In 1995, artist Nancy Germond opened Ceramics Bayou, a studio full of pottery Austinites of all ages could walk in and paint. Germond sold Ceramics Bayou in 2003, but she recently returned and bought the business back last August. She says when longtime customers walk in, it’s as if time has reversed. In a city that’s hastily changing, Germond’s quiet artistic haven provides the perfect place to slow down, focus and reflect.
Touring the Ceramics Bayou Studio
Paint your own pottery is Ceramics Bayou’s main focus. Plain, white ceramic designs cover the left wall of the studio, waiting to be embellished with glazes. The objects vary greatly, giving customers a choice between items like a crumpled solo cup or an angel.
“As an owner, the shapes reflect my taste, and I’m drawn to the shapes that allow for maximum decoration,” Germond shares. She changes the inventory often, but always keeps a mixture of practical and decorative objects. Customers who want to use their creations can paint mugs, dog bowls, plates or cookie jars, while those looking for something non-utilitarian can decorate a figurine like an octopus or a gnome.
If customers aren’t interested in pottery, they can try glass fusing by stacking colorful tiles in a pattern on a clear square of glass. Glass fusing takes two firings, one to fuse the pieces and another to slump the shape into a mold.
The pottery and glass firings take place in the kilns lining the right side of the studio, which Germond can load and unload while interacting with her guest artists. It typically takes four days for customers to have their piece fired and ready for pick-up. Each fresh piece has a sheet with the customer’s name, who always ends up thrilled to see how shiny and colorful their artwork turned out.
Around the corner from the finished pieces, three festive crawdads overlook partygoers from a mural in the event room. The party space holds up to 24 guests. Ages three and up are allowed, but kids six and older tend to take to the art form with more focus. Adults are welcome to have parties here as well. As an added bonus, they can bring food and alcohol to keep the creativity flowing.
What Are People Painting?
Germond won’t let visitors become overwhelmed with possibilities to the point of burn out, nor will she allow people to say, “I can’t.” She has made nine circular tiles with technique examples, to give artists an instant creative boost. For example, one can use dotting tools to achieve pointillism designs, paint pens and masking tape to form perfect lines, stamps or even a silkscreen to make a complicated outline, or they can blow bubbles to form organically intricate and playful circular imprints.
Techniques aside, one of the most important aspects of Ceramics Bayou is the space it provides Ausinites to talk (or fall into silence) together while working on a project that inevitably will be successful. As Germond points out, it’s impossible to “mess up,” and the dialogue she hears daily is overwhelmingly positive and peppered with satisfied ooh’s and ah’s.
I asked Germond whether she thought the Austin customer base seems more receptive to the creative environment she’s built than the norm. She responded that while she feels the connection to ceramics is universal, there aren’t many places where Texas-shaped Christmas ornaments painted with a red heart in the center would fly off the shelves every year.
Come on Down to the Bayou
Ceramics Bayou is located at 3620 Bee Cave Road next door to Yoga Vida, but it can be tricky to find the first time you visit. Turn right into the parking lot on Bee Cave Road where you see a Popeyes off to your left, and immediately turn right in front of American Cleaners. You’ll drive into a different parking lot where Ceramics Bayou and Yoga Vida are serenely tucked away.
When you visit the studio, make sure you have enough time to really dive in to your project. Typically, customers take one and a half to two hours to finish. Check the studio’s hours here.
If you’re in a rush or need something to keep your kid (or yourself) occupied elsewhere, you can purchase a Pottery To-Go kit by picking out your ceramic shapes and using the provided glazes. Remember to not mix and match different types of paints. If it’s not glaze, it will burn off in the kiln and potentially take some of your glaze with it.
To set up a party, contact Nancy at 512-940-4210 or through the Ceramics Bayou website. If your group is larger than 24, you can rent out the whole studio. Periodically, camps and classes pop up for kids. Inquire here if you’re interested.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Where is your favorite place in Austin to paint pottery?
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