How to get the best airfare.

It can seem very daunting at times trying to find good airfare.  Many times I have gotten excited to see a class offered that I have wanted to take, only to have to let it pass because the airfare was just too high.

I usually set a budget for what I will spend for a class (see my post, Getting the most out of your Classroom Experience) including food, hotel and airfare.  Oftentimes it is hard to stay within my budget just because the airfare is so stinking high.  However, there are some things you can do to find a cheaper flight.  I warn you that it will take some time, but they have worked for me and hopefully will for you as well.

1.  Compare flights on several of the comparison type sites.  You can search for tickets on multiple departure and arrival days to see what day has the best deal. Or you can pull up a calendar of the lowest fares around a certain date. Flights pull prices from multiple airlines for easier comparison.

Google Flights
Airline Watchdog

One thing to note… some airlines will price match.  I don’t know the specifics of all of them, but I do for Delta since I mostly fly with them.  If purchasing your tickets through their website and you find the same flight for more than $10 less than your flight, they will not only match the price, but they will give you a $100 credit towards a future flight.

2.  Buy your tickets on the right day.  I have found there to be much debate on when exactly is the right day.  I have noticed in my area that prices drop on the weekends.  “experts” have said that Tuesday afternoons are the best.  You will have to do your own research to figure out which is better for you.

3.  Try to purchase tickets 30 days in advance.  Sometimes holding off for the best deal will make you lose out on what already was the best deal.  Of course you can still get some really great last minute fares, but it is kind of a gambling game you are playing.

4. Cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.  The early bird flights are typically cheaper as are multiple stop flights.

5.  Clear your cookies!  I don’t know this for a fact, but I am 96.7% sure that sites are storing your information so when you come back later to check fares again, the price is the same if not higher.  It isn’t just airlines doing this.  Have you ever gone back to a site only to get a pop-up saying “Welcome back Kathy!  Your dental floss is still waiting in your cart.”?

6.  Get a credit card that will reward you for flying.  Most of us have a credit card anyway, so you may as well have one that earns you points for reduced and free travel.  Some will not only reward you when flying, but also when you rent a car, stay at a hotel and eat out.

7.  SURPRISE!  If you like surprises you may want to look into booking a flight through Hotwire or Priceline.  With Hotwire, when you search for airfare the first thing listed will be a Hot Rate Flight .   This is a “Get the flight now and flight details after booking.” Option.  Although it is the cheapest flight, it is a special fare with restrictions and the Airline and flight time are not revealed until after purchase.

The Priceline version is their Name Your Own Price feature.  For this you put in the destination, dates, and it will also ask a few other questions.  You now bid on what you are willing to pay for your flight.  I have had a LOT of great fares using this, and not just to their “up to 40% off” either.

I first go to a site and type in my info to find out what the average flight is at the moment.  With this information I then will go to Name Your Own Price and make an offer for 50% lower than what is listed.  If they accept my offer, your credit card is charged immediately and you get a notice via email with your itinerary.  If they reject your offer, a screen pops up with a counter offer.  You can choose to accept the offer or you can wait 24 hours and make another bid.  Just remember that you will not know until after your bid is accepted which airline you get or what time you fly out.

Read more…

ArtFusion Event Recap

ArtFusion Offers Unique Recipe
Full-day and half-day classes featured some of the top instructors in the decorative arts industry.

The sharing among artists at ArtFusion was profound.
In cooking, "fusion" refers to a combination of different cuisines to create a singular culinary experience. In Santa Fe, ArtFusion brought decorative artists together in a combination of talent that created a singular inspirational experience that satiated their desire to network, share and learn from one another. Classes, speakers, exhibits, demonstrations and social events were all ingredients that flavored this event, which attracted more than 100 decorative artists, instructors, exhibitors and sponsors.

