Board & Brush: Creating a way to build art and community

Left to right, Allison Carter, Julie Shawinsky and Meleah Carter love to put their creativity to work. (Photo by Kelli Caplan)

Julie Shawinsky is a craft fanatic. She is one of those do-it-yourself people who gets excited about artsy projects.

So, when she attended a bridal shower in Wisconsin at a place where you painted wood projects that looked like they were straight out of a farmhouse, she fell in love. There was something about the place, called Board & Brush Creative Studio, that spoke to her.

It made such an impression that she decided to open one herself in Virginia. She reached out to the company and asked to franchise it in Newport News. They agreed, and in February, she and two partners, Meleah Carter and Allison Carter, opened their own Board & Brush on Mariners Row in City Center. It was the third Board & Brush to open in Virginia and the first in Hampton Roads.

“It’s been so much fun,” Shawinsky says.

Board & Brush is built on the idea that people come in to paint any design they choose on wood boards that they also treat and stain to look old. A client chooses the design before coming in so a stencil can be made to use in the painting process. There are endless possibilities of what one can paint. The finished project often looks like something that has come out of a chic farmhouse.

“We want people to come in with an open mind and have a good time and have fun,” says Allison Carter, who is Meleah’s mother-in-law.

The 1,800-square-foot space is set up with tables on which to work. A big part of the fun is the atmosphere. Music is playing and wine is served while customers work on their projects. It is a great place, the women say, to kick back and treat yourself to a great night or weekend day out. It’s the perfect place for a date night, a “girls day out” or even team building. This summer, Board & Brush offered a camp for kids.

“When people leave, they want to come back. They already know their next project,” Meleah says.

Clients can draw inspiration from the artwork on the walls. There are 172 wood pieces hanging that were all made by the owners.

The amazing part of the process is that an entire group of people can each be working on the same design, but in the end, they will all look different. Each person puts his or her own creative touch on the art, whether it is the color or the style. Clients have ranged in age from 18 to 70. There is also a table that sits lower for people with special needs.

The workshops are conducted by the owners, who help clients every step of the way.

“When we pull the stencil off and they see what they have created, the look of amazement on their face is the best part,” Allison says. “They are so proud of themselves.”

The three owners all work full-time in different careers and operate Board & Brush in the evenings and on weekends. They enjoy working together and are buoyant about the future of Board & Brush.

“We want to build awareness. It’s not just a girls’ night place. It’s more than that. We have camp events, team building, birthday parties and so much more,” Shawinsky says. “There is so much possibility and we are excited to see where it goes.”

Board & Brush Creative Studio
Address: 707 Mariners Row, Newport News, VA 23606
Phone: 757-818-8773
Contacts: Julie Shawinsky, Meleah Carter, Allison Carter

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