Right next to the busy corner of Guanghua Lu and Dongdaqiao Lu, there’s an oasis of calm tucked inside the fifth floor of the Guanghualu SOHO. Within its small, well-lit confines, the walls of Funky Pots Beijing are lined with different shapes and sizes of unglazed pottery: teapots, high heels, treasure chests, piggy banks, ice cream cones, and more. Even on a late Friday afternoon, there is no trace of the frenetic hustle and bustle of the city.
The premise of the Paint Your Own Pottery (PYOP) studio is simple: customers pick out and paint a bisque (the proper term for plain ceramic pottery), which is then glazed and fired by the studio. The finished product is ready for pickup a week later.
The owner of Funky Pots Beijing is Lin Wei. This Beijing native completed her master’s degree at the University of Nottingham, and worked in Singapore and the UK before returning to China. She is now the director of a consulting firm that specializes in issues related to climate change. Lin got the idea to open a PYOP studio from her sister and brother-in-law, who own the original Funky Pots chain in Nottingham. She saw it as a place where people of all ages could come and get away from the stresses of work, home, and school.
“Adults deserve to have a comfortable place to have peace of mind after work, and kids deserve to have a fantasy place to play with the parents,” she explains. “In China, a lot of wealthy people will buy expensive clothes and high-end electronic games for their children. However, I want to offer them a location where they can teach the kid to enjoy simple happiness through using [their]hands to make things.”
The Beijing branch of Funky Pots opened in April with a philosophy of “Happiness, Originality, Low-Carbon and Sharing.” To promote a low-carbon lifestyle, customers can share and reuse the mugs, bowls, and plates they’ve made. “Actually, I cannot say there is no link between my occupation and my studio,” adds Lin.
There are currently over 60 types of bisque to choose from. Customers are charged by the unit; prices range from RMB 38 to 138 each, with no additional service charges. The most popular models among boys are trains (RMB 78) and rocket ships (RMB 108), while girls prefer cute decorations like little whales (RMB 38) and miniature teapots (RMB 58).
Adults tend to choose useable pieces like coffee mugs (RMB 98-128) and plates (RMB 108-128). “Last week, we had a young bride-to-be with her friends,” says Funky Pots employee Tong Zhu. “They were writing ‘Just Married’ on everything.”
Staff members are always on hand to help with color selection, painting technique, and (of course) damage control. The process requires two to three coats of paint, as the colors become more vivid during the firing process. There’s a handy reference chart on the wall that shows what each color looks like after the final stage. Kids can also use stencils, stamps, and paint markers for detail work.
The length of the process really depends on the person. “The fastest I’ve ever seen is ten minutes,” Tong says, “whereas some grown-ups don’t seem to have a problem spending five or six hours here at a time.” Most kids, however, take about 30 minutes to an hour to finish a piece.
Funky Pots has a total capacity of around 35 people, making it a popular spot for birthday parties and other social events. The studio offers three themed party packages: the Animal Mania Party (RMB 60/child), the Princesses and Pirates Party (RMB 80/child), and the Adults Free Theme Party (RMB 100/person).
Parties require a minimum booking of eight people. For children’s parties, at least two supervising adults must be present. Customers are welcome to bring a birthday cake, but will be charged a clean-up fee of RMB 10 per person if they bring snacks or other types of party food. During the event, the studio will still be shared between the group and other customers. A deposit of RMB 200 is needed to secure a booking, an amount that is kept if the party is cancelled within a week of the party date.
In the future, Funky Pots plans to bring the number of bisques in its inventory up to 100. The studio is also looking to cooperate with international schools and child education centers.
For 4-year-old Trey Warner, when it came time to leave, he hid under the table, giving his grandmother, ayi and older brother Peyton the run-around.
“That happens once in a while,” explains Tong. “Sometimes they just don’t want to leave.”
Funky Pots Beijing
Tue-Sun 11am-9pm. Room 528, Guanghualu SOHO, 22 Guanghua Lu, Chaoyang District (5900 6867, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.funkypots.org 朝阳区光华路22号，光华路SOHO，3单元528室