“So often we put our passions on hold to get our obligations in order, but those obligations don’t stop so you never really pay attention to the creative side of yourself. If you are creative, you must find a way to create in order to be truly happy.”

Give your old furniture a new lease of life while upcycling! In today’s Host Spotlight, meet Bernadette, an avid DIY-er who teaches you how to transform neglected furniture into amazing pieces that you wouldn’t believe that they are used.  Grab a coffee, find a cozy spot and read on to find out how Bernadette turned her passion into a job that she loves.

Hi Bernadette, can you introduce yourself and tell us about the classes that you offer through Verlocal?

My name is Bernadette Kemper and I am passionate about Furniture Upcycling.  I love the whole upcycling process. Starting with a neglected piece of furniture, fixing, painting and bringing new life to a piece is so much fun.  I have been upcycling furniture for almost 5 years.  My business is Avenue 122 and I concentrate on doing four things: I teach classes in Furniture Painting,  I sell a wonderful line of paint called Van Gogh Fossil Paintology, I sell my own thrifted and upcycled pieces and I do custom furniture painting either in my retail studio or in Clients’ Homes.

When did you first become interested/passionate in DIY & furniture art?

I have been creative and crafty my whole life.  I sew, quilt, knit and had always wanted to learn how to paint furniture.
I found a class online and took to it immediately.  My first piece was purchased for $2.99 at Goodwill and once it was painted, it sold for $175.  I was hooked!  After a year of painting part-time, I decided to make it a full-time job.  I knew I needed 3 things to achieve this.  I needed a Retail location, a website and a brand to represent.  I approached one of the stores where I had been consigning furniture, joined Van Gogh Fossil Paintology, developed a website, the rest is history.

Where does your inspiration come from? What made you want to pursue your passion and become a host?

I am inspired by the opportunity to make the old new again. The pieces I am drawn to have character and a story to tell. I am able to see the final outcome before beginning. This vision is unique to furniture painting for me.

I use many techniques to create a one of a kind piece that someone can incorporate into their decor. It is a source of pride to find the piece. Through imagination, hard work and skill, to flip it, give it a new life and turn it into the star of the show.

How would you describe the link between your classes and the community around you?

The students who attend my classes are looking for a hands-on class.  They want to learn how to upcycle but are timid to try on their own.  I provide an opportunity to learn a useful skill in a safe and fun environment.  I have lots of examples of my work available so that color combinations and techniques provide inspiration.

I have a built-in community of like-minded people around me as my studio is located within a consignment furniture store.  The store is called What’s Your Consignment?  I am able to consult with customers who either want me to provide the service of painting or who would like to paint themselves.  It’s a great fit.

How long have you been living in Chicago? What would you recommend to someone who just moved to this city?

I grew up in Chicago and have lived in the western suburb of Geneva for 20 years. I love the diversity that Chicago offers. Currently, I sell my painted pieces in 9 stores in the Chicago area. I also sell online through Chairish, Facebook, eBay and my own website.

Tell us about the favorite moment/story you’ve had between you and your students when you were teaching your classes.

I love teaching furniture painting classes. The students often come in afraid to make a mistake but once we get started and I give hands-on instruction, they begin to let their guard down and explore the paint and the process. It is very rewarding to see their confidence grow during class. I often learn new color combinations from students. That is fun for me.

Can you tell us a little bit more about a story you’ve had between you and your students during your teaching journey?

As far as the student experience, I do have several success stories. One woman who was very intimidated at first went on to paint her kitchen cabinets. She took the beginner class and had the confidence to take on a huge project. She had me over to see the results and it was spectacular. Also, I have had students come in groups to celebrate life events with me. I had a group of women in their 60’s who were friends since grade school comes to celebrate a birthday together.

Honestly, the best thing is when the students see their results, see how easy it is to get great results and open up to the process as the class proceeds. There is also a lot of interaction between students. They begin to offer their opinions on each other’s choices and encourage each other to go out of their comfort zone. It’s a joy to see.

What is your favorite piece of work & story behind it?

My favorite pieces are the ones that have the biggest rags to riches story. One day my sister called to tell me there was a grandfather clock on the side of the road. I picked it up, painted it and sold it for a huge profit.

What are your goals for the future?

My future goal is to build my business by teaching classes, selling my thrifted pieces and continuing to work with clients to paint furniture that they love.

Any recommendations for someone who wants to pursue their passion for a career?

For someone who is interested in pursuing their passion, I recommend doing what makes you happy. Put your passions on your to-do lists. So often we put our passions on hold to get our obligations in order, but those obligations don’t stop so you never really pay attention to the creative side of yourself. If you are creative, you must find a way to create in order to be truly happy. So says me!

What does Verlocal mean to you?

Having Verlocal support my business and fill my classes with students means that I can continue to do what I love to do.  There really isn’t anything better than that for me.

From 1/20 to 1/26, comment under this post and share with us: What is the one piece of furniture in your house that you want to upcycle?

One lucky commenter will get to join a Furniture Upcycling Class hosted by Bernadette and meet her in person!

If you are a host on Verlocal and would love to feature on host spotlight, send us an email at [email protected] with a short paragraph about why you want to be featured!

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