Last weekend saw over 100 furniture artists gather in Derbyshire for the second UK conference dedicated to furniture painters and to celebrate all things painty.
This year we were indulged with topflight furniture painters, product innovators and awash with an abundance of colour and laughter.
As with last year (the very first Painters Business Academy) it was an opportunity to meet like-minded people and wax lyrical about furniture upcycling. The aim of the weekend was to equip the attendees with tools, knowledge, confidence and motivation to enhance their creative and business knowledge.
Once again, Kate and Sarah, both established furniture artists, upcyclers, stockists and all-round good guys, put on a show jam packed with demos, discussions, shopping opportunities and plenty of socializing all topped off with fireworks (kind of). Their hard work is greatly appreciated in this growing industry.
Roll Call of Painty Celebrities
Annie Sloan: The Queen of Chalk Paint
Annie set so many of the conference delegates on their painted furniture journey, me definitely being one of them. Her chalk paint revolutionised furniture upcycling before it was a wildly known activity and has helped many creatives progress their hobby to a side-hustle and often on to a full-blown career.
Annie was on hand all weekend to answer any questions, help with paint technique queries, discuss products and share her knowledge freely. I had no idea she was once a primary school teacher! Here was an opportunity for me to personally thank Annie for her involvement and encouragement with my Young Upcyclers Upcycling Workshops and to share a few other ideas too. Her patience was (seemingly) never ending!!
Chloe Kempster: The most expert “I’m no expert” Instagram expert
Chloe is well known to watchers of BBC’s Money for Nothing (the show that inspired me to start my own upcycling business) where she is one of the more colourful resident professionals. But Chloe was there sharing her personal knowledge on how to get the best from Instagram and to increase your exposure.
“Raise your brand profile and shine forth. Tell a story with an Insta Story, give a glimpse of your life in a short reel. Move with the times using moving pictures to reach more than just your followers. Stage aspirational beautifully styled photographs – consistently. And ensure your feed reflects your brand and looks good. Put your personality into it!”
Jonathan Marc Mendes: Painted Love
Jonathan was the catalyst who prompted me to buy a ticket for my second PBA weekend. I’ve watched many of his YouTube tutorials on paint effects and blending using Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint. I simply had to see it done in person.
Jonathan demonstrated how to continue a piece of artwork beyond the edge of the decoupage paper to smooth and camouflage the join. Thing is, the piece of art on the paper was painted by…Jonathan!! Of course it flowed! (check out his gorgeous decoupage papers).
Jonathan talked about staging his furniture, aiming to make it look like someone lives there, keys on the table etc. But if I staged how I lived, there’d be keys, a pile of unopened post, a dumped school bag and a mug. Jonathan also imparted some valuable lessons over lunch to help me get in front of the camera and fight those demons.
Crys’Dawna: Daydream Apothecary
As colourful in person and personality as the paint she creates, Crys’Dawna was put through the ringer with the colour combos chosen by the delegates for her demo. Beautiful eye-popping shades from the new paint on the block.
Daydream Apothecary is a blend of chalk & clay making the paint malleable and smooth. Plus they do neon! When painting, apparently you can just get up and walk away then pick up from where you left off by reactivating the paint with a little water mist – this gives me the jitters tbh but I did seize the opportunity to have a play and it may well be true!
Iron Orchid Design – IOD
IOD Inlays: like a transfer but easier, like a stamp but paint embedded into paint, like pyrography on bare wood but with no heat, like a stencil but infinitely more detailed. Innovative and exciting. Timeless. Gotta love a new product. And the bubbly blonde sisters from America got everyone’s groove on, instilling some energy during the graveyard shift.
The Turquoise Iris: Dionne
Utterly engaging despite being zoomed from across the pond. Dionne delivered easy bitesize pieces of advice on how to get yourself out there including discovering Tiky Toky (sic).
When it comes to designing your website, the message was clear; ‘Simplify to Amplify’. Make it easy to understand who what where when why how. Your homepage should have a sprinkling of everything enticing your reader to delve deeper without losing sight of the prize: your product – a painted sideboard for sale, a call to have your own furniture custom painted or inspiration to attend an upcycling workshop.
Dionne had a four pronged approach: 1. Be all in (have faith in your beliefs and act on them); 2. Do the hard things (accept the sacrifices); 3. Show up consistently and 4. Innovate your idea. Think “But what if I did?”
The best piece of business advice from Dionne though was “Get yourself a cleaner”.
Brushed by Brandy: “No-one likes a Floating Orb”
I must have had my head in a pot of paint all these years as I had not come across Brandy’s work until she appeared on the PBA guest line up. It didn’t take me long to realise that she really is the Blending Queen (to Jonathan’s King of Blending).
Brandy imparted great tips on how to use paint collections to choose your blending palette along with a fabulous demonstration including Salt Wash for mega-texture. It was fascinating to watch Brandy’s magical blend materialise from two separate colours plus the central ‘orb’ of dirty white recede. She made it look easy, a natural for sure.
Brandy’s finishing advice was that customers want to see, touch and smell furniture, not mothballs so a good helping of scented salve was in order for the drawer interiors. And when questioned about how she developed her style, Brandy proclaimed “I didn’t find my style, my style found me.” Lucky Brandy to have that style bestowed so graciously upon her!!
General Finishes: The boys from Bruach
Roy and John were first into Saturday’s starting blocks. They were undoubtedly the best and most unlikely unassuming porridge eating double act of topcoat distributors to grace the PBA stage. I’ve never seen a range of wood dyes paraded to an audience by a Ring Girl. Highly entertaining.
Fleur: Cait and Gibson with a very special guest
We were in for a treat with a historical tour of 80 year old family firm, Fleur. Fabio, the MD grandson of the Italian founder, presented a fascinating colourful and artistic journey from 1946 to present day. As passionate about the ethics of the firm as he was when eloquently talking us through the rich quality pigments used in the paint range. Apart from the pens (you had to be there).
Then Cait and Gibson demonstrated a new concrete looky-likey product for tables, floors, walls, showers, actually for just about anywhere really. Gibson wielded his trowel whilst Cait walked through the product and process. Then came the paint pour. A giant glistening eye staring out from a bargain store tray. Quite fascinating to watch especially when the ‘eye’ was feathered to look like a Bakewell Tart. One of these days I will try pouring although mine may just look like a jam tart.
Mint by Michelle: Helen & Nick with Frieda Kahlo
We were treated to another double act demo with Helen who explained wet and dry decoupage plus the unusual technique of applying decoupage papers with PVA and cling film. This was so ably demonstrated by a Nick, an upcycler of few words. Another look at how to extend the paper’s design to the edge of the furniture.
What a Wonderful Weekend with Wonderful People!
Thanks go to Kate and Sarah who have once again pulled out all the stops for a wonderful weekend. The PBA is fast becoming legendary. Kudos to you both.