Do You Know? Sher Payne

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DYK-Sher-with-Roller-FrontIn the 1970s, a new movement took center stage—following on the heels of the civil rights’ movement, as well as war protests, in particular the Vietnam War protests. It was the movement from women who were demanding their voices be heard, along with equal rights and equal pay. According to recent research from Ms. Magazine, “the feminist movement of the 1960s and ‘70s originally focused on dismantling workplace inequality, such as denial of access to better jobs and salary inequity, via anti-discrimination laws.”

In the 1970s, Sher Payne wasn’t fully interested in that movement. The 53-year-old Midway wife, mother, and grandmother was just getting out of high school and knew she needed a job. And what did she do? Payne jumped into a field normally dominated by men – house painters, painting contractors, and the like. It was right after high school – hence the beginning of her business, Perfek Painting by Sher.

Interestingly enough, she had never been a painter before. House painter positions on a crew aren’t easy, but if people like working with their hands, are naturally outgoing, and take pride in the details, then they are the ones who will make good in the field, or so said a recent career survey on wisegeek.com.

There is no formal training or education program required to become a house painter, and many painters learn their trade on the job.  This is exactly what Sher Payne did. Described as determined and compassionate, as well as passionate, Sher stuck to her guns and did the jobs she was assigned without complaint. Sher was good at what she did – painting – in a few years’ time, she branched out on her own and has been successful ever since. Sher is also very humble, and credits her customers and others for helping her achieve. Her e-mail signature tells it all: “The West Maui Girl … Coloring Your World in More Ways Than One.”

How did you end up in Midway from Houston?

My grandparents had lived in Midway, so that is why we came.

DYK-Sher-ExplainingWere you always creative?

No, I wasn’t—not to the extent that you are talking about. I never took any art classes. I had not painted anything before.

How did you become a painter?

It was time for me to get a job, and I knew what I didn’t want to do. Back then, most jobs for women involved high heels and hose. Being a secretary was not for me. I had seen another girl on a painting crew, so I decided to see what I could do, and I got myself on a crew.

Was it easy early on, being a woman in a field dominated by men?

No, it was not. Being a woman painter back then was rare, and the guys would really give me what for, and I had the hard jobs given to me. They wanted me to quit, but I didn’t. They would give me the biggest and heaviest bags to carry and the clean-up jobs that no one else wanted.

How did the public react?

At first, I got a lot of funny looks, and then after the first two years, I branched out and set out to prove myself … I am a girl who paints.

DYK-Green-Paintbrush-in-BucketHow did you come up with the name Perfek Painting?

(Laughs) When I work, I try very hard to get things as perfect as possible, but that is not always going to happen.  (Writer’s note: Hence the purposed misspelling of perfect to perfek.)

What type of work do you do?

I paint mostly interiors and redos. It is just mainly me. Though I could do new constructions, I don’t for that very reason.

DYK-Roller-on-WallYour painting has carried you all over the place. What is your favorite place to visit?

(Smiles) Oh, Maui for sure. I love Hawaii.  When I was a senior in high school, my mom moved us to Maui, and I fell in love with it. Even though I was there just a short year and a half, I knew I would come back. My mom and I both ended up waitressing at the same place when we first got there. It was a good time.

And you did go back. Why and how?

Well, the nest was empty, and I just felt like I needed to do something. I started looking on Craig’s List, and I found a place that had some rooms for rent. So I talked to the owner, and she said she had a room for me, and there was some painting and other things that I could do. It was right on the beach.

So instead of vacationing in the land of Paradise, you painted?

Yes. It was like a trade-out at first, then I got a couple of other customers, and I was able to make my way while I was there.

DYK-Dry-PaintbrushWhat is something you don’t do when you paint? Something people may not know?

I do not spray paint. Everything I do is pretty much the old-fashioned way. (Holds up her brush and points at a paint can nearby.)

Is there anywhere that you wouldn’t go paint?

(Pauses and shakes her head)  Have tools, will travel. Every job I take is a private piece of art. To me, a house is a like a big canvas. I love to paint.

What motivates you?

It is going to sound kind of funny, but work motivates me. I love my job and what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything but painting. I will probably be painting even when I am old and gray.

DYK-Roller-in-BucketDo you have a favorite color?

I like happy colors, light colors that have a ‘beachy’ feel.

Do you mix your own colors?

No, I usually go to a paint store and get them to mix my paint. I might sometimes do a little adding when I get to the job site and open the cans, but it is really simple. The customer chooses the paint.

How do you decide on what to paint and how to paint with your jobs?

Well, I try to get a feel for the customer—who they are and what they want…and they will ask me sometimes what I think about certain colors. In the end, it is their choice. We pull out the chart and look, and I tell them that it is only paint…we can change if need be. My customers made me who I am, and they helped my confidence. I never took a training class.

DYK-Fingers-on-EdgeWhat are some of the major differences in painting today from when you started—other than the obvious technological changes?

Everything was white back then. That is what they wanted—the customers—white walls, white everything. It was a little boring. Painters wore white painter’s pants back then and white shirts. It helped hide the mess, but now, that is different. (Laughs and points at her shorts, already dotted with a rainbow array of colors.)

What does painting do for you?

It is therapy, and every day I learn something new. Color can affect so many things in someone’s life.

DYK-Family HeirloomBesides painting houses and other projects, what do you do?

I paint furniture.

When you work, how do you pass the time?

(Laughing)  I play my radio, and I sing or talk to myself. I listen to a lot of Jackson Brown, the Eagles, and music from that era. One day I was in the room working and talking to myself, and the owner of the house came through several times thinking I was talking to her.

Do you have any hobbies?

I like to treasure hunt, and I am a member of the rock club in Madisonville…I also have a large collection of sea glass. I have collected it through the years and make stuff out of it. I am crafty. Sea glass is a product of both nature and man. Bottles, glass, and jars that have been thrown out get tossed around in the water, and then come back on the beach as colorful jewels, worn-out by water and recycled by the sea or ocean. It can take up to 10 years in a constant surf environment for sea glass to “become” sea glass. If you were to come to my house, you would see a vast collection of it.   (Writer’s note: Sea Glass can be found anywhere close to a water area—like a beach at an ocean or near the seashore. The greater the current or wave action, the more likely you are to find smooth, top quality sea glass. )

What would you name a book about your life?

Oh, I don’t know. I guess, maybe, It is Only Paint.

DYK-Furniture Before AfterWhat are some of your goals for your future?

I would love to open up a shop one day and paint furniture. I enjoy doing that. It would have  to be on the seaside, though, to be “perfek.”

More information about Sher Payne’s painting can be found on her Facebook page (Perfek Painting by Sher) or by emailing her at sher.payne[at]yahoo.com.

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