Even decorative artists need continuing education … and the chance to chat with like-minded individuals.

With instruction and inspiration in mind, four H.J. Holtz & Son craftspeople traveled to the International Decorative Artisans League (IDAL) annual conference, held Oct. 18-21 in Greensboro, N.C. There, they attended sessions on furniture and cabinet finishes, plastering, and quick finishing techniques that can be used on multiple surfaces.

“As a group, we selected classes that were most relevant to what we do,” says Brian Smith, who studied graphic design in college and has been with the company 12 years. Additional participants were decorative artists Logan Porter, Amy Shimko and Cassie Webster.

This was the first year Holtz employees attended the IDAL conference, Smith said, and it came about because company president Rick Holtz went looking for something specifically for the artistic team.

“There’s a conference the wallpaper hangers go to every year, and Rick wanted us to be able to go to a [conference], too,” Smith said. “We were all about it.”

Smith says he went to the meeting hoping to find “new ways of doing things, new techniques.

“For example, we do a ton of cabinets, and use the same products and same methods,” he says. “To learn new products can save time and enable you to achieve effects you couldn’t before. They dry faster, require a lot less labor and are less intensive.”

There was plenty of learning outside the seminars, too, Smith said, noting that casual conversations with other artists are useful and rare.

“You can take a class all day long, but to be able to sit down and talk with people who have been doing this for years is really valuable,” he says.

President Rick Holtz says it’s important for everyone on the team to be up-to-date both with trends and techniques.

“We want all our staff to be knowledgeable and educated,” he says. “Just like any other industry, our business changes. Manufacturers create new products, and people find new ways of achieving certain looks. We want our craftspeople to be exposed to those advances and bring them home to our clients.”

Smith is enthusiastic about the possibility of future IDAL gatherings.