Apples and oranges . . .

I’m home after a busy week in Birmingham, helping out at Design Industry by Grant Trick.

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It’s always eye-opening to be there, and see a business  so completely different from my own.

My focus now is education. But as a professional, my target market has been reupholstery for the retail client – sofas, chairs, cushions etc. No designers. Nothing from scratch. Invest in what you have, or rescue something wonderful, that was my message.

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Grant works to the trade only, no retail customers. He creates a lot of custom furniture – very large, very unique, very decadent. He does homes, but also restaurants and other public spaces.

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He’s very passionate about good design and tries to get me fired up about it, too.

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Alas, the truth is, I’m not particularly passionate about design.

Mostly, I just think homes should be comfortable, and we should throw less furniture away.

But Grant is an inspiring force, and he certainly got me thinking . . . He speaks animatedly about the need for professional, design-forward upholstery work – and he’s quite right.

If consumers see only old-fashioned work, they’ll naturally conclude that reupholstery is an old fashioned option.

This is something we forget, I think, in our enthusiasm for preservation and restoration. . . it’s equally imperative that we communicate custom upholstery as a viable option for modern, design-forward homes.

And by WE, I mean WE as a community. None of us can be responsible for communicating EVERYTHING, after all . . .

We like to fight about what is best in upholstery: this or that, apples or oranges. But the truth is, we need apples AND oranges. We need a whole produce section. Restoration AND innovation. Big AND small. Retail AND trade only.

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I couldn’t do Grant’s job. I couldn’t appease that part of the market. I frankly wouldn’t want to try. So I’m glad he’s there, representing upholstery like a rockstar, bringing this craft to the front lines of luxury design. I am glad he inspires me to look through a different lens.

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And I think it’s important what I do, encouraging reupholstery as an option, creating visibility and appreciation  through education, helping aspiring professionals do their best work. I hope I inspire Grant to look from a different angle, too.

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But I don’t think Grant should change his business to retail reupholstery or education, and I didn’t race home to compete in the luxury design market.

We’re each doing the things we’re excited to do, we’re making the contributions we feel passionate about making.

We’re bringing upholstery to two very, very different markets.

As we fight for the future of professional upholstery, homogenous is probably the worst thing we could  be. Consumer tastes are hardly one-size-fits-all – we need an industry as colorful and varied as the market around us.

So when someone brings a different flavor to the table, say hey, THANKS!!  Thanks for being over there, doing what you’re doing!!! That’s pretty great!!!! I’m glad we do this differently!!

For example . . .

Thank you for showing the world that “dated” furniture can be reimagined into something wild, wonderful, and bold.

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“Gabrielle” by Felix Hart

Thank you for understanding a niche –  and then meeting it so well that everyone takes notice

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Carly Melancon, Desert Canary Design

Thank you for working to bring more natural products to the upholstery market, for bringing our trade into the larger, louder discussion of circular design.

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Process shot by Carla Pyle, Natural Upholstery

Thank you for fighting to preserve and share our most time-honored techniques, and for knowing how to rescue and restore our most vulnerable treasures.

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Bruno Paulin-Lopez, instructor Upholstery Education

Thank you for rocking at automotive upholstery!

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Manda Marie Upholstery, LLC

Thank you for rocking at marine upholstery!

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Josh Nance, California

Thank you for rocking at commercial upholstery!!

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MR Services, Minnesota

Thank you for working daily to make our community more visible and connected through social media.

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A Chick and a Chair, delivering a weekly shout-out

We need young  people with energy, ingenuity and tech savvy. We need experienced people, with skills and knowledge and wisdom.

Not one or the other – BOTH.

And when they connect? LOOK OUT!!!

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Dennis Locke and Ragne Smith – go Texas!

We need people excited to connect with artists, with architects, with weavers, with woodworkers, with welders, with drapery makers, with designers, with students, with EVERYONE .

Professional upholstery is so much stronger and more visible as a diverse community. We’re relevant to more consumers. We’re connected to more potential partners.

We’re so many more mirrors, shining brilliantly in different directions.

architecture building daylight glass panesSo whatever you’re doing? Do it with pride. Do it with integrity. Be AMAZING. Reach the consumers you are uniquely qualified to reach.

And if your upholstery neighbor is rocking a different flavor of awesome?

Hand them a high-five and a hat – Because the party just got a little better for everyone.

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16 thoughts on “Apples and oranges . . .

  1. Excellent Cynthia !! I really enjoyed your view on the vast nature of upholstery and how it can be different and we still are connected in our own profession. Thank you for all your insight and hard work In advancing upholstery education.

    1. I had a really great mentor to model <3 Thank you for all you've done to inspire and educate upholsterers in the U.S.
      Cynthia

  2. Hi, Janice Owens here, small upholster in Memphis, Tn. Seeking training where ever I can get it. I was catching a Greyhound bus to St.Louis twice a month. Found a shop here in Memphis who allowed me to hang around thier shop picking up tips & techniques. I crave training and want to put out QUALITY work. I’m a caregiver for my husband of 39 years due to early stages of dementia and now kidney cancer. Upholstery is my saving grace my escape my refuge. Do you have tapes or training classes in different cities?..Love all of your work. Thanks, Janice Owens
    Janiceowens2014@gmail.com
    P.S. upholstery is in my soul💕

    1. Check out her (the funky little chair) videos on youtube.com They are outstanding and so much information. It’s a great place to start for people. I go there when I forget how to do a blind stitch on a piece of furniture.

      1. Wonderful, thank you for the endorsement, I’m so glad you’re finding our channel helpful! Hello from Minneapolis!
        Cynthia

    2. Oh my dear, you have a lot on your plate!!!! I don’t know of any training in Memphis specifically – the closest I come is Workroom Tech in Tryon, North Carolina. I’ll be there in March and would be happy to see you if the dates work for your work/life balance. In addition to our free YouTube channel, I will have a couple courses coming out soon through The Workroom Channel on coil spring systems. If you go to thefunkylittlechair.com and sign up for our newsletter, that’s probably the best way to stay informed. I’m so happy you found a shop that will let you in – there’s so much to be learned in a shop that’s hard to learn in a classroom. And it can be really, really hard to get a foot in those doors. (as I’m guessing you already know!)
      You may also want to follow blogger Cobani Bleu who is down in your area – I met her at Workroom Tech and she’s pretty darn informed on what’s available for education and training, and her blogs are very well written!
      It’s a messy landscape, but I do wish you luck finding the tools and resources you need to keep learning! Thanks for checking out the blog, and I hope someday our paths cross 🙂
      Best,
      Cynthia

  3. I love reading your blog. Thank YOU for inspiring all of us and being an amazing cheerleader for everyone in the upholstery industry. The world is a better place because of you!

    1. Girl, you inspire me – I’m amazed at how much you and others are learning and accomplishing without ready access to hands-on education. It makes me want to find better ways to support those efforts . . .
      Hugs,
      Cynthia

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