Columbus, Ohio USA
Return to Homepage

Heart of Ohio Tole
Decorative Delights Return to Convention Center

By Margaret Marten
August 2011 Issue

Return to Homepage

Alicia Wooten-Cherry's contribution to the Plant Pride On Parsons project this year

Decorative painters will converge at the Greater Columbus Convention Center once again this year, to honor their craft, share their talents through classes and exhibits, raise funds for charity, and offer anyone and everyone an art-filled experience of decorative delights

The Heart of Ohio Tole Chapter’s 31st Convention is scheduled August 8-13. Throughout the week, over 200 painting classes will be offered in a variety of skill levels and mediums to those who register. The exhibit sales floor, with some 100 exhibitors and vendors of craft supplies for decorative painting, scrap booking, stenciling and other hobbies, and a gift shop are open to the public, Thursday though Saturday, August 11-13, beginning at 10 a.m.

The word “tole,” from which the organization Heart of Ohio Tole derives its name, is French for tin. Tole painting refers to the centuries-old tradition of tin painting. Coffee pots, utensils, and household items were the subject of ornamentation in 18th century New England. Early American decorative art involved the practice of stenciling, faux finishing, bronzing, gold leafing, country painting, theorem and graining. The group’s name is a nod to that early tradition, but today’s members, and tole painters in general, embrace and encourage any approach to decorative painting. It involves creating artwork on any surface or medium, including wall surfaces as murals or clothing and accessories.

Heart of Ohio Tole (HOOT) is the Central Ohio chapter of the international organization of The Society of Decorative Painters based in Wichita, Kansas. The longevity of HOOT (over 35 years), along with its involvement in philanthropic projects and regular meetings have given members a strong sense of community. Talk to any member and before too long the conversation naturally turns to what it means to them to develop bonds of friendship within an arts organization and to serve one’s community joyfully.

Philanthropic projects oganized by the group include memory box painting, which involves supplying decorative boxes to area hospitals for bereaved parents who lose their baby at birth, as a remembrance. Sharon Gauthier, who joined HOOT four years ago after moving here from Texas, was placed in charge of the Memory Box Program a couple years ago. “It really touched my heart when I found out what it was all about,” she said. “I lost a grandson myself at birth.” Last year, the group gave away over 400 boxes to 14 area hospitals. Every year, the public is invited to help by painting boxes at the convention booth.

The Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research will be HOOT’s charity of choice this year. A raffle of two quilts and a silent auction including hand-painted and embellished bras will benefit the fund. The past two years, members joined in with the “Keep Columbus Beautiful” program on the East side, decorating flower urns for the Plant Pride On Parsons project, a cleanup event that earned a national First Place Beautification Award in 2010.

Decorative painting is an artform accessible to just about anyone. Design patterns can be applied to the surface to serve as a guide for those without training or skill in freehand, but learning the basics of handling a brush and blending colors takes time and patience. When Gauthier joined HOOT and began to paint, she was a highly skilled quilter and an expert cross-stitcher but had no real experience with a brush. Her first attempt at painting (a rosebud) was a fiasco. “I knew nothing about blending and shading and all that stuff,” she said. “It turned out to be a total disaster.” But she persisted. “You learn more and then you feel more comfortable,” she added. Her success story is a bird. “It’s a cardinal sitting on the branch of a pine tree with snow on it,” Gauthier said. “I could not believe that I painted a cardinal. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

Alicia Wooten-Cherry, 47, was invited to a HOOT convention five years ago when a member approached her while she was demonstrating the one-stroke painting technique at a craft store in Reynoldsburg. She had never heard of the group or the artform of decorative painting, but after attending the convention, she was hooked. “It was just a really fun, lighthearted atmosphere,” said Cherry. “It was wonderful.”
She immediately decided she wanted to help the group. Like any other organization with large membership, there is no shortage of work to do; Cherry became involved with the library, knowing she would enjoy the beautiful art books and patterns. Later, she began to take classes at HOOT meetings, offered throughout the year, broadening her knowledge of oils and colored pencils.

“Colored pencils are also considered painting, believe it or not,” said Cherry. After working with fellow members and talking to them and learning from them, she said her “myopic view” of decorative painting began to broaden. “It made me see that there’s so much more,” she said. “You have very advanced people here.” And those members will be available at the convention all week, eager to share their expertise, their talent, and most importantly, themselves.

For details about the event visit or call 614-863-1785 or email




© 2011 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

Return to Homepage