What?: There are ceramics cafes all over London, from Punk Me Up in East Dulwich with its in-house dressing-up box to Hackney’s Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired Wonderland Ceramics, plus a billion more besides. We went to Zebra in Muswell Hill, purely because it was convenient and not because it had a USP as such – although it does have one in the form of an under-5s outdoor play area – and while your experience will obviously vary from studio to studio, this should hopefully give you a general idea of what to expect from a ceramics-painting session with a toddler.
I actually found our encounter very similar to the one we had at Biscuiteers – i.e. nice, helpful staff, a very chilled atmosphere and ultimately a bit of expensive day out, though totally worth it. We chose to paint an espresso cup and saucer because I thought it looked cute and liked the idea of being able to paint two pieces, although the owner had said that a flat item like a coaster usually works best with a toddler. As well as a palette, brushes and about 25 shades of ceramic paint, we were given a colour-sample cup so we could see how each hue came out when glazed and fired.
Babu chose a slightly questionable palette of light pink, grey, powder blue, sage green and pale yellow, and set about layering the green into the centre of the saucer and nowhere else for about half an hour. Then she got bored and started demanding stories to be read to her. Inevitably I ended up finishing the job myself, with sporadic help from Babu. We made our exit once the toddlers became unbearable and started running around the studio, silently threatening to smash up the wall-to-wall ceramic stock. We returned 10 days later to collect our creation, half expecting it to have blown up in the kiln, but I have to say it looking pretty amazing after its glaze and firing – and the staff were once again so lovely and friendly. Overall I was really impressed – the only problem is now I’m so into it it’s made want to try out every ceramics studio in London and create our own hand-painted crockery set.
Where and When?: Zebra Ceramics is located at 110 Alexandra Park Rd in Muswell Hill. The nearest station is Alexandra Palace, which is an 18-minute walk away. You can pop in any time to paint and Zebra also offers a Read & Paint session, during which toddlers can listen to a story and then take part in a simple, coordinating painting project. These sessions run on Mondays from 2pm and Wednesdays from 10.30pm, and cost £10.
Best Bits: Painting ceramics is beyond relaxing, and this was such a chilled and friendly shop.
Worst Bits: You’re not allowed to bring your own food into the shop, which is a pain in the bum when you have a stash of toddler snacks in your bag but end up having to spend an extra fiver on Oreos and Pom-Bears.
Facilities: Baby changing, step-free access, children’s books, snacks and hot drinks available to buy, outdoor under-5s area.
Cost: £5 studio fee plus the cost of whatever items you choose to paint. We chose an espresso cup and saucer, which cost £12.
Would We Come Back?: Yes – next time I’m feeling stressed and need a nice, chilled activity.
Babu does secret Christmas gifting work at Zebra Ceramics, Muswell Hill.