The best pottery places for kids in and around Chicago

Clay-caked fingernails. Paint-splattered clothes. Beyond-messy tables and floors.

Who’s ready to make some pottery?

Sculpting, kneading and painting clay to form a masterpiece sounds like a dream come true to most kids (at least to my art-obsessed children). The mess that ensues, however, probably is not something most moms fantasize about. Most days our kitchen table resembles some type of craft show gone wrong. I love arts and crafts and so do my kids, but I’m not exactly crazy about pottery painting at home.

Luckily, there are a slew of paint-your-own pottery joints. My kids-Julie, 7, and Johnny, 3-and I got our hands dirty (literally) and scoped out the best spots to paint your own pottery.

– Kristy MacKaben

There are a slew of paint-your-own pottery joints around Chicago. We tested them out, got caked in clay and have chosen our favorites.

We visited this Deer Park studio, but there are other locationsin Burr Ridge, Crystal Lake, Glenview and Naperville. Color Me Minehas the same concept as many other pottery studios, but we lovedthe brightly colored décor. It also was one of the cleaneststudios, but maybe that’s because we visited before customers hadtime to make a mess.

Color Me Mine – Vernon Hills


This was by far our favorite pottery place. Expect to get dirtyhere, but this is the real deal. We visited on a Friday morning forthe weekly Mud Pies Session. We listened to a story about dragons,rolled up our sleeves and molded our own little dragons from wetclay, painted our creations and left them there to dry for twoweeks. While kids are given artistic freedom (my Johnny wanted togive his dragon antennae), our instructor carefully taught thechildren how to create a dragon to look like a dragon. The secret?To create a little pinch pot as the dragon’s body. Julie sculpted adarn good dragon. Johnny tried his best and wandered off task atime or two, but he was pleased with his dragon/alien, too.

Thrown Elements also offers pre-fired pottery if you’rejust looking to paint pieces, as well as the opportunity tocompletely sculpt at the pottery wheel (if you’re at least10).

Thrown Elements Pottery


We loved Painted Penguin because you can take home your piecethe very same day. At most places, the pieces needed to be firedand could be retrieved days later. At Painted Penguin, we paintedour pieces, then they were taken to a magic igloo center and thepaint was dried and set by a professional. Johnny, my preschooler,refused to take his eyes off his multi-colored shark while itdried. Another great bonus is its location-inside WestfieldHawthorn Mall at Vernon Hills. What better way to accomplish someshopping with the kids in tow, then bribe them with craft time ifthey behave?

(There also are locations in Aurora and MortonGrove.)

Credit: Shedd Aquarium

The Painted Penguin at Hawthorn Center


What makes this studio unique is the artistic input owner VickyBellisario offers to her customers’ pieces. Her favorite story isabout a piece made by two children for their grandparents. Thechildren’s first instinct was to slap their handprints on a platterand be done. Bellisario probed a bit and the children told thestory of how their grandparents were married on the Odyssey. Shepainted a picture of the ship on the platter, the children painteda sunset and the water, and the kids used their fingerprints tocreate the Chicago skyline. “Those are memories you make with yourfamily that are precious,” Bellisario says.

It’s this attention to detail that is not always found atevery studio.

If an Elephant Can Paint


This is a tiny studio, but the kids pretty much had free roam ofit on a recent Friday afternoon. They loved the selection of piecesand I loved the lack of studio fees. (Most places charge set studiofees in addition to the price of the pieces.) Clay Monet alsooffers wheel throwing and sculpting classes and summer campprograms for school-age kids.

Clay Monet


Another “wet clay” studio. Starting at age 3, kids can moldtheir projects with the help of an instructor. Kids’ throwingclasses are offered for children 7 and older. Instructors teachthrowing on the pottery wheel, centering, pulling and forming.

Penguin Foot Pottery


Pottery Bayou sits right on the Riverwalk. The potteryexperience is your typical paint-your-own piece and then pick it uplater. But Pottery Bayou also will bring the party to you, saysowner Pam Bowler.

Pottery Bayou


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