Is education really what we lack?

It’s a work from home day for The Funky Little Chair – partly because it’s 20 below in Minnesota and partly because we have a skills unit coming up.

Next month, our mentorship group will tackle their first, “attached cushion ottoman” very exciting!

I’ve done the sample project, tweaked my instructions, recorded all the video, dumped that into iMovie for editing, took my still photos, started my class packet in Canva, air dropped said photos over to my Mac Book and . . .

Canva won’t import them. They are HEIC files and they need to be JPEG or PNG.

What is an HEIC file? And why did my devices suddenly decide to start using it? And how on earth do I convert these? Google, google, google. . .

UGH. Screw it.

That’s enough fun for one day. Let’s write a blog post instead.

This is how many days go . . .

When I started teaching, I thought okay, teaching is about knowing your craft, and having the skills and disposition to share it.

Okay, yes yes, that’s a start. . . but. . .

It seems there aren’t many places to teach, especially beyond the well-trod basics.

Okay! Okay, okay, okay!

Let’s put up a website. Let’s learn WordPress, and GoDaddy and WooCommerce and PayPal and SEO.

Gonna need a space and revenue. Let’s learn business models, and Square and how to build work tables and how to connect air hoses and how to organize our tools and paperwork.

Gonna need some students here! Let’s learn target marketing and social media and blogging and MailChimp.

(And then let’s run back to the workroom and generate some revenue. Clients, clients, clients)

Okay, yikes! Found a bigger audience, but uhhhhhhhhhh, wait a second, can’t sell local classes to non-local students. Oops.

Okay, let’s look at other education models. Flipped classrooms. Low residency programs. Let’s upgrade a bunch of our tech. Let’s learn iMovie and YouTube. Let’s see who around here has time and energy to help. Hello, Amy Oh! Hello Lindsay Orwig! Let’s see if there is a way to make education that works for a widely scattered audience.

Oh wait, HA! How do we pay for all this crap? Wasn’t there something about clients?

Let’s learn about affiliate links, and selling downloads. Let’s try to get monetized on YouTube. What are the options for a blog? For crowd funding?

Let’s google and google and google for the million non-upholstery things we don’t know how to do.

Photo by Pixabay on

Let’s do the horror inducing thing of putting together a sponsorship pitch and asking people for money.


And then, let’s run into a stupid, random file format we’ve never heard of.

Photo by Pixabay on

I swear, this post isn’t about whining. That horror inducing sponsorship pitch yielded a spectacular relationship with Fabric Supply Inc. – they’re currently supporting my frustrated efforts to figure out what an HEIC is.

But here’s the point I want to make: as an educator, I frequently see conversations about the overall lack of good learning resources, and I think we’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.

Teaching is only one small part of the challenge to make education available and effective.

You can’t teach hands on if you don’t have a space. You can’t teach online if you don’t have a platform. You can’t have either of those things if you can’t keep the bills paid. You won’t keep the bills paid if you don’t reach enough students. You won’t reach enough students without the time and tools. (And of course, students don’t learn something like upholstery from any one video or any one book or any one class – it’s a looooooooong learning curve.)

You have to build one heck of a house in order to educate.

And I don’t have to tell you this – many of you are self employed.

Were your upholstery skills enough to make your business successful? Or did you have to learn a cornucopia of other things to make that business go? If your local market was unfamiliar with custom upholstery, did you you have to educate them? Did you have to learn to run a business? And sell? And manage a website? How many platforms have you learned just to get work through your door?

Being a good upholsterer is a really significant accomplishment – and it generally isn’t enough.

The same thing is happening in education. Being a good upholsterer, even a good upholstery teacher, barely scratches the surface – Most of our educators are currently tasked with creating their own infrastructure. And that additional challenge is incredibly significant.

I don’t know what the answer is. Some folks might think it isn’t even a problem. There are always a few of us who will take on the multi-headed hydra of teaching.

Photo by Maria Pop on

But how much good will it do?

A great resource with no tools to travel isn’t that great of a resource, after all. The fantastic video you never found, the local Master without a classroom, the experienced teacher without a website, the great printed resource that’s sitting in a box because it was never digitized.

One of my favorite upholstery books is by local professional/instructor Steve Cone. A lot of you know him – he used to teach at Century College and has been a generous mentor to upholsterers across the country.

Steve Cone, author/instructor

Steve knows a LOT of stuff. And a lot of that stuff is in his book.

But his knowledge is so much more accessible because it connected with a publisher, a professional photographer, and a team of editors. Singer has made mass distribution of the content possible – you can find his book in most fabric stores and on the internet.

And we’re able to use that book in our local classes – it syncs up nicely with how we teach. We give it context and depth. We give it all the right tools and dedicated space. We recommend it as a supplemental resource for students to use outside of class.

Once upon a time, Steve even had a college to teach in, and trade shows to speak at, and an upholstery magazine to write for. So many ways for his knowledge to travel. So many houses he didn’t have to build.

If you take away the classroom, the trade shows, if you take away the publisher, the editor, the photographer, all the stores who sell the book, the websites that help it be found, the hands-on teacher to translate it . . . Now what’s the value of Steve’s vast knowledge? Assuming he is willing to teach, even assuming he’s willing to sit down and document all the wonderful things he knows . . . How much good can it now do without the legs to travel?

We have an infrastructure issue.

We can’t just focus on educating better without considering how to make that education visible, accessible, distributable and sustainable. We HAVE the knowledgeable people. We HAVE the big hearted teachers. We HAVE people interested in learning.

What we lack are the tools to weave it all together.

I’m thinking today of a friend in California you may or may not know – Louise Cornick is the driving force behind Upholstery Education, which has brought to market such tutors as Gareth Rees, Armand Verdier, and Bruno Lopez. You may have never heard of her, but she is unquestionably the reason you have potential access to training with these traditional masters – none of them could teach here until Louise built the house. The instructors on her roster may have the name recognition and skills, but her less visible contribution is incredibly valuable. Incredibly necessary. Teaching is never just about the teacher. How do cultivate more opportunities to build good things together?

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