Sophie’s Ceramics Pottery Cafe | MEET YOUR LOCAL

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From hen parties to Gruffalo-themed painting, Sophie’s Pottery Cafe has swiftly become a community hub for fun creativity

Sophie’s Ceramics. Image: Alma, almashomestudio.uk

It was obvious there was something special about Sophie’s Ceramics Pottery Cafe in Blandford Forum when a neighbour showed me her 18-month-old granddaughter’s impressive artwork – and what a lovely thing for a grandparent to treasure. Curious about what happens at a pottery cafe, I went to meet owner Sophie Perks.
‘I come from Bournemouth, where there has been a pottery cafe for a long time. As children, we used to go there and paint all kinds of things each year – we built up quite a collection and I still have them! I moved to Blandford nearly three years ago and felt there was something missing for children in the town. I worked in education briefly but I really love the hospitality sector. I felt that I could bridge that gap – and then things very quickly spiralled.
‘We found these premises, and before I knew it we opened in October 2022. It’s been so much fun.’

Sophie Perks launched the pottery cafe in October 22. Image: Alma, almashomestudio.uk

What is a pottery cafe?
Sophie’s Ceramics is very different from a standard coffee-and-cake spot and you should go prepared.
‘You choose a piece of pottery to paint when you come in,’ says Sophie. ‘On average they cost £15, and there’s a £3.50 firing charge. We have a range of around 40 items plus seasonal pieces such as Easter baskets and eggs. Then you bring your item to a table, and the colour chart shows what the colours will look like when the ceramics have been fired. And then you start painting …
‘Of course we also have cakes and drinks on sale. People become very absorbed with the artwork, it’s so relaxing. We have had the odd paintbrush dipped into hot chocolate by mistake!
‘Recently I launched a Mother’s Day afternoon tea event – it was completely sold out within 90 minutes of being advertised. During half term we do themed children’s events – one was a Read and Paint event where my granddad read the Bear Hunt book to everyone while they painted a character!’
As well as the four other staff, Sophie’s grandparents help out at the cafe. Granddad Geoff not only reads stories but also has a seasonal job as Father Christmas in the Paint With Santa events. He also makes a good cup of coffee.
‘We’re on community service here,’ he says.
‘Baby hand and footprints are very popular,’ says Sophie. ‘We also do paw prints from animals, which is a lovely memento of a pet. We have a Gruffalo event planned for Easter, where children can paint a mouse or a Gruffalo.’
Although there are lots of child-friendly events, Sophie says 60 per cent of her customers are adults. ‘We have adult-only events such as baby showers, hen nights and birthdays. And of course people can just come in on their own and do something. When we have adult-only evening events, people bring a takeaway or bottles of fizz with them.

The colour chart plate shows what the paint colours will look like when the ceramics have been fired – Image Rachael Rowe BV Magazine

Keeping up with demand
Upstairs there is an entirely different operation, with Sophie’s nan, Gloria, helping to dip items in glaze before they are fired in the kiln. The entire firing process takes around 18 hours and then they are left to dry off properly. After ten days they are ready for collection (or can be posted if someone visited while on holiday). The team organises everything like a military operation.
‘Some of our most popular items are the obvious mugs and plates, but also spoon rests and butter dishes. People like things they can use in the kitchen. And our own kitchen bestsellers are the hot chocolate and milkshakes!
‘We use local suppliers wherever we can. Our coffee is local and our cakes come from Cakeheads in Dorchester. I also get vegan cakes from a supplier in Basingstoke. We have about five types of vegan milk here so can do vegan milkshakes, and we also cater for gluten free.
‘The biggest challenge has been dealing with the demand – a nice problem to have to be honest! – and making sure we can process everything in a timely way. We had to get a larger kiln, and can now fire up to 100 items at a time.
‘I’m so proud of the community feel in the cafe. When we opened we wondered if we would get repeat business, but people keep coming back. I love the community buzz – and we have got to know so many people.

There’s a wide range of blank pottery for customers to choose from

‘We’re such a mixed group and there’s always a friendly smile for everyone who comes in. We have also worked with care homes and the children and mental health teams at Blandford Hospital.
‘I won the Best Entrepreneur Business Blandford award last year. I’m always looking for new ideas. We have just launched our afternoon tea, which was more popular than we thought it would be. What I’d like to do next is more community work – we went to Leweston School and Spetisbury Manor Care Home last year, and I’d like to do lots more of that type of work. Blandford is a lovely town with a wonderful community and people do look out for each other here.’

  • sophiesceramics.co.uk
    8 Barnack Walk, Blandford Forum, DT11 7AL
    (opposite Morrisons)
    Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 6pm
    Sundays 10am to 4pm
    Closed Mondays

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