  Iron Faux was a fast-paced and fun competition among artists.
ArtFusion is a new industry event, organized by Kathy Boyd who already has a successful track record for bringing artists together at a series of Faux Retreats over the past several years. Offering valuable assistance in the organization of this event was Charlee King. ArtFusion is a variation on that concept, accommodating a larger number of artists and instructors but still providing a closeknit sense of community among those in attendance.
"We had close to 120 people who registered," Kathy reports. "I had been wanting to do something like this for a long time at as low a cost as possible to make it affordable for the instructors, exhibitors and students. We got awesome feedback from those who attended, so I'm very grateful and feel very blessed that so many industry pros, exhibitors and instructors came to the event and it was such a success."
ArtFusion took place Nov. 3-6 in Santa Fe, N.M., one of the most artistic cities in the United States. The century-old Scottish Rite building, located in Santa Fe's Historic District, offered a unique and fascinating setting with a diversity of rooms and impressively ornate theater.
Brenda Schaeffer talked about the origins of creativity
in the beautiful theater of the historic Scottish Rite building.
Outstanding Classes
During ArtFusion's hands-on classes, attendees had the opportunity to learn some of today's most groundbreaking techniques and finishes from many of the top instructors in the decorative painting industry (Sheri Zeman, Melanie Royals, Igor Turovskiy, Gary Lord, Deb Drager, Shauna Gallagher Beki VanMeter, Adrienne Wannamker and Darlene McElroy, to name just a few).
"The feedback we got on the classes was good," Kathy says. "People liked the fact that there was a variety of instructors and classes that you're not going to see at other industry events."
For instance, there was a class on "Funky Chunk Finishes for Cabinets and Furniture" by Debbie Hayes. Another class by Cathy Taylor showed attendees how to create vibrant works of art with alcohol inks. Alan Carroll introduced attendees to the intriguing world of grisaille (or monochromatic gray) painting while Patti Halstead Schotterlein took her class to a new dimension with "Underground Faux." The opportunity to do lightweight exterior bas relief panels was provided by instructor Cindee Lundin. Meanwhile, Angel Wynn taught her students how to combine their photographs with the ancient process of encaustics.
"A lot of people are wanting to get off the scaffolding, and that's what a lot of those classes entailed," Kathy says.
Attendees also had the opportunity to attend a variety of business presentations in the Scottish Rite Theater. Diane Capuano Franklin, co-founder of Focus on Faux, had the opportunity to speak at the event on the subjects of faux trends and social media. Dr. Brenda Schaeffer, a licensed psychologist, was on hand to talk about the origins of creativity.
Left: Deb Drager at the Caring With Colors booth in the ArtFusion exhibit hall. Right: Joe Saenz of Modern
Masters does a demo in the exhibit area. (Photo at right by Diane Capuano Franklin; all others provided by Kathy
Boyd of ArtFusion)
ArtFusion also featured some unique social activities, such as a "fauxtini" party and an IronFaux competition in which artists worked diligently and creatively to complete a finish within a specific time limit. Other events included a welcome reception and a night out for dinner and music. When not attending classes and social events, attendees had the opportunity to visit the exhibit hall to see products and demos from major manufacturers as well as some beautiful displays of art in an art show headed by Crystal Guthrie.
Kathy makes it a point to include a charitable component in many of her events, and ArtFusion was no exception, with donations from attendees encouraged."I try to do a different one for every different event," she reports. "This one was for Caring with Colors as well as the Scottish Rite (Masonic) building. There are buildings like this all over the country, and many are struggling to stay open. So, we wanted to do what we could to help."

What Lies Ahead?

Now that the first ArtFusion has successfully concluded, Kathy is  contemplating what the next ArtFusion will be. It likely will include many elements of the first ArtFusion but with some additional unique elements as well. "My goal is to do things differently that not everyone else is doing," Kathy says. "I never want to do anything that seems like a copy of something else. I've had 20 Faux Retreats since 2009, and it's been different every time. If someone comes eight different times, they get eight different experiences."
Whatever ArtFusion becomes in the future, it sounds like it will likewise continue to be a unique and memorable experience. Certainly the ingredients of great instructors, valuable education, entertaining social events and opportunities for networking will be included—all fused together to create another winning recipe.
This is a free preview of Focus on Faux. To access other articles, click on the link to sign up for a subscription plan. Subscribers have access to 5-7 new articles per month, new product section, info on upcoming events plus a monthly e-newsletter.

