When Jennifer Taylor sees a piece of furniture, she senses a personality waiting to be drawn up from the grains of wood into the open air as reds, blues, lines and circles. When her mind weaves a story, her hands cup the climax and pour the characters out onto a white canvas, using a brush to blend them into recognizable forms.
“I’m not good at language. I can’t write. It’s my way of expressing myself,” Taylor says.
And express herself she has, filling the walls and floor space of her shop, Painted Board Studio, at 7418 W. Madison St. in Forest Park, with original paintings, refinished furniture and other artwork. Her hope, she says, is to help people embrace the creativity of color”and have some fun doing it.
Just a glance at the showroom, and it’s obvious that Taylor, and her business partner Dina Glardon, are color fanatics. Bright rugoleums”squares of linoleum cut to throw rug size and hand painted”one in swirls of pink, orange and blue, another in blue and green”dot the floor.
Elsewhere in the room you’ll find boldly painted furniture and other artwork, from bed frames to oil paintings, all with a “primitive, untrained” quality about them, according to Taylor, lining the walls.
Near the back wall of the store, behind the cash register, is the studio, where Taylor and Glardon work their magic. It’s a perfect partnership, they say, which came together in the spring of 2004 ago when they ran into each other at the Riverside Arts Center, which Taylor helped establish.
“We are a good team,” Glardon says. “We seem to know intuitively … where the other isn’t as strong.”
Taylor’s strength is in her detailed paint work, innovative designs and fresh color combinations. But her hands are getting arthritic. So Glardon handles the color base coats and the top coats of polyurethane. After years in the corporate world, she also manages the business side of things.
So far, the business side of things seems to be going pretty well. After opening in July of 2004, Glardon and Taylor say they are already turning a profit. Their stock changes from day to day as commissions arrive and retail pieces disappear. Since no two pieces are ever alike, no two days at the store ever look alike either.
“Nobody’s [furniture] will ever look the same, and we have no desire to copy anything,” Taylor says. “If we’ve done it once, it’s boring to us.”
Taylor also says that the studio is beginning to branch out a bit, hiring a new artist just last week, to add a “parallel line” of furniture to the mix. After putting out a call for artists, Brian Gregory, an Atlanta-based artist responded.
“His work is so interesting,” Taylor says. “He uses found objects to create things that are just fantastic. It adds a masculine line to the studio, which I think is good. We’re very excited.”
Colors and patterns make life interesting, Taylor says. Her and Glardon’s pieces”most of them explosions of color”remind people of that, she says, and encourage them to think outside the conventional decorating box.
“People are afraid of color when I don’t think they should be. I think color makes you happy.
“I’m always a little disappointed with people who choose what they think they’re supposed to like rather than choosing what they actually like,” she says.
For people who do know what they want but don’t see it in the store, Taylor and Glardon can refinish a customer’s old furniture (or one of their “orphaned” pieces of furniture in the back storage room) using the colors and patterns of the customer’s choice.
While the furniture designs usually come from either the customer or from the furniture itself, the paintings come from within, Taylor says.
“My paintings are stories that are in my head … they’re figurative,” she explains, attributing that to her acting background. “They’re scenes and characters that are on the edge. They’re a little dangerous, on the brink of something.”
In “The Wedding,” the bride and groom are obviously on the brink of doing something, though it’s not quite clear what. The bride, dressed in a frilly white gown, sits in the foreground of the painting. The groom stands behind her, his jaws about to clamp down on her neck. But in the bride’s hands are a knife and fork. In the background, elfish characters eat and drink at the wedding table. Everyone seems to be waiting for someone to make a move, but no one does. The painting is heavy with unresolved tension.
In Taylor’s “Hairy Man,” the next move is obvious”the pudgy, furry man seated at his dining room table is about to drop a fish into his mouth. What isn’t so certain, though, is what the painting and its images represent.
Taylor says her inspiration was the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal and what she saw as the hypocrisy of conservatives over the situation. The painting represents the “crude ugliness in the name of righteousness,” Taylor explains.
The link between everything, or between Taylor’s furniture and paintings at least, is color. An unapologetic, uninhibited, unrestrained symphony of colors. And it’s the artist’s job to put them together so they harmonize.
“I look at it like a crossword puzzle, like problem solving,” Taylor says. “It’s like doing crossword puzzles in color.”
Painted Board is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.