Decorative Artists' Boutique: Everything is handmade and handpainted

News-DemocratOctober 13, 2013 

If you're in the company of the Lincoln Trail Decorative Artists, don't stand still.

"We joke that we paint on anything that doesn't get up and walk around," said Jeanette Saucier, 61, of Edwardsville.

Furniture, coolers and concrete blocks are their canvases. So are trays, container tops and trunks.

"We use all different media, and all different surfaces," said Karen Miller, of Belleville.

Look around her updated farmhouse kitchen and you'll see examples. A large acrylic painting of a bold red-orange poppy hangs above a doorway. A folk art design with a rooster and the saying, "Find sunshine in each new day" dresses up a cutting board that likely will never be used.

Karen painted a magnolia design on a small pale yellow cupboard that you can take a chance on. It's one of the raffle prizes at the creative group's 9th Annual Holiday Boutique next weekend, beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday, at Carrington Place Clubhouse, 3900 Essex Blvd., Swansea.

"We'll have thousands of items," she said. "We work for six months beforehand to get ready for it."

Everything is handmade and handpainted.

"We have anything from hand-painted Christmas ornaments, pottery, jewelry and quilts, to painted canvases and furniture. ... Each item is unique and we have something for everyone's budget."

Prices range from $5 to $70. Gifts for teachers and co-workers cost about $10.

"It's hard to sell things you spend so much time on," said Karen, who puts down her brush in January to do taxes. "Nicer stuff my family ends up grabbing. I give a lot as gifts."

A trunk painted with world maps is another raffle prize. "The trunk almost looks like a treasure chest," she said. "We're going to put lottery tickets and gold coins in it."

The 43-member group, part of the national Society of Decorative Painters, started 26 years ago. Friends brought in friends. They now meet every two months in Swansea to paint and learn.

"A lot of it is getting together with friends," said Karen, who had an interest in art since high school. "It's fun. You meet the nicest people. We learn things from each other. We tease that when we get together we eat very well."

Decorative painting, once referred to as tole painting, has been a part of culture since the cavemen. Common in Europe, painters put their mark on building exteriors, shutters and doors outside and furniture, wallhangings and tin containers inside.

That day, teacher Jeanette dressed up a round wooden basket lid with delicate flowers on a black background. Karen, along with Barb Voellinger and Carol Herndon, watched.

"Jeanette is known as the person who can take 10 steps to make one little berry," said Karen. "Let's put a line here and a dot there."

How does she do it?

"Berries are Q-tips dipped in different colors," said Jeanette.

Artists get so caught up in the process, they lose track of things.

"The last painting, I had three brushes in one hand and one in my mouth," said Karen. "I was looking all over for that one brush."

We asked Jeanette a few questions about her craft.

How good do you have to be to join? "A lot come and say, 'I can't paint.' Everybody is creative. Everyone has a creative side. They just need someone to bring it out. Mostly it's confidence. Once they get their wings, then they can fly."

What do you like about decorative painting? "When I first started taking classes, it opened up a whole new world. I see the sky different, trees different and the combination of everything differently. ... I wasn't a starving artist. My husband worked. I never made a lot of money but met a lot of wonderful people."

How do you teach folks of different abilities? "Most of us instructors teach off an easel. We take it step by step in instructional class. Everyone does the same thing. We don't progress until everybody gets it."

"But everyone's looks different," said Karen. "Everyone puts a different style in it. I can go around the boutique and tell you who painted what. Everything is slightly different."

How expensive is it to start? "You can make it what you want. It's like the saying 'You can never have enough jewelry.' I can never have enough paint brushes. Your paintings are only as good as your brushes. Your money should go ito your brushes. A good brush between $3 and $15." A beginner, using acrylic paint, can get started for between $50 and $100.

Do men ever join? "I have had men in classes and they love it. But the hardest thing is, I'm used to saying, 'OK, girls.' I'd have to remember to say, 'OK, girls, and Bud.' She talked about one of the men in her classes. "We were painting snowmen. He was dressed in Harley and black leather. He stuck with it. You never know when you are a teacher how much you touch people's lives. He later said, 'You helped me so much.'

"I went to his funeral and they had his stuff displayed. They had his little snowman. He won two blue ribbons and they gave them to me."

If you go:

What: 9th annual Holiday Boutique of local artisan's paintings, plus needle arts, pottery, jewelry and more

When: 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 19

Thursday bonus: Opens at 5 p.m. with refreshments and attendance prizes every 15 minutes and a first chanceto buy a one-of-a-kinditem.

Where: Carrington Place Clubhouse, 3900 Essex Blvd., Swansea, off Frank Scott Parkway.

Admission: $5 on Thursday; free Friday and Saturday

Profits: Club gives 10 percent to Family Hospice

Interested in joining the group? They meet 1-4 p.m. the fourth Sunday of every other month. Call Karen Miller at 618 401-2181 for details.

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