An Educational Experience Worthy of an Encore
by Diane Capuano Franklin
For many decorative painting artisans, attending a Faux Retreat hosted by Kathy Boyd is a lot like eating a Lay’s potato chip. They can’t just stop at one. Many participants return from a retreat energized about what they’ve learned and eager to make arrangements to attend another Faux Retreat as soon as they can.
“I’ve been to the Faux Retreat five times,” reports Jan Joyce, the owner of Grand Illusions Wall Art in Provo, Utah. “I think it’s a great atmosphere, and Kathy always manages to get such exciting instructors. Food and lodging is included, which gives you better bang for your buck.”
Faux Retreats offer great education from some of the most well-respected teachers in the decorative painting industry—names like Sheri Zeman, Ande Crenshaw, Diane Corso, Ali Kay, Dean Sickler, Melanie Royals, Gary Lord, Deb Drager, Joyce Nelson, Beki VanMeter, Cindee Lundin, Rachel Downs and Kathy Boyd herself. Each retreat features in-depth instruction from two teachers, and there is usually a “bonus class” from a third instructor as well.
However, it’s not just the painting education that makes a Faux Retreat worthwhile. Participants also enjoy the opportunity to network and make long-lasting connections with one another.
“At other classes I have taken, everyone goes their own way at the end of the day, but at the Faux Retreat, everyone stays together,” Joyce reports.
“From the perspective of a student going and learning, I was blown away by the differences between the retreat experience versus a regular classroom experience,” concurs Ande Crenshaw, who owns Mojo Faux Finishes in Los Angeles and Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Crenshaw has attended two Faux Retreats, the first as a student and the second as an instructor of a cabinetry finishes class. She likes how the Faux Retreat format allows for more informal interaction between teachers and students.
“At regular classes, there is not as much connectivity with other attendees,” Crenshaw says. “At the retreat, you take the classes and then you can have a conversation with the teacher at dinner. As a teacher and also someone who has gone to a lot of classes, I can say that Faux Retreat is by far my favorite. You leave with great connections with other people in the industry, which is just as valuable as the education.”
Origins of the Retreat
The Faux Retreats emerged from Boyd’s ongoing desire to promote networking and interaction among artists. This began in 2004, when she launched the first-of-its kind forum for artists known as Talk Faux International.
Boyd also has created the House of Faux, the largest resource site for decorative artists and muralists. In addition, she has launched marketing groups for decorative artists on Facebook and LinkedIn.
“Everything I have done has been to connect artists together and to help promote them in a non-competitive way,” reports Boyd, adding that the Faux Retreats have the added benefit of bringing exposure to instructors and products that artists use in the decorative painting business.
Boyd envisioned the idea of a retreat as a way to encourage artist interaction while putting all of the expenses for classes, food and lodging into one all-inclusive fee that would ultimately be more economical than paying for all of those components individually. The all-in-one set-up is more convenient, too.
“Except for your travel to the retreat, I wanted to eliminate a lot of the other things that most of us have to do when attending a regular class,” Boyd reports. “I also wanted people to get to know the others from the class. You not only make great friendships that way, but it also can be beneficial in your business—if you ever need business advice, help on a job or whatever.”
Some of the best sharing among attendees happens after the classes are over for the day. As Boyd explains, “You can still acquire a lot of good information from the business tips that may pop up in conversations when you're playing games together or sitting around a bonfire with your peers.”
A Full Schedule of Retreats
Faux Retreats originally took place twice a year—once in the spring and once in the fall—but the popularity of the format led Boyd to schedule a total of five Faux Retreats in 2013. Five-day retreats take place on a 170-acre lake property near Spooner, Wis., about 90 minutes northeast of Minneapolis. Three-day retreats take place at a horse ranch in Somerset, Wis., less than an hour from the Minneapolis airport. There was also a three-day charity retreat that took place in Cheney, Kan. Profits from that event as well as some of the proceeds from a subsequent art sale went to the Caring With Colors Foundation in support of artists and their families who are battling cancer or other illnesses.
This year, there is also a full schedule of Faux Retreats planned. The five-day April 2014 retreat with Corso and Kay is already sold out, but there will be another five-day retreat with Patti Halstead Schollterlein and David Williams scheduled for September. As her way of saying thanks, Boyd is planning a free retreat in October for past attendees. Boyd is asking those who attended this Creative Caring Reunion Retreat to make a donation to the Caring With Colors Foundation. Several instructors, including Sheri Zeman, Deb Drager, Rachel Downs, Ande Crenshaw, Beki VanMeter, Donna Phelps and George Carper, have volunteered to teach. Rounding out the year will be a three-day retreat at the horse ranch in November.
Boyd packs all of her events with plenty of fun and surprises—whether it’s leaving gifts on their beds or planning a special theme party that may involve the guests dressing up as pirates or solving a “faux” murder mystery.
“I love all the little extras that Kathy throws in,” says Deb Johnson, who owns Paint Inspirations Inc. in Oklahoma City. “I enjoy the fact that she sets aside some free time so that we can walk around the lake, jog, do Zumba or schedule a session with the massage therapist.”
However, for Johnson, the most valuable aspect is the caliber of instructors.
“I went to my first Faux Retreat in 2013, and I’m scheduled to go again in April,” she reports. "I wasn’t planning on going back so soon, but I have a bucket list of instructors I want to take a class from. I’m looking forward to learning from Diane Corso and Ali Kay. What I love about the Faux Retreat is that there are such good instructors—both in terms of their personalities and the techniques they teach.”
Attendees leave a Faux Retreat with finishes and techniques that are highly marketable. For example, Sheri Zeman, owner of the Chicago-area Faux Design Studio, has taught Faux Retreat classes with an emphasis on finishes that sell. Students complete eight sample boards in two days, but the atmosphere at the retreat ensures that they don’t become too stressed out.
“It becomes a more relaxed, casual, yet high-energy forum because of the friendships and networking that are a constant factor,” Zeman explains. “I've seen friendships formed from strangers on opposite ends of the country, who now try to meet up in other classes and at conventions.”
Zeman’s overall impression of the Faux Retreat is that it is an exceptional learning and networking experience. “Having your accommodations handled for you (in a beautiful, peaceful setting), your meals prepared daily (delicious—all of them!) and being with your peers and able to share ideas for five days makes it a wonderful experience all the way around.”