With the popularity of the farmhouse chic aesthetic, wooden signs are having a moment. But many fans of the rustic vibe aren't content with buying the decor from a store. To make it truly fit the style, it's best to do-it-yourself.
Like painting parties, board parties are a new way for people to engage their creativity while having fun with friends and taking home a one-of-a-kind piece of art to hang on the wall at home.
Two local businesses offer these parties, where guests select their design prior to the event and show up with all the supplies waiting for them ready to go. Planks & Dranks started in 2016, while Brush & Blush added the Board Crazy series to its rotation of DIY nights in 2018, after first starting its events four years ago.
For both local businesses, the board painting parties have been a hit. It's not only something different for people to do with friends, but it also gives them a piece of art they made themselves.
"When you get done, people ask where you got it and you can say you made it," said Mary De Vries, owner of Brush & Blush. "At a fraction of the cost, you can make your own decor."
While both the local businesses offer similar sessions, each does them in their own way. Planks & Dranks takes its parties to local venues like Sonder, Wine Me Up and Steak & Grape and private home parties, while Brush & Blush operates from its Stockdale Highway studio, as well as off-site events.
Planks & Dranks was started by co-owners Elizabeth Mackay and Jessica Clarke. The idea came from Clarke's Etsy shop, where she made and sold wooden signs. When she needed help from Mackay, the two realized anybody could do it.
"When we started this, we really didn't know what to expect," Mackay said. "It was just for us. As it became more popular, we realized we needed more help. Now there are six employees. They all have their own personalities they bring to the table."
Board Crazy started at Brush & Blush when De Vries was looking for new DIY events to bring to her business, which started out with painting parties and now also offers sessions making wreaths, blankets and more.
"The process ... is kind of like the paint nights," De Vries said. "(They say) 'Oh, I can't do that. There's no way.' Yes, you can do it. We've perfected our process and we have great teachers."
Though both businesses have guests choose their designs online at the time they register for an event, where the two differ most is their stencils. Brush & Blush uses a die cutter to make vinyl stencils, which guests stick onto their boards and paint over; Planks & Dranks has guests hand-stencil their designs using paper stencils and carbon paper.
"We give them techniques to make the best looking board," Mackay said. "We send them home with fully waxed and ready to hang boards."
Another difference between the two is the atmosphere. Planks & Dranks parties happen at local restaurants and bars, so most events are for those 18 and older or 21 and older, depending on the location. There are some cheeky innuendos as the night goes on. It does host occasional kids events, but for the most part, Planks & Dranks is for adults.
"We like to celebrate each other," Clarke said. "We do drink. There's lots of cheers-ing. The first drink is always on us."
Brush & Blush, meanwhile, has more of an open studio vibe. Guests can bring beer, wine and snacks, but things don't usually get too crazy, De Vries said. All ages are welcome to the events, though parents should know alcohol might be present and that some designs could be too complicated for younger kids. It also offers events geared toward kids with smaller boards and simpler designs.
At both businesses, the most popular designs are ones with last names or other personalized details. Seasonal and faith-based designs are also popular.
The events tend to get more women, but De Vries said she has seen several men get into the board painting fun too.
"I get more women at all of them, but they love to drag their husbands to events, and the men are the most creative," she said, adding that some will give their boards an ombre or textured effect. "They make beautiful boards."
Compared to Brush & Blush's paint events, and others like it, De Vries said the board nights are more laid back. Instead of following along with a painting step by step, guests learn the full process of making signs and each person is usually doing something different.
"I think it's more light-hearted," De Vries said. "You don't have to stress that your barn looks like a barn. It's going to turn out. It's so much less stress."
Whichever one people go to, board painting parties are all about having creative, productive fun.
"It's a good way for people to get out, have a little fun and just relax," Clarke said. "Relax, have a good time and go home with something you're proud of."
Once guests go for the first time, it won't be long before they return. Both businesses have plenty of repeat customers.
"People like to make their own stuff, especially if it turns out great," De Vries said. "Once they start, they get addicted."