"Celebrate the Seasons!" That's the theme for the 19th annual meeting and convention of the National Society of Decorative Painters (NSDP). And what better place to hold it than Salt Lake City, where, this time of year, the weather is fickle. Will the sun be shining? Will there be rain? Or even snow?

This is the first year members of the NSDP have held their convention in Salt Lake City. More than 3,000 painters from throughout the world will converge on the Salt Palace from May 6-11 for their 19th annual convention.But it will be business before pleasure. The first two days will be filled with business meetings. Starting Wednesday, May 8, workshops begin. And NSDP members will choose from over 300 arts and crafts classes.

Event chair Sharon Thurman of Salt Lake said, "We used to think of it (decorative painting) as tole painting, but that refers only to painting on metal surfaces." She added that decorative painters create art on almost any surface with a variety of media.

There will be workshops in such categories as animals and birds, flowers, folk art, fruit and vegetables, landscapes, people, rosemaling, seasonal art, still life and theory.

Attendees can go on a painting safari, as Mona Bateson teaches how to paint wild birds and animals on wooden bracelets. Or they might prefer to decorate a porcelain rocking horse under the direction of Hazel Rimmasch. Or, they might feel patriotic and choose to put together and paint Kristen Birkeland's "patriotic bears." All three of these teachers are from Salt Lake City.

Other Utahns are among those slated to teach classes: Areta Bingham, Marie Cole, Juanita Denton, Jacque Illguth, Mona Peterson, Londi Rowley and Michelle Walton.

Artist Rimmasch has been a member of NSDP for 10 years. She has attended and taught at seven national conventions.

She said that society members interested in teaching workshops at this annual convention must submit up to three projects to the NSDP around the end of August. "They are juried in October and teachers who have been selected are notified by November. The workshops are taught in the spring."

She added that workshops are limited to 25 students. "Each teacher must supply the project piece, materials and written instructions. Aphotograph of the artwork must also be available to the participants so they can finish the project at home if necessary.

Each teacher decides on the cost of his or her workshop.

"You don't make much money as the result of the workshop," Rimmasch said. "You make a very minimal wage, but the pay is great because the experience is so fulfilling."

When asked if students are required to use much creativity, she said that it depends on the teacher. "I tell them, `don't be a slave to my pattern.' I believe that they need to put their own personality in their work."

She pointed out that although someone might initially copy a certain pattern or style, creative artists start exploring and changing the pattern to create more individualistic styles.

Although it's an honor for Salt Lake to host this convention, it also requires an incredible amount of preparation. Just ask Thurman - if you can catch her.

"I ran for the position (this year's chair) and was elected by the local chapters and then had to be approved by the national board," she said.

And what are her responsibilities? "I'm basically the coordinator of hosting the national society's convention."

She said that the actual planning for this year's convention started a little over a year ago. Working with her are 11 executive board committee members and 16 secondary committee chairs - all of whom are from Utah.

"My committee and I supply the ideas, theme, art work, publicity, leg work, etc." she said that this year, Patricia McKean of Salt Lake heads the committee to select the classes being offered.

Thurman joined NSPD nine years ago. She and three other women own a business called The Decorated Room. Working mainly through interior decorators, they go into homes, offices and churches to "paint on about anything - furniture, walls, floors, ceilings, fireplaces."

She said the theme of the show will be reinforced with wreaths showing images from the various seasons of the year - pumpkins, Easter eggs, Santa Claus, Valentines Day, etc.

Local decorative painter Michelle Walton designed the wreath for the cover of the convention booklet plus drew all the illustrations inside. She also spent an entire month painting a large wreath on fabric, adding seasonal flowers, vegetables and motifs to the images mentioned above. Seven other local members of NSDP helped her with the painting.

When they finished, they turned it over to Gale Muir of Salt Lake for quilting.

Muir started the project the first of March. And she had to work on it day and night in order to finish it in time for the convention.

"I got up at 4:30 in the morning to work on it, interrupted the quilting to teach piano lessons (she has 34 piano students), and then worked on the quilt again. I averaged ten hours a day quilting."

She finally finished the quilt a little over a week ago.

Muir has had a lot of experiencing quilting.

"I started doing it for my daughters and their friends 20 years ago and have been quilting every since. I've completed over 200 quilts, and given all of them away (except for this commissioned convention quilt)."

The quilt will be used as a fund-raiser at the convention. For each dollar donation, a person (NSDP member or the general public) will receive a commemorative pencil and one ticket for the drawing. Chairman Thurman said, "One-third of the proceeds will go to the Primary Children's and Shriners hospitals.

"In addition, we have one large wreath (6 feet in diameter) painted on sheet metal by local NSDP members. It will be sold by sealed bid."

The public is invited to visit the Celebrate the Seasons Display and the Class Sales Display from Thursday through Saturday, May 9-11. Both displays are on the upper level of the Salt Palace. Decorative painters will display and sell their work to each other, to major retailers and to the general public. And many of the decorative painters in the booths will demonstrate their art.

Hours for the public are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday. Admission is $5 per person - any age.

Tickets are being pre-sold at $4 each by members of the Utah Guild of Heritage Artists, one of the local chapters of NSDP. For more information, call publicity chairman Eleanor Zimmerman at ZIMS, 268-2505.