What's new in various product categories; monthly
Decorative Painting Report
You won't find change in a rut.
by Shea Szachara (August, 2003)
(Note: Shea Szachara is an award winning consultant,
educator, and designer who has been involved in decorative painting
and crafting for more than twenty years. The author of numerous
books and instructional articles, she has traveled internationally
as a teacher and consultant. She is the former Director of Creative
and Educational Services for a large industry manufacturer. Shea has
served on the Education Committees of both HIA and ACCI, numerous
Society of Decorative Painters committees, and on the Board of
Directors of the Society of Craft Designers. She is currently a
member of the Board of Trustees for the Decorative Arts Collection
and is Chair of the Teachers Committee of SDP for the 2004
During the past year I've attended every major decorative painting
show across the country -- and they're not what they used to be. But
I also have to ask, "What is?" Anyone who's been involved
in our industry over the past five to ten years has to be aware of
the many changes that have taken place, and one thing is certain: if
you're not moving forward, you're standing still. As I see it, many
of the decorative painting's designers, teachers, and authors seem
to be unaware of this truth. Most realize that the numbers are down
in show attendance, new products, and sales in general, and they are
repeatedly asking what can be done to bring back the "Glory
The majority can't find any answers because they don't realize that
to move forward means that they, too, have to change. However, it
seems to me that a handful of decorative artists have figured it out
and they are meeting the challenge of change head on.
These are independent
retailer/designer/teacher/author/publisher/exhibitor people all
rolled into one who seem to have found the secret of success today.
And exactly what is it? It's based on the same thing I was told
years ago by a very sharp woman who asked me, "Do you want to
paint what you like or do you want to paint what sells?" Then
she added, "Make up your mind because you can rarely do
both." She's now in charge of the entire creative line of a
large manufacturer in the gift industry. Does she know what sells?
You bet! Is every item something she would choose for her own home?
I doubt that we will ever again see decorative painting snowball
into the success it once was. Still, it is far from dead, and there
are a number of places one can look to see what's working and what's
not. No matter the size of a show, pay attention to the booths that
are busy with people looking and buying. Cross marketing is
everywhere and the successful artists I see have latched onto this
Recently at ACCI I visited the booth of a newcomer to the industry,
Catharine Zanoni of Hawthorn Needles & Butterfly Wings.
Catherine had no preconceived ideas of how things should be or
always have been, and so her small booth was like a ray of sunshine
in a vast sea of sameness. Her designs were color-book bright, with
portions of the painted designs replicated in fabrics and appliqued
on small handmade quilts. The same design element was found once
again in a three-dimensional stuffed form. And she had kits or
pattern packets for her entire line available for resale. Talk about
cross marketing! (The website is www.hnbw.com.)
For the past few years I've watched Ginger Edwards of Ginger Edwards
Publications, a long-time decorative painting teacher known for her
loose floral canvas style, make a huge change. She's been smart
enough to key into the popular trends known as nostalgia, shabby
chic, and feminine, combining them together with her soft roses to
create a whole new look. How? She's taken old chair legs, spindles
and porch posts and turned them into wonderful angels of all sizes.
She's still painting her style, but it's much smaller and on a
totally different put-together surface.
Besides her roses, the angels she creates have beautifully painted
faces with wire halos and wings of rusty tin ribbons. Turned dowels
are used for arms and each holds a small heart wreath, miniature
birdhouse, or hanging charm attached with more curled wire. Look at
the combination of products used! These are a far cry from the flat
"tole" painted trays and plaques that were a mainstay
years ago. As for cross marketing, this decorative artist's angels
are now being reproduced and sold in the gift market.
Paint and scrap.
I am amazed that decorative painters have not entered into the world
of scrapbooking. What a phenomenon! Granted the consumer involved
with this area is not interested in spending hours painting detailed
designs on their pages when they can quickly stamp, cut, or sticker
them. But this is where the decorative painting designer/teacher
should be looking. Where is the decorative artist who will adapt
her/his style to fit the needs of the scrapbooker? Easy and quick
painting techniques that create appealing designs can make a memory
page even more personal. Think about it: what an opportunity!
Remember, "If you keep doing what you're doing, you're going to
keep getting what you've got." Is it time for you to give
CHANGE a real hard look?
Final Comment. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to
contribute to CLN. In future articles I will be telling you
about some wonderful programs being offered by SDP and the DAC in
their efforts to increase decorative painting awareness. I'll also
be reviewing educational and promotional programs of various
manufacturers and national chains, as well as ideas from highly
successful independents. So, stay tuned.
(Note: Shea is president of Shea Design, a design and
marketing consulting firm in Binghamton, NY. Any comments on her
column or suggestions for future topics? Email Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Mike Hartnett at email@example.com.)
To read other articles in this section, click on the specific title
in the upper righthand column.