Customers can bring their old pieces to life, or purchase and modify a new item, through a variety of design workshops including painting, stamping, stenciling, decoupage and much more. Thistle & Co. also has a selection of paint, stamps and other design material, as well as home décor items for sale.
John Hindman, who owns Thistle & Co., became inspired to start the business following a training session he attended while still working in corporate America.
“The trainer said you need to find time for all aspects of your life,” said Hindman, who obtained degrees from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in fine art, theater and interior design. “And one of the things I didn’t have time for was, I like to rehabilitate furniture, create new pieces out of old things (and) do decorative painting, but I never seem to have time for that.”
Hindman and his partner, Jack Weeks, opened Thistle & Co. shortly thereafter, in October 2001. The business operated out of its Frenchtown, N.J., location for 19 years, until Hindman moved it to its new location in the former Coaches Florist building on Broadway this past spring.
One of the shop’s most popular workshops is a “Paint-Your-Own-Piece Class,” in which customers are invited to bring their own item or piece of furniture to redesign in the studio.
“As long as somebody can carry it in by themselves we supply all the materials and instruction, and four to five hours later they walk out with something complete,” Hindman said.
The ability to breathe new life into an aging artifact is something that separates Thistle & Co. from other DIY art studios.
“With a painting, you look at it three months later and you’re like, ‘OK well I had a lot of fun, but what am I going to do with this?’” Hindman said.
Hindman recalled a workshop where a woman brought in a table that belonged to her grandparents.
“It was kind of dinged up and needed a little bit of love, and within three hours she had what looked like a brand new piece of furniture,” he said. “It’s creating a modern heirloom out of an older piece.”
The shop also has a “Wall of Workshops” containing examples of projects which can be completed by any customer who enters the store. Hindman said the wall can be a useful tool to spark creativity among customers.
“When it comes to being creative, it seems like people kind of hit a roadblock,” Hindman said. “We’re there to help them through that roadblock, and let them learn about the product as well as make something that they’re really going to cherish, or use, or give as a gift.”
Sap buckets are a popular decor project among customers. Word blocks, which are wooden blocks with different letters stenciled on them, are also a popular item for customers to bring home and display on a bookshelf or mantle.
All projects at Thistle & Co. are completed using Fusion paint and Iron Orchid Designs products. The studio prices the products into their rates, and customers are not required to purchase materials in order to participate in workshops.
“A lot of other workshops will make people buy the materials at the store,” Hindman said. “Ours might be priced a little higher, but we include all that, because if you’re only looking to do one project and you’re never going to do this again, why do you need to buy a lot of product?”
Hindman was drawn to the Fusion and Iron Orchid Designs lines because the businesses share his commitment to sustainability.
While many art supplies can be difficult to use or dispose of safely, Hindman only uses products which are water-based and contain no ammonia, formaldehyde or volatile organic compounds, but still work well.
“If you need to do (a project) in open air because of fumes or harsh chemicals, that’s not what we’re looking to do here,” he said.
Hindman said he is constantly working on developing new workshops, and the studio has a seasonal rotation of classes for folks to check out.
He also hopes to incorporate more team building-focused classes into the business, which he believes could be popular in the post-COVID era.
“In this virtual world that we seem to be in right now, we’re also looking to partner with small, local businesses on team-building exercises where employees will come in and do a little project as a group or individually,” Hindman said.
All workshops are spatially distanced, and each participant uses their own table to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. All surfaces are sanitized between groups.
The studio will eventually be open regularly Wednesday though Sunday, however it is currently available by appointment only. Interested parties may message Thistle & Co. on Facebook, send a message through their website’s ‘Contact Us’ page or call the shop to set up an appointment.