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Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
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Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com



Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an occasional guest columnist.

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The State of Decorative Painting

Responses to CLN's analysis.

Staff Report (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 http://www.clnonline.com/archives/clnarchives/2011/cln20110815.html. 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 2013.

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 suebowers1112@yahoo.com. The SDP website is www.decorativepainters.org.)

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 Enterprises

"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 boys.'"

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 website.

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: mike@clnonline.com.) 



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