– Written by Lisa Kinoshita
Cabin fever? We have a great solution – a paint-it-yourself session at the Painting Panda Pottery Studio in Freighthouse Square. At their large, sunny art studio in Tacoma’s Dome District, Spaceworks graduates Noelle and Herschel Wilson offer visitors a soul-soothing escape – simply come to the studio, pick out one of an amazing range of unpainted, bisque-fired ceramics lined up on the shelves, and spend the next hour (or several) brushing and dabbing on glazes to create a one-of-a-kind work of art. All materials are provided, and no experience is required. After you’re finished, the artwork will receive a final firing, and be ready for pickup within days.
As with virtually all businesses, the coronavirus pandemic has created unforeseen challenges for Painting Panda’s husband-and-wife team. But they are responding with optimism and creativity: “People have been cooped up,” says Noelle, who runs daily operations at the studio which turns one in September. Now that people are ready to venture out, the studio is prepared to greet them with a happy experience; one that rolls out in a friendly but squeaky-clean environment where masks are required. “We have a high percentage of new customers,” she says proudly.
With a background in business at large corporations such as Lockheed Martin and Lowe’s, Herschel oversees the business side of the Painting Panda. He compliments Noelle’s “very creative eye” for decorating the airy space with its long worktables and racks of bisqueware, and notes that “she’s always been like that.” It is the first business the two have owned, and even with Herschel’s professional background, both credit the Spaceworks business program for giving them a thorough grounding in creative entrepreneurship. The two have introduced special products such as Panda Paint Kits; popular P-I-Y (paint-it-yourself) take-home kits that include one unfinished ceramic of one’s choice, and up to six glazes; brushes are available for just $1. Customers can paint at their leisure at home, then return the item to the shop for firing and pickup. “Even if COVID shuts us down again, we want to be accessible to the public,” says Herschel.
Another impressive feature of the Painting Panda is their selection of bisqueware: unlike the knick knacks that grace many a grandma’s mantle (no offense, grandma!), these pieces are worthy to show off on a desk, or to give as a gift – think a tall drink tumbler embraced by an octopus’s tentacles; an array of curious elves; a coiled snake; or a modern rendition of a coffee travel cup. Glazing ceramics makes for a fun and engrossing group activity, and the Painting Panda has enough room to host an adults’ or kids’ party (socially distanced, of course). Noelle will even provide finished artworks to get the creative juices going.
Visit the Painting Panda and unleash your inner artist today.
ADDRESS: 440 E. 25th. St. #63, Tacoma WA 98421
HOURS: Monday-Thursday appointment only; Friday & Saturday 11-5; Sunday 1-4