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When it comes to experiencing art in Puerto Vallarta, access and appreciation are just half the story. Banderas Bay has long been considered an ideal environment for creative types to flourish. And for the rest of us, ample opportunities exist for both neophytes and experts to engage in various artistic endeavors through courses and workshops offered by local artists at their own studios. One of the most successful creative outlets in that regard has been Beatrice van der Voort’s paint-your-own ceramic studio, Fireworks. A unique offering in town, Fireworks provides a variety of ceramic pieces (from small dishes to large vases), all the guidance and tools necessary for you to paint them as you wish and in situ firing in two small kilns, so you could have a finished piece in a matter of days.

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Fireworks' owner, Beatrice Van der Voort

“It’s easier than painting on canvas,” Van der Voort declares. “And since all the fired pieces turn out shiny and glossy, the finished products never cease to create a strong impression on those who painted them when they come by to pick them up.” A wall decorative painter by trade, she used to unwind at a similar shop back in California, prior to moving here eight years ago.

At Fireworks you get to select from a variety of porous, white ceramic pieces and lead-free glazes available in many colors. Reference books are available for creative inspiration, along with stencils and clip-art sources for you to trace on the pieces as an option. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of painting your own ceramics is working with the glazes, which frequently turn into a completely different hue during the firing process. To help keep your project in check, ceramic chips in different colors provide a visual cue, along with sponges and many types of paintbrushes to apply your glaze.

Once the painting process is complete (as little as one to two hours for small, beginner pieces), your artistic creation comes to life through the firing process, which hardens and seals the ceramic pieces with a glossy finish. Van der Voort fires her kilns several times per week, ensuring delivery within the next day or two after any piece is finished. The final product is dishwasher-safe, and since she uses lead-free glazes, Fireworks is a perfectly safe environment for all, including small children—plates with hand or footprints a preferred item among couples with newborns.

Situated on the second story of the successful Los Mercados in Colonia Emiliano Zapata (AquilesSerdán 265), she welcomes a fairly even mix of regulars, who experience her comfortable studio as a social meeting place, and first-timers—both tourists and locals—who want to create a keepsake. Her location also provides guests easy access to a glass of wine, pastries and snacks available in the downstairs shops, all welcome in the studio. “I moved here eight years ago. And I’ve made more friends in the two years that I’ve been open for business than in the previous six,” remarks Van der Voort, who goes out of her way to create a comfortable environment forher guests.