Last weekend saw 85 upcyclers descend on a country estate in Hertfordshire for the very first UK conference dedicated to furniture painters.
It was an opportunity to meet like-minded people and wax lyrical about furniture upcycling, knowing that your audience will not simply nod in polite acquiesce. The aim was to equip the attendees with tools, knowledge, confidence and motivation to catapult their respective businesses to a higher plane. The whole event was underpinned with providing support which was delivered in skip loads.
“Old items, new heritage” – Chris Billinghurst
The conference was the brainchild of Kate and Sarah, both established upcyclers and business gurus. They recognised the burgeoning boom in the upcycled furniture market but saw there was a gaping hole in the available support beyond Facebook groups.
And we were treated to the most glorious, generous goody bags I have ever seen. After check-in on Friday, we had dinner followed by cocktails on the terrace. The first goodie bag was a hangover kit! Then it was full-on until Sunday afternoon.
The conference was split broadly into two sections: business support and workshops.
We had tutorials from across the pond in the US and Canada as well as Q&As with a panel of upcycling experts right there in the room. These covered establishing the business mindset, encouragement to take risks and seize opportunities plus promoting your business online including how to maximise Pinterest and to post scroll-stopping images of the furniture. Extremely valuable.
“If not you, who? If not now, when?” – Cait Whitson
Workshops & Demos
We had fun learning how to plaster paint with a trowel, apply posters and prints to furniture, painting with liquid gold and staining faux wood. A little like being a parent helper at Pre-School but hugely enjoyable nonetheless. We were joined by Festool for their sanders, Aussie Decor Transfers for their papers and prints, Polyonlay for the most intricate laser-cut designs to add 3D interest to a piece of flat furniture. Shereena Starmer from Shabby Nook gave us all great demos (and great laughs) as did Solly Jo with her Woodubend and Posh Chalks demo. Cait and Gibson from Whitson’s gave us an unusual take on applying texture to walls as well as furniture.
Furniture refinishing, recycling, restoring, upcycling has been around for some years but there is a growing movement to have this concept recognised as a respected profession. Common attitudes still view upcycling as a little money-making hobby, a side-hustle. However the drive to put this occupation on the map is gaining momentum. Chris Billinghurst from The House of Upcycling (in partnership with the British Institute of Interior Design BIID) gave an impassioned speech on how premium upcycling is now a credible profession and she is going someway into changing attitudes. This will take time, especially as people like me still do air quotes when describing their former “proper” job.
“Upcycling was seen as more shed than showroom” – Chris Billinghurst
Finally, I have found my tribe, namely Amy of Pinkyswifts, Kerrie of Salvaged Alchemy, Katie of The Revivalist, Alex of Lillie and Dot and Sam from Little White Bird where you can shop for paint, brushes, decoupage papers and transfers. The best group of upcycling paint buddies I could wish for. Check out their work, it’s pretty amazing.
If you are a budding upcycler and have been inspired to take your hobby, side-hustle or established business further, let me know or visit www.paintersacademy.co.uk. Perhaps we will meet at Painters Business Academy 2022!