Those looking for art in the Brandywine Valley know to head to historic Kennett Square, where visitors can spend an afternoon in a gallery or create their own art all in a matter of hours. One place where visitors can make their own masterpieces is Kennett Design–With a Splash of Wine! Having just celebrated its one-year anniversary, the West State Street studio provides customers with the chance to paint their own version of a timeless painting while enjoying their favorite beverage.
Owner Marion Hess wanted to open the business after reading an article in Entrepreneur magazine about a similar venture that found success in New Orleans. The title of the article was “Paint and Wine – A Winning Combination!”
With a background in finance and still working daily as an Information Technology Project Manager, Hess finds the studio to be a relaxing place after a day at work.
“This is more fun, more social, more creative. It’s a nice departure from a 9-5,” says Hess.
Though only open for one year, Kennett Design is seeing its popularity grow. “We’ve had over 2,000 customers. We’re trying to keep up with the demand,” says Hess.
A typical Kennett Design “event” is usually private for a guest and about 12 to 17 friends. In two hours, either a masterpiece is re-created or wine glasses are painted. Painting expertise is not needed, as most events are led by a certified artist. Through demonstration and instruction, guests are taught how to re-create the brushstrokes in the painting. The studio provides guests with the supplies they needed, including the paint, canvas, paintbrushes, and apron.
Among Kennett Design’s group of artists is Valerie Cianfaro, who holds art degrees from the Delaware College of Art and Design and the Maryland Institute College of Art. She also works with Two Headed Monster Comics. Her favorite painting to teach is the “Van Gogh Sower Sunset” because “it’s a hard one to mess up and looks beautiful in the end.”
One of Cianfaro’s jobs is to set up the paint and other supplies before the guests arrive, so all they have to worry about is pouring a drink for themselves. Kennett Design operates as a BYOB establishment and allows its guests – mostly over-21 women and couples – to drink socially as they paint. However, families also find Kennett Design to be a fun place.
“We get such an amazing group of people here each time,” says Cianfaro, who really focuses on getting guests relaxed and confident. “Everyone [leaves] happy whether or not it’s what they expected.” Guests are continually surprised by their artistic ability and are pleased to create something they can hang up in their homes.
Though Hess and her former business partner live in Delaware, the state wasn’t an ideal location for their business idea. Delaware doesn’t allow BYOB businesses, so the pair decided on Kennett Square, which is home to a few other BYOB establishments.
Being an active part of the Kennett Square community is a value for the Kennett Design team. At each event, the teaching artist creates a painting that is then sold or donated to a local group or company. The business, which is part of the Historic Kennett Square organization and the Kennett Merchants Association, also opens its studio for fundraising events where 20 percent of the profits go back to the participating organization. .
Kennett Design offers multiple ways to allow guests to get the experience they want. When it first opened, the “open paint,” which is a session without artist instruction, gave visitors the chance to get a taste of what Kennett Design had to offer. As the studio’s popularity has grown, private and ‘on-the-road’ Painting Parties in Delaware and Maryland have become the preferred choice. Taking the studio on-the-road allows for Kennett Design to reach beyond Pennsylvania and allows for larger-scale events in restaurants, community centers or private homes. There are also public painting events at the studio, which are artist-led and open to individual and group reservations.
No matter the event, Kennett Design wants participants leaving the feeling accomplished. “People [being] proud they did something creative” is what Hess finds to be most rewarding. She hopes to see the business continue to grow as more people discover it, maybe even franchising in the tri-state area.
Recently, Kennett Design hosted an event for the National Association of Women Construction Workers. This was the second time the group came to the studio, and more than half of the women had attended other painting events either on their own or through a different group. The following day, the Association contacted Hess for a third event.
“We’ve had people return almost eight times, and we’ve only been open for one year. People are hooked,” says Hess.