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Brenda Hattingh takes the stage and dances in place to songs like Taylor Swift's "Trouble" as she waits for the crowd of 30 women to get a glass of wine or bottle of beer at the bar.
The group quiets down as the music playing at club levels dims and awaits instructions, a palette of acrylic paint before them. "You have a drink and your paint, ladies. Make sure you know which one is your glass of wine and which one is your paint water," she says.
But if we take a sip out of the wrong glass, not to worry. "Our paint is a very good year, ha ha!" she says to laughs. "If you want to paint better, drink more wine!"
This is no paint class. It's meant to be a party, and it feels like one with a squeal of "I made a flower" here and a table of friends tapping their plastic wine cups there.
Welcome to Paint Mixer, a paint and wine studio that opened in Salt Lake City's Sugar House neighborhood this month. It's a sister spot to one in Park City that opened last year. And it joins rival studio Painting with a Twist, which is part of a national franchise that has been open for more than two years in Murray.
"There's a real demand for alternatives in entertainment other than dinner and a movie," says local Painting with a Twist owner Candice Vasher. "You get to talk to your date more than [you would] at a movie. For a girls night out, you get to chat more than at a bar."
Something new is what the four parties of women were looking for Thursday night at Paint Mixer in Salt Lake City or "PMS" quipped Hattingh, who is also an actress. She was quick to point out that men are welcome and repeat customers; they were just scarce that night.
"It's easy to go out and eat [or] get wrapped up in computers," says Megan Carleton, who joined her co-workers Brooke Songer and Lucinda Lashley. "To remember you need to be imaginative that's harder."
Here's how it works: The teachers give step-by-step instructions on how to paint the featured work (the studio picks from one of 72 choices at Paint Mixer, or one of 3,500 at Painting with a Twist). Usually it's done on canvas, but on Thursday night "Red Trees" was to be painted on a whited-out (empty) wine bottle.
The $35-$40 fee doesn't include the alcohol, which is $4-$6 for wine, beer, mimosas or champagne. There's some wine education, but it's really just an explanation of what wines are offered that night. You can also bring your own wine (for a corkage fee) and food.
(At Painting with a Twist, the classes cost $35-$45 with $5 extra for wine).
In between instructions, Hattingh turns up the pop music and suggests we use our paint brushes as a microphone.
A group of 10 women chose Paint Mixer as their inaugural event for their women's club. "We wanted to do something different … to get away from your normal everyday life and venture out," says Lisa Barr, who ended the night with a black mustache painted above her lips.
Knowing how to paint is not a requirement.
"It's fun watching these people who've never thought of themselves as good artists … have so much fun and leave with a good piece," says Paint Mixer owner Nicky Lecher.
Both companies hold corporate team building events, birthdays, bridal showers and kid/family classes.
And Paint Mixer will take their classes on the road to restaurants, including to La Caille on Nov. 21. The $100 fee includes painting a Napa vineyard, dinner and a drink.
Hillary Maxwell took her 10-year-old pig-tailed daughter, Makaela, to Thursday's class (she had thought they'd be painting on canvas) as a birthday present.
"She loves art … and didn't want to do an art class by herself," Hillary Maxwell says, adding that the night is also about mommy-daughter time since Makaela is the oldest of 6 children including a set of 1-year-old triplets. "This is our escape."
Another group of 15 women also chose to paint for their monthly women's club called the GG's (they've also been ghost hunting and target shooting) and brought along wine and platters of crudite, grapes and chips. "I loved it," says member Veronica Ricci of the class. "I'll display it in my living room and tell people, 'I drank wine while painting a wine bottle.'"