irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an
occasional guest columnist.
The State of Decorative Painting
Responses to CLN's
(September 5, 2011)
(Editor's note: The previous issue of
CLN included a three-part series on the gradual decline of the
Society of Decorative Painters, once an industry powerhouse. To read
the original articles, visit
Below are responses from the SDP president, an
industry a manufacturer, a retailer, and an SDP board member.)
The SDP President responds
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to
provide additional information and to clarify some inaccurate
statements in your recent articles concerning the Society of
Decorative Painters. The SDP convention has been in Wichita for the
last two years and will be held there again in 2012. We did announce
that it would not continue to be held in Wichita in 2013, but have
not yet made a final decision about whether we will host a
convention in another location that year. While it is true that the
Society is exploring the possibility of another convention hosting
its annual meeting, we have never announced that next summer will be
our last convention. We are exploring many possibilities and, if we
collaborate with another convention in 2013, we would hope to return
to hosting our own conventions at some point in the future.
The Society spends a great deal of time
planning and carrying out a convention each year. The Board of
Directors is exploring alternatives to hosting a convention, so that
more energy can be focused on education for its current members and
developing new painters. During the 40 years since the Society
sponsored the first decorative painting convention, many regional
conventions have evolved causing attendance to be divided. In
addition, the current economic situation makes it a necessity for
most artists to attend the convention nearest to their homes. The
changes in the airline industry since 9/11 have also affected how
far people travel from home for a convention. Those who fly cannot
bring home many purchases due to baggage restrictions.
One of our largest convention years was in 1996
in Nashville where we had approximately 3,500 registered attendees.
You mentioned 10,000 - 15,000 attendees. Even in Nashville in 1996
we did not have those numbers -- wishful thinking on someone's part
but not factual.
Your comment about the termination of an
executive director contained inaccurate information. It is true that
an executive director was notified the night before a conference
ended that his contract would not be continued; however, no lawsuit
resulted from this event.
I was not on the board at the time, but I
understand that CLN praised our class catalog just prior to
the Peoria Conference. The teachers at conference are continually
evolving and changing. Yes, there are some of the same teachers from
year to year as well as some classic styles of painting. However, a
comparison of the classes over the years would reveal they have
changed with the times. Those basic classes will always fill, but
the focus of the class selection committee is to find a good mix of
classic and trendy. I believe this has happened each year.
Our leadership changes each year with newly
elected board members bringing new ideas. At the risk of using a
pun, I object to our board of directors being "painted with a broad
brush" based on hearsay about what may have been said by one former
member. We have worked on expanding the appeal of decorative art to
the younger market through our Scout program and Junior Artists
Club. Our magazine contains projects that appeal to our younger
members, as well as our long-term members. In addition, we are
currently looking at the demographics of the baby boomers and how
they can fit into the decorative painting market.
With a membership of over 16,000, the Society
of Decorative Painters is one of the largest organizations for
artists in the world today. We continue to fulfill our mission to
stimulate interest in painting and to serve as an international
educational resource for decorative painting. As you stated, we will
continue, whether or not we decide to host a full convention in
Thank you for printing "the other side of the
story". As the current President of the Society, I urge those who
have concerns or suggestions to contact me directly. -- Sue Bowers,
2011/2012 President, Society of Decorative Painters
(Note: Sue's email is
firstname.lastname@example.org. The SDP website is
Being creative with paint
SDP, manufacturers, and shops were the RESULT
of a consumer movement:
Creative women who had a PASSION; they painted from their home
kitchen tables with materials they cobbled together, before there
was SDP to belong to or shops to buy products from. These women
LOVED being CREATIVE and wanted to SHARE it with their friends and
making CONNECTIONS through their new found art.
Most of these women were middle aged with older children; painting
satisfied their soul and gave them a creative outlet that was
gratifying and purposeful. It was this CREATIVE COMMUNITY which
drove the CONVERSATION and created the demand which grew the
category and industry.
Today's creative community is alive and well, but it has changed
dramatically over the last 30 years and will never be the same. The
good old days are gone.
