Hi! Welcome to my world! I am often asked, exactly how did you end up as a decorative painter?
Here’s the scoop…
I grew up with my Mom, Nancy, and my sister, Sandy, in a small rural community in Northeast Iowa. New Hampton was a great place to grow up. It was large enough to offer many opportunities, in and out of school, and small enough to enjoy the simple pleasures of good friends and family.
I attended the Catholic grade school across the street from my home through the eighth grade. I attribute much of my interest in art to those years. At a very young age we learned how to plan and make all the decorations for the annual Christmas Open House. This was a very big deal and every grade took real pride in making sure their room was unique, followed a theme, and stood out above the rest. By the time we were in eighth grade, you even were in charge of decorating and coordinating the hallways.
We spent months preparing for this. In todays standards we would be chastised for wasting time but those days taught so much more than a book ever could. I will always be grateful.
We did not have a parochial high school so we had to go out into the cold cruel world and go to the public high school. It was only cold and cruel for about a week until we learned our locker combinations, adjusted to the schedule and found out the kids from public school were not so bad after all.
High school offered us some opportunities that ended up being very helpful in later life. I was involved in sports, music and every committee I could find. Being an overachiever started at an early age for me. I competed in music contests, varsity basketball, softball and golf. I ended up being the yearbook editor and find much of what I do today with book layouts influenced by those early lessons. Ironically I could only fit in one year of art class in my schedule. If you were in the college prep courses, the times they were offered did not fit in with your schedule. I drew cartoons for the newspaper and yearbook. In the back of my mind I thought about going to school for commercial art but I did not have a portfolio with only one class under my belt.
Believe it or not, I went to college as biology major with every intention of becoming a marine biologist. A love for the game of golf sabotaged that idea. I played and traveled all four years with the college golf team. We traveled eight weeks in the fall and four in the spring. My major changed to physical education; I minored in art education. I never saw myself in a classroom or gym for the rest of my life but it was a place to start with an accepted career. I thought I would eventually go farther with my golf career.
I was a teacher and coach for seven years but it just did not cut it. I enjoyed decorating the classrooms, making awards for the kids and being the yearbook advisor. I left teaching and became a sales rep for a sporting goods company. There I created designs for sportswear and sold items to coaches, booster clubs and special groups. I enjoyed the creating of the art but still was in search for more. Many valuable sales and marketing lessons were learned while being a sales rep.
During those sales years I was searching out other options in art. My sister and I had always thought of doing something with crafts. We admired the items at the crafts shows we attended and finally decided it was something we could do and planned to pursue it. The problem was, I didn’t know how to paint.
I picked up some painting books and magazines and thought I would give it a try. Through lots of trials and errors I finally came up with some things we thought we could sell at craft shows. Sandy did most of the basecoating and I did the shading and detail. I also cut most of the wood items. Thankfully we still have all our fingers after trying to cut our own wood with a jig saw. Not the smartest way to go but didn’t know any better at the time.
I never took any classes but tried to match what I was doing to what I saw in the magazines. Luckily by being a teacher, I was able to break skills down and figure out techniques that would work. Our early efforts were pretty primitive to the designs we do today. We had a lot to learn.
A few years after starting to paint we decided to create our own designs and try our hands at doing books and pattern packets. I do all of the designing and teaching. Sandy handles all of the business/accounting aspects. She is an accountant by trade.
We opened a small shop to teach our own classes and sell finished goods. To our mothers horror both Sandy and I left our jobs and said it was now or never. We did craft shows on top of everything else. By investing all our efforts into this we did learn the basics of the painting and the design business very quickly. It was tougher than we thought but if one thing did not work, we switched gears and tried something else. Persistence does pay off in the long run.
Better Homes and Gardens Crafts Group talked to us about doing several patterns for their magazines and the rest so they say is history. We then started to do painting conventions and creating more patterns.
I got my first book deal with Miller Woodcrafts. I did many combined artist books with them as well as three books of my own.
We continued to create more and more patterns. After several years we were ready to stand on our own and start self-publishing our own books. The "Believe Me…" series of books was started. We do all of the photo shoots, layout and editing and control every aspect of what we do with them.
Today we continue to create new books and pattern packets. Our line has expanded to include our “Basecoat Stencils” and custom stencil brushes. Professional crafters have used stencils for years to do their basecoating. Using these stencils helps us to have additional time to create more detail and produce more product.
We exhibit and teach at many of the major painting conventions. “The Members Only Pattern Club” was created to offer additional exclusive patterns and special things for our members. Our membership continues to grow. Open studio classes are taught at our shop as well as special events. Creative Coach University is a seminar created to help others in the craft industry. You can find our projects in Painting Magazine and Quick and Easy Painting Magazine.
We still do a few craft shows with finished products. We listen and watch our customers to help create the next line of product. I always say, “Remember what brought you to the dance.”
New product and programs are constantly being worked on and implemented. I have been called a “prolific painter”. The bottom line is that if you want to run a competitive business you must always have something new to offer. That requires me to constantly be creating. That’s the fun stuff!
We are so grateful to all our family, friends, business associates and customers who have supported us. To be able to do something you totally enjoy and get paid to do it is living the American dream. I have always been competitive and an ultimate overachiever. The fact that people smile when they do our designs makes it even better. Painting should be fun. Everyone can create.
As we continue to grow and evolve we hope you will join us for the ride. Believe Me…there is more to come!