March 2007

Find Your Inner Artist at the Art Cafe

Author: Melinda Copp

Walking into the Art Café in Coligny Plaza is like opening a world of creative possibilities. Even those with no artistic talent will be inspired to get paint on their hands and create something unique and personal.

The first step is to choose the piece of pottery you want to work with, which may be difficult because the selection is so large. Available pieces include everything from ornaments, mugs and bowls to vases, serving platters and elaborate wall hangings. You can make something functional or purely decorative. All the pieces are created from molds and start as chalky white ceramic. But when you start painting, they become colorful and completely unique. Although starting with a blank piece may seem intimidating at first, the process requires absolutely no talent.

“I’d never painted a piece of pottery before I bought the Art Café,” said owner Niqui Stanforth. “I’m not an artist, so we use everything we can find to make the process easier.”

That includes foam stamps, stencils and Fun Writers, which are like paint pens that make writing and drawing on a piece easier than working with a paintbrush. Customers can choose from over fifty paint colors. Idea books are available for inspiration, plus, Stanforth and her employees are always there to help.

“We’ll help you as little or as much as you want,” said Stanforth. All you have to do is ask. They will offer tips and suggestions and show you techniques for different effects.

Next the piece is glazed and fired on site, which takes about two days. This process makes the pottery food-, microwave- and dishwasher-safe. Then all you have to do is pick up your piece.

“People are always excited when they get their pieces back, because they always look so professional,” said Stanforth. “Once it’s glazed and fired, it just looks so good.”

And while the finished result is always satisfying, the process of creating the piece of pottery is just as memorable. Many of Stanforth’s customers return year after year as part of their Hilton Head vacation. They leave the island with more than a unique souvenir; they have the memories of the creative experience to go with it. In addition to serving locals and visitors, The Art Café participates in the Hilton Head Heroes program for families with terminally ill children.

Making art at the Art Café is simple and affordable. No appointment is necessary, and the studio fee is only $8, which covers the paint, firing and glazing. The cost of the pottery is separate. Once you get hooked, you can purchase a year-long membership for $100 for an individual or $250 for a family. With a membership, the studio fee is waived and you only pay for the pottery.

A trip to the Art Café will satisfy your creative cravings, and the studio is open to all ages. So if you need a unique gift for Mother’s Day or for a grandparent, bring the kids in for an afternoon of uninhibited access to messy paint. Bring friends for a shower, birthday party or girls’ night out. And if you don’t have time to paint your own, the Art Café offers painted pieces for sale.

“People are supposed to have fun here,” said Stanforth. “And it’s very addictive once you figure out you can do it.”

The Art Cafe
Coligny Plaza
(843)785.5525

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