Come out and clay 

One of the cooler ways to enjoy playing with clay is to allow someone else to do the muddy part for you. At All Fired Up (364 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park; 644-9363) you get to do what many consider the most fun part of pottery: the painting.

When we arrive at All Fired Up the room is full of Brownies; proprietor Camille Marchese apologizes for the lack of selection. The shelves look pretty packed to us, though, with plates, bowls, knickknacks and vases, plus an ingeniously cutesy tea set that appears to have burst fully-fired through Lewis Carrol's "Looking Glass."

The setup is straightforward. You pick a nice thing to paint, maybe get some stencils, draw your pattern in pencil, pick your colors from a palette and then start painting. The cost is $4 per half hour, and the time doesn't begin until you start with the paint.

The shop is just steps from Taqueria Quetzalcoatl, and Marchese encourages customers to take advantage of a 25 percent food discount for mentioning you're painting at All Fired Up. "Bring the food in," she says. You can bring in a beer, too. The place stays open until 11 p.m.

My friend chooses a square plate and a lotion dispenser to replace the Pooh-themed one she has in her bathroom. Fish go on the dispenser. She chooses a sunburst theme for the plate.

The work is calming, even amid the Brownies and one 2-year-old customer who attracts inordinate attention simply for cuteness (and does a better job of painting than I do -- staying within the lines is not as hard as knowing when to go out). We finish in about an hour and a half, and we can pick up our works one week hence.

Serious pottery requires patience, knowledge of clays and fire, and skill at the wheel. Full-bore pottery classes will be available, starting this fall, at Terra Potta (1245 W. Michigan Ave., Winter Park; 647-5109).

More by Ericson, Edward Jr.

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