DARTMOUTH — Young and old, they bellied up to the table, focused on the dishes in front of them.
They weren't dinner guests, however, and the table before them wasn't loaded with food. Instead it was covered with cups of paint in a rainbow of colors and stoneware waiting for an artistic touch.
The participants remained focused on painting tiles and dishes, an annual event which allows the participants to show off their creativity and also help brighten the Christmas season for some local families in need.
“A lot of these people have come for years and years,” said Betsy Powel, an owner of Salt Marsh Pottery, noting she’s seen kids grow up through the painting festival, now in its 25th year. She restocked paint and clean water and helped paint holly on a dish. She also made all of the tiles and dishes.
As the rain came down on Sunday, Salt Marsh Pottery made for a dry and relaxing refuge, where paying to paint and later take home a tile or dish meant a contribution to the Neediest Families Fund, a tradition for many.
A young painting group bonded while playing on a traveling softball team together last year.
“Now everyone plays for a different team but we all keep together,” said Jesse Mendes who was painting a house with his last name underneath it. He’s taken his kids JT, 8 and Sienna, 10, to the event for a number of years and invited the rest of the group.
By 11:30 a.m., Powel estimated about 30 people had already come through her doors, and the event was slated to go until 5 p.m. She estimated Salt Marsh Pottery should be able to donate between $1,500 and $1,800.
Morgan Lantz of Portsmouth, Rhode Island said it was her ninth time at the event with her nine-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
“It’s definitely a family tradition and it’s for a great cause,” Morgan said. She sewed purple thread through holes in a small, wooden mitten to make a Christmas ornament while Elizabeth painted a flower on a tile.
They both recalled Elizabeth’s past creations of Santa and a tree with presents.
“We have some interesting ones,” Morgan said, referring to her daughter’s abstract art as a youngster.
Wendy Tse of New Bedford also said it was like a tradition for her and her 16-year-old daughter, Keira, since 2010 or 2011. Keira’s friend Lauren Domenico, 15 of Dartmouth, joined the tradition this year. She claimed she wasn’t very good at art but still had fun.
“I put them in my kitchen,” Wendy said of the tiles which she paints with a food theme in mind. On Sunday she painted a cranberry plant.
“You can see the progression of her painting,” she said of Keira.
Their pieces should be ready in about a week. Powel puts them in a kiln, glazes them, and then they go in the kiln again.
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