An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
Paint Me Ceramics
Tel: 01485 534340
Modern ceramic painting café suitable for all ages to indulge in creativity in a fun and friendly environment; over 2000 items to choose from with tuition at hand.
Where to find it
Paint Me Ceramics is a large shop down Westgate situated between the beach and the High Street in the popular seaside resort of Hunstanton - the painting table in the bay window even has a beautiful sea view to inspire you. The building consists of two large rooms and an adjoining lounge area. One side is for party bookings and the other all set out in grouped tables ready for drop in visitors to get creative.
What to expect
You’d be forgiven for thinking ceramic painting is for young children only. Visions of pre schoolers making a mess scribbling all over a tacky mug filled my initial thoughts but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Whilst tiny dots are most welcome so too are adults of all ages and all backgrounds. This is a cafe suitable for all to enjoy and there’s nothing cheap and nasty about it either. The owner, Fran Ikin, makes all her own hand cast items for painting and has over 2000 varieties to choose from. She pours the moulds, cleans the seemliness of green ware and fires each piece to bisque, ready for use in the shop, and does it all herself from a tiny room on the premises. There’s a huge range of items to paint that will cover any individual taste ranging from tea pots and plates, to animals and teddy bears.
I popped in the other day with a friend to paint a tile for Hunstanton’s sea wall, a project for 2012-2013 in association with Hunstanton Festival of Arts and the Borough Councils. Fran was welcoming and attentive and bursting with enthusiasm for what she does. She helped us get organised showing us all the tools and aids in case we needed them – there are stencils and stamps if talent isn’t your strong point, all abilities are catered for – and was at hand to offer assistance and guidance throughout. We spent over three hours on our tiles and the time flew by. Refreshments are available too so it makes for a lovely sociable afternoon out. It’s also a great family activity for children and adults to get involved in together.
How does it work?
There’s a session price of £3.50 per person to cover painting materials and studio fees but you’re welcome to stay all day if you wish. There’s often a special offer on though that either wavers this fee or gives a substantial discount – check out the Facebook page regularly. You then buy the item you wish to paint which usually start from around £5. You paint in special non toxic child friendly underglaze, three coats usually required, then it’s fired in a kiln at around 1000 degrees for 8 hours followed by a cooling off period and your piece is ready to collect in a couple of days. If you’re on holiday and need the goods posting out, there’s a £6.50 per package charge so just the one price for a full family’s work; it makes a lovely memento of a great vacation.
If ceramic painting isn’t your thing but you like the idea of getting creative, Fran also offers t shirt painting, hand and foot prints placed on plates or silver jewellery as a lasting memory, and decoupage activities. Commissioned pieces are welcomed for Fran to do herself – she showed me a plate she’d recreated for a lady who was devastated to have broken hers, a treasure from abroad. She does a lot of wedding items for couples too.
Children’s parties are very popular here with prices starting from £12.50 per head for a minimum of 7 guests plus the birthday child. They get invites, the room decorated, an item to paint each and a keepsake plate, plus their handprint on the painted tree that’s creatively growing all over the walls. For a hot or cold buffet prices start at £16 per head. There’s a lounge for parents to hang out in and a play area for the kids to run wild in. With 20 years of practice, I should imagine Fran knows how to keep kids occupied and have fun.
There are several such cafes across Norfolk but this one is the longest running and most active I’ve seen, and the enthusiasm that emanates from its owner inspires you to return again and again. Put your doubts aside, go in, pick up a brush and see for yourself.
Pre book in busy times or drop in and try your luck. All types of party catered for as well as all types of group and corporate events. Evening classes are also available with full tuition. Open seven days a week during summer: 10am to 5pm. During winter Fran is available on a mobile basis Monday to Wednesday and open Thursday to Saturday (closed on Sundays).