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Pottery fun at Clay Café, Irene

A What-to-do post

I had been missing getting my hands dirty with paint and clay, so it was with a mental squeal of delight that I discovered The Clay Café in Irene while browsing online. I was even more excited that it was only 30 minutes from Benoni as everything in Johannesburg feels like it’s on the other side of the continent when you’re in the East Rand. I exaggerate, but I’m sure you get my drift.

I had visited the Clay Café in Hout Bay in Cape Town before, and this was basically the same setup. It turns out, they are part of the same family however the two businesses are completely separate entities.

We hit the highway towards Irene early Sunday morning (9.30am on a Sunday is early…). As we entered Irene you could tell this was more of an artistic community. Everything felt a tad more rustic. We turned into the dirt road that led to the Clay Café and immediately I felt like I was in Cape Town. Tall Blue Gum trees lined the road and as we got closer, revealing not only the Clay Café but Ludwig’s Roses right next door as well as a venue called the Big Red Barn right opposite for cycle enthusiasts, and Acrobranch next door to them. If you’re looking for family activities this place has you spoilt for choice.

We had booked a slot at the Clay Café that morning and were lucky to get a table. They get busy very quickly and people tend to stay quite long. It was a beautiful summer day and we were seated at an outside table. Our waitress brought us some menus but sadly nothing here is halaal. We were there for the painting though so no matter, we ordered some drinks and got on with it. Taufeeq was chomping at the bit to get started, and gave us no time to enjoy the scenery or setting. Our waitress explained how everything worked and then also showed us some of the techniques we could employ as part of our designs.

We chose our pieces from the shelves of unpainted bisque (unbaked pottery). Taufeeq chose a Batman ornament, Zulfikar a coffee mug and I chose a serving platter. I found the pieces quite expensive. More so than the branch in Cape Town. Our pieces averaged R210 each. On the shelf even the smallest item like a small spoon rest was R100. This did however include all paints, and firing the finished piece.

I did not come prepared with an idea of what I wanted to paint. So it took me a while to decide. I was eventually inspired by a fellow customers T-shirt which contained haunting silhouettes of tree branches against a dark green background. Zulfi used the decorative stamps available to create a pattern on his mug and Taufeeq happily made Batman come to life. Just before finishing I ordered a cappuccino which I am happy to say is a really decent Truth coffee. When we were done we painted our order number onto the bottom of each piece and handed them over to be fired in the kiln. In 2 or 3 weeks we will get a WhatsApp message to tell us that our pieces are ready for collection.

When painting with ceramic paint, you have to use a bit of imagination. The colours you paint with can turn out quite different once the piece has been baked. So always make sure you look at the finished tile examples that are supplied as a guide. And my suggestion before you come is to have an idea of what you’d like to paint, cos you could spend a lot of your time thinking about what to do before you eventually get started.

We spent about 2 and a half relaxing hours just being creative together. It was ideal family time and a great way to detox from our devices for a few hours. The only time I even looked at my phone was to take these pictures. There’s also an open lawn area with a jungle gym made of tree branches for children to play on once they’ve had enough of painting.

Afterwards we took a walk amidst the roses at Ludwigs and checked out the Red Barn and Acrobranch. We’re pretty excited for our next trip out here. Acrobranch is already a done deal as far as Taufeeq is concerned. But I’ll tell you all about that next time.

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