Faux Finishing: A Labor of Pure Enjoyment
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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