pip feature
By Lauren Wong
2617 N 24th St, Phoenix

I have to say PIP Coffee + Clay had to be my favorite stop while doing this Unique Coffee Shop Series. They say time flies when you’re having fun, well it really did. I signed up for the three-hour Build Your Pet workshop and I felt like I was on one of those baking shows they have on Netflix where you’re racing the clock trying to finish your masterpiece.

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Going into it I didn’t think the class would really be three hours long, but as soon as I heard the “30 minutes left,” a feeling of panic came over me as I was adding my ears onto my kitty. However, I was the only one frantically counting down the minutes, 10 steps behind everyone else, so you probably won’t have to worry about that. 

I just wanted my little clay creation to be perfect. My cat came out looking like a pug… as you can see. It’s still proudly displayed in my apartment.

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Aside from their coffee, this shop offers beer and wine, wheel classes, many workshops, and an open studio. Some workshops they offer include (the one I took, Build Your Pet) Chia Friends, Plant Buddies, Vase and Form Floral, Hand-built Pipes, Wind Chimes, Hand Build Pumpkins, Polymer Jewelry, and more. The fee you pay includes a lesson and help from their instructor, all the materials, firings, and clear glazing. 

Opening in April of 2021, Mara Friedman and her husband KC Bonnem created this place that is a representation of all the things they love.

Q&A with Co-Owner Mara Friedman

Q: How would you describe your cafe?

A: What we are is a coffee shop and natural wine bar. We also sell some local beer and some food. That’s because it’s a day or night kind of place. As far as the vibe and aesthetic, it’s honestly just supposed to be fun. This is like a second career for us, so we were just like we are going to have every fun thing we’ve ever wanted to have in one small space. 

I was like “I’m getting one of those SMEG Fridges, they’re so cute, I’ve wanted one my whole life, we’re having one.” I wanted colored chairs and KC wanted a certain espresso machine. So honestly, that place is a collection of everything we ever wanted in one cafe. 

I wanted all the colors. I wanted it to feel like you were walking into a bag of skittles. Before we started PIP KC and I were like “we’re weird, our kids are weird, and we fully and totally embrace that.” We always like to say we had to find the right school for our kids because we needed to find a place where they could let their freak flags fly. And so, PIP is a place where you can come, everyone can come, it’s just supposed to be fun. Like let’s have fun and make chia pets.

Photo credit, Mara

Q: When did you decide that you wanted to open this place? What gave you the passion? 

A: So, what happened was, about six or seven years ago I had decided I needed a fun hobby, something new to do. I decided to take a ceramics class and fell immediately in love with it. I took one after the other, and I got to the point where, maybe two years in, I had a wheel in my laundry room, a kiln in my carport, and it was getting ridiculous. I had eventually got to the point where I stopped taking classes and I just wanted to be in a studio with other people. I didn’t want to take classes, I just wanted to be around other people and learn that way. There wasn’t anything like that, so that’s what started the whole thing. 

We originally looked for places to rent as a studio space, but we decided to buy a building, and that’s how the coffee shop side of it was born. Because when we were looking to rent, we were looking for a place about a third of the size of what we ended up with. We felt like 3,000 square feet was going to be a gigantic studio, we couldn’t imagine that that many people would want to do ceramics. So we were like, well what else can we put in here? 

It was not some grand idea that we started out with, it snowballed.

Photo credit, Mara

Q: With all the different classes and workshops, what all do you guys offer?

A: We offer a lot of beginning wheel throwing classes, we offer them everyday of the week. We have an intermediate wheel throwing class that’s called Pottery Nerds. We do a host of hand building classes that are thematic, in the wheel throwing classes you learn the skills and you make whatever you make. Wheel throwing is hard so we like to say you make a vessel. 

In the hand building classes they’re based on the end product. From pet building, to chia pets, and a pumpkins class for Halloween. You’ll learn the skills on route. There are classes that are regular and always offered, and then we also throw in other random ones that happen every so often.

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Q: If you had to pick one thing in particular that stands out about your cafe, what would it be?

A: What I would say is that the most important thing about it is that it’s all about having fun, and it’s for anyone, truly. I always tell people, this is not an art school, there’s no graduation, there’s no prize, you are truly just coming to maybe have a glass of wine and have fun for a couple hours. 

I’d say to people, “look, if you’re here for beautiful bowls, I don’t want to disappoint you, but you’re probably not going to make a beautiful bowl today, it’s not the Make a Beautiful Bowl Class.” It’s just for fun. But, you need to always be proud of your artwork!

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Q: Why should people come check out PIP? 

A: They should come because they’re going to have a good time. Life is filled with things you have to do, for us adults, and this is like a mini taste of summer camp for me. I grew up going to summer camp, and I loved it, so for me this is like a mini moment of summer camp in your life again. You just get to go and play and be silly, and make a pug cat. (me) 

It isn’t about skills, it’s more about creativity, and learning some skills along the way. There’s no model to base it off of. Everyone’s going to be different.

Q: What do you hope your guests walk away feeling after visiting your cafe?

A: First of all, I want them to like what they got, I want it to taste good, but then I also want them to feel like they were welcomed and it was fun. I want someone to walk out and say, “oh my God, what a fun place.”

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You can sign up for a class, a designated open studio slot, or simply just pop in for a refreshment.

For more information and to book one of their classes or workshops, visit their website.