Planting of “peace posts” appears to be one of the latest trends in gardening, and getting women together to paint and sip wine seems to be one of the latest trends in socializing. A Slater woman is making the most of both.
DeDee Birdsall, 59, who worked for American Enterprise Group in Des Moines for 38 years, retired about five years ago from her position as legal and compliance manager and has since been enjoying her passion — painting and crafting — which has turned into a rewarding way to earn an income during her “retirement” years.
It was 25 years ago that Birdsall and her sister, Kathy Carter of Ames, started what they call “Two Sisters,” a crafting business which started out with them making and selling handbags, soap and concrete garden ornaments.
The two still make lots of things to sell, and take part in the quarterly sales at the Slater Senior Center. They also sell with a group of “210” (named for Highway 210) business people in different events during the year. And the biggest hit of all, Birdsall branched out again in April of 2016 to create Two Sistes Paint Palette, a business venture that she said is kind of like the national Creative Spirits business in its social aspects of gathering, drinking wine and doing art with friends. The biggest difference with Two Sisters Paint Palette is that Birdsall makes most of her own designs for the paint projects, or she buys them from a place called Social Artworking, which has things she likes.
“The difference is what we’re producing and how we’re producing it,” Birdsall said, to help define why her business is similar, but different, to the nationally known art and wine sipping chain. But she admits, she got her idea after attending one of their events, and she has fully enjoyed creating projects for the ladies who attend her classes, generally held at the log cabin in Nelson Park in Slater.
“Other than when I go out to do private parties (even birthday parties for kids), I hold all my classes here at the log cabin,” she said. And after a year and several months of classes, she’s had women from all over central Iowa coming to Slater to take part. She even has followers, who have attended multiple classes now.
This past week, she was eager to teach her first-ever class on garden peace posts. She said this was her biggest undertaking yet, because the posts were going to take more time to do (she was hoping a three-hour class would allow most participants to finish) and they also were more costly than most of the other projects she’s had classes do.
“My normal painting class is $35 (per person),” Birdsall said. “This class is $45 to $50 per person, but to buy one of these posts would be $100 or more,” she said.
Some of the women arriving for the class shared that they’ve eyed the beautiful posts in stores, but they’ve seen some of them in the $200 range, so to come to this class and make one for $45 or $50, that’s a bargain and a lot of fun, most of them agreed.
Between her first peace post class on July 19 and her last class for this project at the end of August, Birdsall said she will watch 137 people (who have registered so far) make a peace post. She’s also had one man sign up for this class, which is a first.
“As soon as I put this out (that I would be doing peace posts for her next classes),” she said, “people went crazy.” She thanks a good friend who saw the idea and passed it along to her.
“What I like about this (project) is that it’s whimsical, and I like the bright colors,” she said.
To prepare for the classes, Birdsall preps each vinyl post by sanding them lightly and rubbing them down with rubbing alcohol. Then she sprays each post with Krylon Fusion, “a type of spray paint that bonds to plastic or vinyl. I do it to give them a good surface to paint on,” she said.
Lined up for everyone who arrived were four finished posts, featuring four design choices. This was possibly the hardest part for some — choosing between four very colorful and fun designs.
The hardest part of the project itself, Birdsall said, is usually the transfer of the design to the poll. She was thinking it would take participants a good 40 minutes to do just that part.
Carter showed up to take care of the business end of things. She collected the class fee from each person who came in the door, so her sister could help answer questions as people prepared to start the class.
Birdsall said the classes go well because she has a husband, Gary, who’s very handy and willing to help her. “And I have a lot of friends who can do things. I tend to call on people that I know,” she said, when she needs help cutting wood or getting other prep work done for projects.
Her classes have so far included many different types of painting projects and designs. Those attending have created different types of wood signs, holiday signs, college spirit signs, seasonal paintings and more.
Slater resident Marilyn Ransom said she’s been to all but one of Birdsall’s classes. Her favorite project so far had been doing a painting of wine bottles on curved wooden spools that were cut apart. “It looks really good on the wall,” she said.
Ellen Fisher, who was from the Des Moines area, said this was her first class. She saw it on Facebook. “I had seen something like this (peace post) in stores and thought it would be fun to make my own,” she said. She planned to put her post in her flower garden and was excited for the color it would add.
Birdsall walked around as her attendees worked, answering questions and helping out if needed.
She explained that she herself is a self-taught artist, and probably got her creative talents from her father, who was a painter. “I’ve always been creative,” she said. In fact, while sitting at her former longtime career, she often couldn’t wait to get home to try projects that were coming to her in her head. “I’ve got so many ideas, it scares me,” she said with a laugh.
Now she has the perfect avenue for sharing her talent with others. To keep up on what classes Birdsall is offering, she encourages people to follow her on Facebook at Two Sisters Paint Palette. To keep up with where she and her sister will be selling their creations and what they are working on craftwise, follow them on Facebook at “Dossisters,” which will direct you to their Two Sisters page.