Carreg Cennen Castle
If any of you know my story, you know that I’ve been upholstering for a LONG time. However, upholsterers’ years are kind of like dog years. I’m not sure if I’m comparing this correctly, but here’s the lowdown. Here in the US we call ourselves upholsterers, but in reality we’re mostly fiddling around with modern materials and foam to mimic how a piece of furniture was created in a factory. A Master Upholsterer is so much more. In the UK, and around Europe, upholstery is an artisan craft that is only learned through years and years of training and apprenticeship.To give you a startling realistic idea of the intensity of the work involved, here’s a bit of a interview from PRWeb.com about Plumb’s Upholstery in Lancashire, UK.
What do doctors and professional upholsterers have in common? On average, it takes 8 years to become a doctor and a total of 8 to become a master of upholstery.
A family business, Plumbs employs 300 skilled craftsmen and women as well as an extensive network of over a hundred master upholsterers nationwide.
Plumbs ensure that its craftsmen are experts in their field. They also work hard to keep the traditional craftsmanship of reupholstery alive. Becoming a qualified upholsterer is no easy task, and it can take many years to become a master of this craft. There are no set entry requirements, but experience is desirable when becoming an upholsterer.
Entrants can opt to take a number of ABC or City and Guilds qualifications or learn the craft as part of a HND, foundation degree or university degree. Prospective upholsterers can also undertake lengthy apprenticeships offering essential experience.
Aside from this, it takes many years to become a certified Master of Upholstery. Masters of this craft are considered artisans, and have a superior level of technical ability that comes from years of experience. Plumbs actively seek out these gifted craftsmen.
Eight years PEOPLE!!! And you thought you could upholster a chair perfectly in one six week class, or three day workshop??!!! We’d like to think so, but it just isn’t possible. Any classes that you’re taking here or almost anywhere around the United States are just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to this craft. More than a few times I hear my students tell me up front that they’re perfectionists and they will not make any mistakes, thus no need to re-do. Ha!!! First of all, contrary to what I struggled with for many years, being a perfectionist is not a badge of honor. In fact, it’s extremely limiting. I won’t go into that right now, but that subject deserves another blog post.
Back to traditional upholstery–this is one tricky little skill to master. It’s knowing the technical aspects and having the tactile and hand eye coordination to sculpt a comfortable, sturdy, beautiful piece of furniture with webbing, springs, burlap, or hessian, horsehair, cotton wadding (padding), finer horsehair, muslin, and finally a top fabric. Not only that, but you need problem solving skills, improvisation skills, an understanding of joinery, and more. DIY-ers may say they want to learn how to do it, but when it comes to the ‘roll up your sleeves and get dirty’ actuality of it, I’ve seen very few takers. One ‘taker’ I have seen is my upholstery BFF from Chicago, Paul. He came to my Bootcamp last February wanting to learn how to upholster with foam. He casually told me that he had spent three summers in Wales learning traditional upholstery techniques. Whuuuuuuu??? Why on earth did he want to come to my class and learn how to pad with foam? Well, he just wants to know everything there is to know about upholstery, traditional and modern. As I got to know this like minded pal, and witnessed his substantial upholstery skills, I thought, “I want what he’s got!” Long story short–I’M GOING TO THE TRADITIONAL UPHOLSTERY WORKSHOP IN WALES!!! I always wanted to go on a business trip, and this will be a doozy!. Paul raved about Liz, the owner and teacher at the Traditional Upholstery Workshop in the beautiful, picturesque rolling hills of Carmarthenshire, Wales. After hearing the stories and seeing the pictures, I couldn’t NOT do it.
I’ll visit Wimbledon before the finals (you know my love affair with professional tennis and Roger Federer), investigate London, maybe visit some of my Upholstery Club friends in London, and then head on down to Wales. I’ll have one full week of traditional upholstery madness, a weekend break (castle watching), another week of intense deep diamond tufting with horsehair stuffing, and then another week of free summertime adventure. I’m torn between a side trip to Paris, or Ireland.
So how does this affect you, dear readers? When I get back, I’ll be hot to teach you some of the skills I’ve been doing for two decades, but now I’ll be doing them with fresh, new resolve. We’ll be getting down and getting dirty with spring tying, horsehair padding, bridle stitches and more. Oh! I just can’t wait to share this with you, as well as all the other swingin’, artsy inspiration I’ll absorb.
But, until then, there’s still lots of work going on in my studio. New classes to be scheduled, a little redecorating, new outside awnings and more! Bootcamp starts tomorrow!