Tammy Brady only knew a handful of relatives when she moved to Huntsville from San Antonio, Texas. Her husband was in the military for 25 years before coming to work at Redstone Arsenal, bringing Tammy from the Lone Star State to the Heart of Dixie. She found University Pickers’ classes online and knew this was her chance to make friends and explore her crafty side.
“When I initially started going, it was for the camaraderie, the fellowship of meeting new people and learning how to be crafty, learning how to do the techniques and being able to say, ‘I made this,’ ” Tammy said.
Soon enough, she was going to every class University Pickers offered. She made friends—a group of eight other women she calls her Decatur Sisters. They even get together for crafts and lunch outside of the University Pickers classroom. Those friendships were something she missed in Texas. Sure, Tammy and her husband found friends through their church in Texas, but they weren’t welcomed with the same open arms she found in Alabama folks.
“After living in the big city of San Antonio, we loved coming back to Huntsville … for the authentic, real friendships and relationships,” Tammy said. “Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly … That wasn’t a thing in the big city, so to come to Huntsville and Decatur and have people genuinely reach out took getting used to again.”
Most of her Decatur sisters are also the wives of either retired military or men who work on the Arsenal, so she’s found a close group that understands exactly what she goes through on a day-to-day basis. They get together for birthdays and other celebrations in addition to their crafting sessions.
In the past 18 months, Tammy has become what she jokingly calls a University Pickers class stalker. She’s lost count of how many classes she’s actually taken, but notes that she rarely misses one.
It’s a new venture for Tammy. She’s always been the woman who baked—the military wife ready to welcome new people through the help of cookies or cupcakes. While she has always wanted to take on new painting and craft projects, she never had the outlet until she moved to Huntsville and found University Pickers.
In the age of Pinterest, it’s easy to see a tutorial and then think you can replicate an advanced project, but that’s not always the case. There is actually a website called Pinterest Fail that proves that exact point if you don’t believe us.
It’s a good thing we have University Pickers, the go-to name for refinished furniture and home decor. And as you walk through the booths of painted furniture and repurposed items, it’s hard not to wonder: How exactly did they do that?
Along with University Pickers’ growing popularity comes a growing number of people who want to try their hand at the different projects—everything from pallet painting to holiday decorations.
For Trish Gleason, one of the co-owners of University Pickers, it’s a chance for her to get back in front of a classroom. She has an undergraduate degree in early childhood development and a master’s degree in special education.
While she isn’t wrangling kids these days, she still gets to preach the fundamentals through her It’s Just Paint class for anyone who loves those colorful antiques. The class name comes from her mother who taught her that the worst-case scenario for refinishing wood furniture would be sanding it down and painting it again.
Almost all of the classes are made for beginners with the exception of a few advanced painting technique classes. Some, like the cow portrait painting and the scarecrow pallet art, are so popular they’ve had multiple classes sell out.
They’ve even had to make a bigger classroom to host the events. Their old meeting room only held eight, but now 20 students can come to the new classroom. In true University-Pickers style, the new space has a chalkboard wall with impossibly perfect hand-lettering and design touches—like a Mona Lisa chair that is easily too pretty to sit on.
The classes offer hands-on experience plus the wisdom of a teacher who has probably made all the common mistakes—and even some uncommon mistakes—before.
“If you don’t have paint on you, you haven’t really learned,” Trish said. “That’s my philosophy.”
Trish also works hard to make sure the students get a strong return on investment for each of the classes. Her It’s Just Paint class is $99 but comes with all the products you’ll need—more than 10 different paints and glazes to experiment with—plus a gift bag to take home and start your own projects.
Trish knows relationships often take priority over the finished product. After all, if you put 20 women in a room after work and throw in some paint and adorable ideas, they’re going to end up talking a lot. It’s important to note, however, that men are welcomed into all the University Pickers’ classes. Trish mentions that the men usually enjoy the classes more than the women because they end up with a room full of females fawning over them.
For people like Tammy, it was the promise of meeting like-minded, local friends that drew her to University Pickers. Now she’s ready to pay that southern hospitality forward.
“It’s instant friendships,” Tammy said. “I always make people feel welcome. So anybody who would come to a class would feel welcome … All of the ladies who have taught the classes are incredible and patient and kind, and there is no wrong way to do anything.”
If you’re ready to sign up for a class, head over to the University Pickers Facebook page. They have dates set for classes on family signs, scarecrow pallets and cow paintings.
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