Read more…

Best Event of the Year for Artists!

On November 3, 2015 Decorative Artists from all over the world will get together for 4 days to take classes from the top instructors in the industry, learn about new products, listen to speakers, and lots more.  Best of all they will get to meet people they may have only chatted with online, make some new connections and friends.

All of this will be in a city known for its amazing art, Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Portions of the proceeds will also benefit national and local charity, including Caring With Colors which raises money to help artists who are battling cancer and other illnesses.

There are going to be a lot of fantastic instructors at the ArtFusion Event in Santa Fe this November. Click on the Schedule to view class descriptions.

Instructors will add an additional class day if needed.  For full descriptions go to

Melanie Royals - Printing Your Own Patterned Papers $250

Patti Halstead Schlotterlein - Underground Faux $150

Sheri Zeman - Dynamite Dozen $90

Sheri Zeman - Glitz & Glamour $90

Deb Drager - "Share the Love" ART on canvas workshop $65

Deb Drager - "Giving Thanks" ART on canvas workshop $65

Cindee Lundin - Exterior Bas Relief Art Panel $450 "hands on, location class"

Angel Wynn - Using Photography with Encaustics $195 First class SOLD OUT

Gary Lord - Money Making Woodgrain and Marble $200

Darlene McElroy - Creating Image Transfers & Taking Them to the Next Level $210

Igor Turovskiy - Mica Pigment and Resin Art $200

Shauna Gallagher - Layered With Love: Crossover Finishes $325

Alan Carroll - Painted Ornament $210

Alan Carroll - Grisaille Painting $210

Annie Lemare - Decoration on Water Gilded Surfaces $280

Sheri Hoeger - Trompe L'oeil Mural Class $250

Debbie Hayes - Funky Chunky Finishes for Cabinets and Furniture $195

Speakers   Free for registered event participants.

Dr. Brenda Schaeffer - Where Does Creativity Come From?
Diane Franklin -


FauxFusion - Based on the idea of Iron Chef.  There will be awesome prizes!
Art Sale - ARTFest will be open for any event participants to sell their artwork.  ARTFest will be open to the public and will also include a painted clothes sale.  Now you really have an excuse for getting paint on your clothes!  More info is going to be posted in the ArtFusion Event group soon.

Check the website for a full list of the activities.  You can also find information on travel, lodging, sightseeing and tons more.

Website -
Facebook page - Informational page. Be sure to "Like" the page for a chance to win something special.
Facebook group - This is an interactive group.  Great place to find travel buddies, roommates and more.

Read more…

Decorative Gilding

My 14 year old niece asked me yesterday if she could borrow this book from me. I almost didn't let her because this was the very first book I ever had on any type of decorative painting.  I was living in Colorado and my parents had found it in a book store on their drive from Minnesota to visit me.  It was a year or two later in 98' that I officially launched my business and I still love reading this Annie Sloan book just as much today as I did way back then.

This Decorative Gilding book, as well as the other Annie Sloan books I later added to my collection were an enormous influence on my work.  I was going to say my early work, but I know with whatever I create, all the influences of the past have helped shape what I do now.

I remember several years ago saying that I wanted to take a class with Annie and the person I said this to, who happened to be another Decorative Painter looked at me like a deer in headlights and said "who?".  I was incredulous that someone didn't know who she was.  Don't you read?  I came to find out a lot of people didn't.  Then a year later the "Chalk Paint" boom happened, and I would bet you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't know who she is.

In the age of the Ipod, Kindle and other electronic devices, which admittedly I love, I will never part with any of my decorative painting books by Annie or any of the other ones I own from many other authors.  They are my treasured collection.

Read more…

Museum of the Gilding Arts

In June of 2012, the Society of Gilders formally opened the Museum of the Gilding Arts in the city of Pontiac, Illinois.  The museum currently is a small exhibition space located inside the Walldogs Mural Museum, located on the square in the heart of Pontiac.

