Rikki Bommersbach laughs about the fact that most people pronounce the name of her business wrong: usually for sure the first time and often over and over.
But the name Konnex (pronounced kuh-nex, not kawn-ex) is easy if you just know its mission.
“It’s all about connecting,” Bommersbach explained. “Connecting that painter with their inner creativity, even if they don’t think they have it. Connecting friends and family. And I love connecting with my artists.”
Bommersbach, a self-taught artist, founded Konnex in Minnesota several years ago as a business that offered painting experiences for people of all abilities. Bommersbach relocated to Washington in 2017 and brought her business with her.
“I was really excited about the area especially because the art scene on the West Coast seemed to be flourishing,” Bommersbach said.
At one point, Bommersbach actually owned two physical Konnex locations in Minnesota, where customers come in to paint. Since moving to Washington, though, Bommersbach exclusively offers painting parties within a two-hour driving radius of her home in Lacey. The parties can be in homes, businesses or at partner locations but she said she has no intentions of owning a physical location in the future.
“When I moved here, I wanted to be 100-percent mobile,” Bommersbach said.
Konnex offers several painting as well as paint and sip classes throughout the South Puget Sound. While the company has gained popularity for its social events, Bommersbach said they also offer private painting parties. Besides social events, the parties have become popular for corporate events such as retreats and team building because the experience requires people to become vulnerable.
“You get to be in a really special place with people,” Bommersbach said. “You don’t usually get to make mistakes in your daily life but we’re here to help you make mistakes into something beautiful because creativity doesn’t happen if you’re too scared to make a mistake.”
In Southwest Washington, Konnex offers sip and paint events at partner venues Scatter Creek Winery in Tenino and Flood Valley Brewing Craft Taphouse in Chehalis. Bommersbach said partner venues have a regular rotation of painting events scheduled, with the hopes that some painters may come back again and again.
“I really work on a symbiotic relationship where the people know we’re going to be there,” Bommersbach said.
While there are no minimum or maximum group sizes for parties, Bommersbach said the typical paint night will have anywhere from 10 to 30 painters. Painting classes include everything from the traditional canvas paintings, common at many different paint and sip experiences, to painted glassware and wooden items. Bommersbach said in the new year she hopes to add fabric arts, such as weaving, to their offerings.
Classes are guided by Bommersbach and often someone else from her team of four artists. While they show class participants how to make a beautiful finished product, creativity is encouraged and celebrated.
“I like to make things and when I get to make things it’s always a good time and when you get to share with others, it’s even better,” said Christiana Blomgren, one of the artists who works with Konnex.
At a recent event at Flood Valley Brewing in Chehalis, Tambra Hobbs of Chehalis enjoyed the frosty pint included in her admission fee and worked on painting wooden Christmas ornaments. Hobbs moved to Chehalis a year ago and a paint and sip event was the first thing she and her neighbor did together after meeting.
“Just going out and it might sound bad but I think the drink make it more relaxing, it makes me feel more creative,” she said.
Flood Valley owner Chris Rohr said he first scheduled a Konnex sip and paint event after meeting Bommersbach at a young professionals networking event. Rohr said he thought it sounded like a good fit for his goal of breaking the stereotype that his taphouse is just another bar.
“We’re a taphouse and we serve craft beer,” Rohr said. “Craft beer is about creating a place for community rather than a place to get hammered.”