to make pinch pot animals, clay whistles, and hanging birdbaths, she said.
"I'm really excited about these classes because when I taught art at school, I was never able to teach clay, which is my favorite medium. I'm hoping if people keep coming, they will be comfortable making their great ideas. That's the hard part - coming up with a great idea. You can learn the rest."
She said her mother still has the first clay pot she made when she was in junior high.
"It's so ugly. But stuff you make in clay lasts forever."
"I love the feel of (clay)," she said. "I love making new things. There's something kind of magic about the fact that it's plastic and squishy, and after you put it through this process, it becomes something that will last forever."
She said she mixes her own glazes, and chemical reactions occur in the kiln that can change the way the finished product appears.
"You never know what you're going to get until you open the kiln. It can be frustrating when you start, but it's kind of exciting. Clay and ceramics is something you can work with your whole life and still learn something new."