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For This Entrepreneur, Velvet Elvis Paintings Were Just the Start

A Portland painter finds her niche with customized paintings on the 1970s' favorite fuzzy fabric.

This story appears in the May 2011 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
Jennifer Kenworth
Jennifer Kenworth
Photo © Rick Dahms

Entrepreneur: Jennifer Kenworth, aka Juanita, the velvet painter.

"AHA" Moment: In 1999, when Kenworth did a ceramics residency at a pottery studio in Gerlach, Nev., a local had a very specific request: a painting of Elvis on the cross--on velvet. Though resources were scarce in the tiny desert town, Kenworth was up for the challenge. Working from an image of Elvis in a library book, she used acrylic paint and a box of velvet scraps to create a painting she sold for $50 and a bottle of tequila.

What Possessed Her: After her residency, Kenworth moved back to Portland, Ore., and continued to paint Elvis on velvet. But she soon got bored with the King, and opted to paint other random ideas--beer cans, Star Trek characters, Mr. T. After years of showing in art shows and fairs, last year she got consistent requests for custom velvet paintings, so she made those her focus.

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