The room devotes space to "What is Gilding?", items from the Swift Collection,  "How Gold is Made" with photos and video from Guisto Manetti Battiloro - SpA (gold leaf manufacturer), a case of gold beating tools, antique signage, a section on "How To Gild" with various gilding tools, leaf and equipment, a visual demo of the steps involved in both mordant and water gilding, and then two walls of member works entitled "Where Do You See Gold Leaf?".  The latter is an opportunity to show visitors the everyday places that they can see gold, from window lettering to fine art, to architectural items, frames, mirrors and everyday items.

Pontiac, Illinois is a vibrant small city about an hour drive southwest of Chicago, located on the historic Rt. 66 highway.  When the recession hit, and most small towns were hoping for state and federal government intervention, the City decided that their fate was in their own hands and banked on tourism to keep their city vibrant.  As a result, the City is a model community for restoration and tourism development.  Pontiac boasts an variety of museums and attractions which, together with frequent regional events,drawing visitors from around the world to this charming mid-western city.
As part of our Grand Opening, which was held on June 29, 2012, Society members gilded a ribbon ornament on the City's Desert Storm monument, located on the ground of the historic County Courthouse, across the street from the museum.
In 2014, we will be working on an expansion of the museum, which will include a gallery as well as a gift shop.

The Swift Collection

The Society of Gilders became the proud owner of the Swift Collection in 2007.  M. Swift & Sons was a Hartford, Connecticut business whose specialty was gold beating and the manufacture of gold leaf products. When the business was started in 1877, Swift was beating gold by hand in order to produce leaf. In the early 20th century, machines began doing part of the process of making leaf. M. Allen Swift, a fifth generation gold beater and the last owner of the business, was one of the last people in this country to beat gold entirely by hand. When the business closed in 2005, Allen had the foresight to save the gold beating shop as it was used. He created a private museum where the shop was rebuilt exactly as it had been.
Swift packing desk with tools
Swift packing desk with tools
The Swift family donated the collection to the Society of Gilders in 2007.  The collection includes eight gold beating stations, gold packers desks, chairs and stools, mallets, cutches and packing materials, melting crucibles and other tools and equipment used on a daily basis from 1877 until approximately 1920.  The collection also includes signage, items from other companies that the Swift Company acquired over the years, documents, photographs, awards and even some trade show display items.
The Museum of the Gilding Arts currently displays one beating station and stool, one packing desk and chair, numerous pieces of equipment and tools and two display signs from Swift.  The photo above and to the right shows the current Swift display area. Over the next year or so, as the Museum moves to larger quarters, we will be able to recreate parts of the factory.
This article is from the Society of Gilders.