The driving factor is the Internet. Hundreds of thousands of
crafters are online connecting in a virtual CREATIVE COMMUNITY. It
has no boundaries or walls, but it has the same foundation: Women
looking for INSPIRATION and wanting to SHARE and make CONNECTIONS.
Instead of getting in the car and driving to a class, meeting, or
retail store, she can join in or start a CONVERSATION anytime,
anywhere. She can even buy what she wants on demand and have it
delivered to her door, without leaving the house.
It is the industry's opportunity to make this new connection with
her, show her the breadth of painting possibilities, and teach her
how. It is our lucky opportunity to have this direct, creative
connection with potential crafters/painters of all ages around the
world. Maybe the SDP or another industry group could form to
reinvent how to engage today's online crafter and make ideas for
decorative and craft painting more accessible.
From Plaid's point of view, through social media we have proven
there is a need and demand, going from zero friends two years ago to
over 50k today; we share ideas and show her how everyday. Our
company and brands are her friends, and we are growing relationships
one by one. Friends recommending new friends, how wonderful is that?
This is driving sales for the category and is changing the industry
as we used to know it -- for the better.
I have been at Plaid in this category for 20+
years, and in my opinion, there has not been a more exciting time to
be here. It is not about decorative painting, it is about being
creative with paint and it is taking us back to the roots of the
category. -- Debbie Henley, VP Marketing, Plaid
"The Good Old Girls Club"
Regarding SDP: Lots of time doing "our thing,"
but little effort given towards staying ahead of the curve or even
current in the past few years. The comment from your vendor who was
advised by an ex-SDP board member that all those young women just
want to talk about boys is also very telling.
I have a teacher who has been a member of SDP
and worked with us for many, many years. She is still teaching today
with the same materials and the same techniques as she did when she
first started. In fact, some of her students are the same folks as
those years ago, and you can imagine what happens to someone who is
30 years old who takes one of her classes.
It gives new meaning to "the good old girls
club." You mentioned that teachers don't change and that is
especially true with decorative painting teachers. They like the
"clubs" they have created and beyond that there is little
incentive for the
young people to get involved. – Name Withheld (a retailer)
SDP's Leaders Do Change
I've enjoyed subscribing to Creative Leisure
News for several years but I'm afraid the current issue has raised
my dander. While your analysis of the decorative painting industry
is fairly accurate, I take issue with the following:
"The leaders didn't change. One vendor told CLN he gave up
supporting SDP after a conversation with a board member. He
suggested the group try to attract more young people and the board
member answered, 'Oh, those young women just want to talk about
The leaders DO change. In fact, half the seats on the board are up
for election every year. As a current Board Member-at-Large
beginning my second year in office, I cannot believe any of the
current board members or any of last year's board members made a
statement like that. In fact, several years ago, the Junior Artists
Club was started. Also, Maureen Van Herpe of Wood Items and More in
RI has devoted years to Girl Scouting and worked with SDP to develop
a Painting Patch program. The information is on the Society's
The fact that SDP membership is "aging out" is frequently
discussed. A Membership Task Force has been brainstorming possible
ways to increase membership. One of the members on that Task Force
is Stan Clifford, president of DecoArt, a vendor who continues to
actively support SDP.
I would seriously like to know what year that comment was made.
Since you printed it, I hope you asked. I think it is irresponsible
to insinuate that the current SDP Board takes that attitude. I can
only hope that the vendor who was told that comment, speaks to a
current Board member. I am saddened if that vendor is still not
supporting SDP because of that ONE careless comment.
(Editor's comment: It's true, that
vendor, once a major supporter of SDP, hasn't been back since.)
I'd also like to point out that a few years ago Loew-Cornell, after
it was purchased by Jarden, made some business decisions that
included no longer having a booth at SDP. They have since reversed
those decisions and actively support decorative painting and SDP
(they recently developed some new brushes for decorative
painters). Perhaps they would have been a better choice of vendor to
interview. -- Donna Frost, Quarry House Distributors
and a Member-at-Large of the SDP Board of Directors
(Editor's note: Have any thoughts to add
to the discussion? Email them – on or off the record – to CLN: