Writer / Jamie Hergott
Walking into uPaint Pottery Studio in Plainfield is enough to make anyone feel like an artist. The expansive wall of white ceramic projects waiting to be painted, the bright colors on the wall and the displayed finished projects ignite creativity and engagement.
This is exactly what Kelli Singleton and Stacey Heltsley had in mind when they opened the studio six years ago in the summer of 2013. Individuals and families can visit the studio during business hours anytime, without a reservation or experience, and choose from a wall of 400 to 500 pottery options. Once a piece is chosen, staff explains the tips and tricks of painting. Patrons then choose their paint, settle at a table and let their creativity flow. They can even bring in their own drinks and snacks. Patrons leave their pieces for up to five days in order to be processed in the kiln and pick them up when they’re ready.
The average cost for a visit is $20. There is a $5 studio fee per visit, and pottery pieces range in price from $5 to $60. The cost includes all paints, firing in the kiln and all tools needed to complete a project.
“We try to keep the prices low,” Heltsley says. “We have families and we understand. We want everyone to have the opportunity to come.”
Singleton and Heltsley became friends after moving to Plainfield after college. In fact, they realized they both were at Purdue University at the same time and lived in the same apartment complex but had never crossed paths. Their husbands knew each other from work, and they both were stay-at-home moms who attended the same Moms Group at St. Susanna Catholic Church, where they met.
The biggest reason they began the business was to foster engagement in families. Both women have three children, and they know the challenges of having quality family time in a world of busy schedules and electronics.
Heltsley’s background is in communications and Singleton’s background is business management. Together, they took classes in painting, kiln technique and business. Since they opened their Plainfield location, their business has grown, and they’ve opened locations in Greenwood, Hamilton Town Center and Columbus, OH.
As challenging as it’s been to jump back into the workforce after staying home with their kids, both women say this business is very rewarding. They love seeing families engaged in their studio.
“It warms my heart,” Singleton says. “It really helps kids to talk. It’s an outlet. You remove them from their screens and give them something to do with their hands. It really helps parents engage with their kids.”
It isn’t just families who visit uPaint. Singleton and Heltsley see students from school field trips, individuals who come every single week, adult daycare groups, nursing home groups, Girl Scouts and even teenagers and adults out for a date night. They’ve had a number of “prom-posals” and engagements right in their studio.
“We provide memories here,” Singleton says. “It’s a way to preserve a particular season in your child’s life or a special event.”
The studio offers birthday and special event packages as well as special days throughout the month, such as Homeschool Days, uPaint a Story, Senior Day, Kids Day and even Best Friends & Whine classes.
“We are constantly updating our events and themes,” Heltsley says. “We recently did an Office themed event and our next one will have a Stranger Things theme.”
Other studio events in the past have been Painting with a Princess, Unicorn events or even adult trivia nights.
All four studios are involved in their communities.
“We love partnering with community organizations,” Singleton says. “Especially schools. We do a lot of giving back.”
Studio staff will host events at schools, taking their supplies into the school and offering a percentage of sales back to the host school. These events are perfect for the whole family. uPaint has supported many surrounding schools, including Plainfield, Avon, Mill Creek, Mooresville and other schools around Indianapolis.
In addition to supporting the community, Singleton and Heltsley love to partner with local businesses as well. They’ve partnered with places such as Jack’s Donuts, Nomad Yarns, Paw Street Bakery and local florists to offer customized events.
The women say one of their favorite events of the year is coming up soon: summer camps. Each studio offers summer camps for kids ages five and up with 18 different themed days. Parents can purchase single days or multiple days at a discount. A day at camp lasts from 1 to 3 p.m. and includes pottery, a snack and other crafts.