Read more…

How to Charge What You Are Worth

Are you winning the fight, but losing the war?   
When I started my painting company back in Michigan, I was 19 years old and, worse, I looked like I was 12 years old. Now, that is an exaggeration, but I did look quite young.
Can you picture a young guy starting out, maybe yourself, looking much younger then you actually were, showing up to an estimate and then claiming to be a professional?
Starting out, I had to almost give jobs away just to get started, which included working for builders. Believe me! Builders saw this as an opportunity to get cheap work!
Like most of us, I started off in the trap of giving work away then hustling like a crazy person just to break even. Not that I had any idea what my true breakeven was at the time.
I figured if I made $20 an hour after everything was said and done that I was doing well. When it was $25 an hour, I was on top of the world!
The greater danger with this downward spiral is not that I wasn’t making a profit; yes, that is a danger, but even greater are the things we did just to try to break even at the end of every job. Namely, sacrificing the customers’ experience.
The greatest danger is sacrificing the customers’ experience to win the fight, but we continue to lose the war.
Starting out, the typical job went from one bad customer to the next. I couldn’t believe how they were picking my work apart. How they would go line by line over my proposal, if I even wrote them a proposal, to make sure I did everything they expected.
By giving my work away, I was fighting to make a dollar at the end of each job and they were fighting to get full value for their dollar.
Operating this way, we will continue to win the fight of getting paid for that one job, but we continue to lose the war on receiving customer referrals.
So, we continue to give our work away just to we can stay busy and the cycles continues. Can you relate?
How do we break the cycle and turn the ship around, so that we can charge what we are worth?
You have two options and they both require hard work.
The first option is to continue this grind and remain frustrated and broke. No, thank you.
The second takes longer to pay off, but once it starts, not only does it pay better (most cases, twice as much), but you will truly begin to enjoy your business and all of the fulfillment it’s meant to provide. That’s what we are talking about, right? That’s why we are entrepreneurs!
The key is to stop and consider it from your customers’ perspective. They are not out to get you, as I once thought while starting out. They are looking for two things, a properly painted project and, more importantly, a great experience during the process.
What does a great experience look, feel, and smell like to them?
Well, we can cover the very bottom basics, show up on time, dress professionally, speak with respect, no blaring classic rock, or rap music, not parking on their lawn, and completing the project on time.
If you are doing all of this, then good. You are doing the bare minimum. If this is the extent of the level of your customers experience, then don’t expect many referrals.
The key to exceeding their expectations is to ask them this powerful question at the estimate:
“Mrs Jones, what does a great painting experience look like to you?”
Just listen and take notes. Don’t suggest or assume anything. Write down what you hear next. It is your golden ticket to knockin’ their socks off! This sets you up nicely to capture a video testimonial at the end and creating those raving fans who become your best referral sources!
We think we know what they want, but we have no clue. They/we are all so different. Some are most concerned that their cat won’t wonder out the door while painters are coming and going. Another is concerned that the color they selected is spot on. And another that you will carefully protect all of their furniture.
Now, repeat back to them, what you heard them say.
“Mrs. Jones, if I heard you correctly, a great painting experience for you is that we properly protect all of your furniture and also during the process we do not let Mittens, the pet lion, escape. Is this correct?”
By asking, writing down and repeating this back, you have already made a distinct impression and position yourself to charge what you are worth.
Next, make sure the crew knows what is most important to this customer.
Then, when you or your crews are painting her home, keep the customers experience #1.
When we checked in, we didn’t ask, “How’s the job going?” or “Are the hours are on budget.” The first thing we asked our guys was, “How is the customers experience.” This kept our team focused on our #1 priority, the customers’ experience.
If you focus on your customers’ experience, you will turn your ship around, most definitely start to hit ’em out of the park, and be well on your way to Doubling Your Business, profitably while making extremely happy customers along the way.
At the end of every job, during your final walk through and settling up, ask every customer, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to refer us to your friends and neighbors?”
This is straight from Jack Welshes, GE’s Net Promoter System. What they found was: if they give you a 1-6, that means they will not be calling you again. If they give you a 7-8, that means that they will use you until another comes by with a better price. If they give you a 9-10, they are a Raving Fan!
Here is the last golden question you can ask that pays dividends, whatever score they gave you, even an 8. Ask them what you could do next time to earn one more point, in this case a 9.
What they tell you next is pure gold. They will share opportunities for you to step your game up that you didn’t even realize was important or available!
Focus on the customers experience. Ask them what it looks like to them, Provide it and more. Then ask how you can improve on it, and you too will be well positioned to charge what you are worth!
On a scale of 1-10, how helpful was this article for you? Please post your answer below. 
If you would like more in depth strategies on how to take your business to the next level, I have put together Mastermind Groups,  specifically for painting contractors who are not in a position to pay a business coach $500-$2000 a month.
You receive direct access to myself, all of my strategies, and the perspective of other non-completing painting contractors.  We meet every other week for a hour and a half over a web-conference to go deeper on making changes for greater profits and personal/family time.
We set and track self assigned action task so we actually implements these strategies, then we hold each other accountably to follow through. 
You’ll also be include in our members only Facebook group where we all come together to further brainstorm, ask questions, and share our achievements. Full access membership cost $147 a month.
 By Steve Burnett
Click here for more info:

Read more…