Kim Loos Shutway: Art Runs in the Family

FLUSHING – Kim Loos Shutway comes from a family of artists.

Her father was an artist. Her brother and sister both work in graphic design.

By her own admission, though, Shutway “can’t draw a straight line to save” herself.

So, it took her a little while longer in life to discover where her artistic talents truly were. It turned out to be in painting, but not in murals or the such.

“I always felt left out because my dad and siblings were such good artists,” Shutway said. Determined to find that artistic touch, Shutway decided to paint a piece of furniture. It went well enough that she tried a second piece and it was after that when Shutway was officially hooked.

“I knew it was for me,” Shutway said.

She’s done it so well now for the last 12 years, she’s developed a successful business, Furniture Rescue. It’s located near the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing.

“The goal is to make the store the one-stop shop for all of your furniture painting needs,” Shutway said.

Furniture Rescue, which saves “unloved furniture one piece at a time,” is open from February until late December. Shutway closes for the month of January “to avoid burnout and work on some of the inventory.”

When she reopened, it was the first time that Furniture Rescue was completely its own entity. Late in December, Shutway sold the final pieces of hardware that used to occupy the store.

The reopening each year has developed into an event in Flushing. According to Shutway, when she begins reorganizing the store and bringing out her latest pieces just before Christmas, she puts coverings over the windows. Those remain up until 10 minutes before reopening in February.

“People are waiting to come in when I open,” Shutway said. “We actually didn’t reopen until (Feb. 7) this year because of the weather and power outage on the preceding Saturday. We still had a good turnout, but not what I would have had on Saturday.”

The space was originally a hardware store, but as Shutway began displaying some of her work, it began to catch the eye of the customers.

“I had been painting for 12 years and we always had a gift section with a few antiques, and they started selling,” Shutway said. “I told my husband, ‘let’s bring in a little bit more furniture and see what happens.”

Well, the rest is clearly history.

As furniture moved out of the store, Shutway needed more. So, she and her husband would visit flea markets, antique shows, auctions and junk stores within a “150-mile radius every weekend.”

“Wherever there was a possibility of furniture, we’d go and oftentimes we’d bring home a car load,” Shutway admitted. “It was fun. We’d be able to fill two vehicles for around $200. It’s much more expensive now. Some individual pieces are $100.”

On top of the furniture and some gift items, Furniture Rescue also offers multiple colors and types of furniture paint as well as stencils. Shutway plans to continue to offer those even after she retires from doing the actual painting.

Shutway’s talents haven’t been limited to customers in the Ohio Valley. She’s completed projects for people in Maryland, California, Illinois and other states across the country.

“I had a girl drive (to Flushing) from Maryland for one piece of furniture and she left with four,” Shutway recalled. “I don’t ship things, so people from other states know they have to come and get it, and they do.”

Though Shutway is really shifting her focus more toward inventory for the brick-and-mortar store, she still offers custom work. Depending on the project, she usually offers a week turnaround. However, if you have something in mind you’d like for her to paint, you may want to schedule it soon because she’s booked through May.

“I was originally doing two (custom) projects a week and this year I am taking two or three a month,” Shutway said. “People can send me pictures of what they have and I’ll give them a quote and date to bring it in, but I’ve cut back because it’s too hard to do a lot of custom work and still paint for the store, too.”

Though she’s reduced the number of custom projects she’s accepting, Shutway is doing her best to help the public complete its own projects. She is going to be hosting a “make-and-take class” at the St. Clairsville Public Library in March.

“Basically, we’re going to combine hordes of stuff and show people how, at a minimal cost, to make something out of what many people would deem junk,” Shutway said. “We’ll have a couple of different projects. The first one is going to work with spindles and tea cups to make bird feeders. Then we’ll do something different.”

On top of that, Shutway offers painting lessons. A customer can bring in something to the store that they can carry, and by the time they leave, he or she will have completed the project and gained knowledge on how to complete the remainder of the project or to do more.

“The lessons are for people who have never painted or people who are more advanced in painting,” Shutway said. “I take a lot of self-satisfaction when a person takes the lessons and then realizes the work they can do and completes the project.”

Some may deem that creating competition for herself, but Shutway tends to look more at the bigger picture.

“I enjoy passing on what I know to others, so they can do it,” Shutway admitted. “I guess it creates competition, but how long am I going to be doing this?”

Though she has no formal timetable in mind, Shutway still has a passion to paint furniture. “I love it,” Shutway said. “I am 64, so it’s getting a little tougher to move some of the furniture, but as long as I can do that, I will still be here.”