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As Seen In Paint & decorating Retailer
Professional Faux Finishing:
A Labor of Pure Enjoyment

Feature from the Paint & Decorating Retailer, March 1999
In this featured
section, Tom Evens,

Professional Faux Finishing: A Labor of Pure Enjoyment

John Catalanotto, Greg Frohnapfel, Angela Gorini and Pat Niehaus have at least two things in common. The first is that they are professional faux finishers; the second is that they thoroughly enjoy their work. Whether rag-rolling, sponging, marbleizing or wood graining --or teaching the art of faux finishing itself --all of them get paid basically for having fun (and it also is a lot of hard work, too)

"What excites me is the immediate gratification I get from teaching a class or faux finishing a wall," Greg says. "Decorative painting is a nice compromise between house painting and fine arts."

Greg and these other pros come from different back grounds: One was involved in pulmonary medicine , one worked in banking, one was publicist and the other did (and still does) professional paperhanging. Once they got involved with faux, however, it became a huge part of all of their lives.

If John Catalanotto and Greg Frohnapfel were to have a theme song, it would probably be "Leaving On A Jet Plane." In 1998, in the name of faux finishing, they logged more than 100,000 air miles. And how much do these teachers and doers like their work? "It's a blast," says John.

Their careers together in faux got their start 10 years ago when these Akron, Ohio, residents were on a vacation trip to Jamaica. At the time, Greg, whose educational background was in pulmonary medicine, owned a fledgling paint company. John was in banking. Their friendship had arisen from a longtime bond between their wives, who grew up together.

As a spur-of-the-moment favor to the friend in whose villa they were staying, Greg began doing some marbleizing work in one of the villa's rooms. John watched interested. When they got back to Ohio, Greg had a booth to set up at a trade show and he asked John to help him.

The booth ended up becoming busy with show-goers, and John and Greg began to think a career together in teaching decorative painting might just be worthwhile. As Greg has been painting since he was 14 and had worked in his high school and college days as a painter, it was decided that he would do the teaching. John, who says he at the time "knew zilch about painting," would handle promotion, registering and organization. They formed the Ohio school of Specialist Decoration and, around 1993, changed the name to it's current Pro Faux Inc.

As the '90s evolved, interest in faux finishing boomed and John and Greg became very busy. Today the y teach clinics and seminars all over North America, they do faux-finishing projects for clients, they work trade shows and home shows, they're interviewed for and do demos on TV, and they serve as consultants for companies that make faux-finishing tools and write pamphlets on some of those tools. To boot, they organize a faux-finishing Caribbean cruise each winter and lead a faux-finishing trip to Italy each summer.

First and foremost, though, they are teachers of faux. In 1998, in various cities and towns across the country, they taught 20 several-hour clinics and about 50 seminars, most of which lasted a couple of days. They teach in tandem, taking turns with the instruction and the demonstrating. John has grown from a painting novice into a bona-fide professional, and serves as living proof to students that you don't have to be artistic to faux. "I can't draw a straight line and my stick figures lean," John says. "If I can do it, anyone can."

Their students are mostly professional painters, though it hasn't always been that way. "In the beginning, nine out of 10 of our students were well educated women do-it-yourselfers in between 35 and 50 years old," John says. "The professionals were too busy to slow down."

"It surprised us how little interest the pros had when we started," Greg says. "They thought faux finishing was a fad. They were to busy and were afraid of the new medium."

In addition, when they began teaching, their wasn't a plethora of information around faux. "There were just a few books out and faux finishing instruction was pretty exclusive," Greg remembers. "The information was coveted; it wasn't flowing freely. At the time, there were no schools in the Midwest teaching decorative painting. There were just a few on the East coast and West coast.

"Also, classes that were around were modeled after the European schools," Greg continues. "They lasted two weeks or a month and tended to be tedious. What we decided early was that we'd have a better student base if we cut the class time down from "Not that we water it down," Greg quickly points out. "We'll put our students' work against anybody's"

The two men are proud enough of the content of their classes that they offer a money-back guarantee. At the end of each first day of a two-day seminar, each student has the option of dropping out of the class and receiving a full refund. In 10 years of teaching, John and Greg have had no takers on that. In addition, they proudly state that the quality of their classes has helped North American faux finishing better as a whole.

"One of our missions was to raise the standard --that's why we started teaching," Greg says. "What we saw back then was a lot of poor work, and we thought that, if it continued at that rate, if a client's first impressions of a faux-finishing job was poor, he or she might think that all faux finishing is sloppy.

So he and John began logging the air miles and enjoying every minute of it.

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