Kim has owned and operated Kim's Upholstery Shop in her home town of W. Lafayette, Indiana since 1999. After graduating from the Defense Language Institute and serving in the US Army, she returned to Indiana to live and work. Taught by her grandmother to fashion custom slipcovers, she loved hearing the stories behind people's furniture and why the individual chair or sofa meant so much to them. It motivated her to help people make their family heirlooms beautiful to use by expanding into the field of furniture upholstery. It turned out to be a vocation she really loved, and which had the added benefit of allowing her to be with her 4 children at home while working to support them.
As her business grew, she moved the workshop to a building just 2 miles from the house she grew up in, and has been successfully in operation at that location for 16 years. Her main focus is on residential upholstery, slipcovers, and commercial seating.
Kim taught cushion construction for Slipcover America from 2006 to 2009. Seeing a need for further peer support in the field of upholstery, she organized the Upholstery Fair in 2010, a 3-day conference with classes taught by prominent upholsterers and soft furnishers, and attended by tradespeople from around the US and Canada.
Susan Sifakis is the owner of SUESEWN based in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Sewing was always something that Sue has done, beginning in her home economics class in high school and even sewing matching dresses for her daughters as they were growing up. But, Susan’s career in the window coverings industry began in 1995 when she attended Cheryl Strickland’s week-long class on how to run a drapery business. Now, SUESEWN focuses on draperies, slipcovers, and upholstery, but Susan said she is motivated to do anything that might require a needle and thread because she enjoys the challenge of learning new concepts and techniques.
In 2006, Susan joined the WCAA and over the years has served as the President, Vice President, and Secretary of the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter. Now, she brings her talents to the NUA.
Why volunteer for NUA?: Through out the years, people have shared and given their knowledge of the business to me, so I like to return the gift of giving back to others in the business.
What is your level of experience with upholstery?: I'm a professional with 26 years in the soft furnishing business, a mix of draperies, slipcovering, and upholstery.
What brought you to upholstery?: It was for myself need. I had furniture I wanted to change and knew I could do it.
TEAM MemberHaving grown up in the furniture industry, it's all Andrew knows and is truly a passion. The trade taught Andrew to have a strong work ethic, high attention to detail, and the desire to please every client. In his work, Andrew restores yesterday's furniture for today's world and creates beautiful soft furnishings and beds for those who seek quality materials and have a custom design.
While not at work he enjoys time with his wife of 13 years and 3 kids, being involved with the youth at his local church, and outdoor activities.
Why did you want to volunteer for the NUA?: To further promote the Upholstery trade and grow
What is your level of experience in upholstery?: Complete Furniture Upholsterer
What brought you to upholstery?: Family Business and a passion for restoring tired furniture.
Grace Reff is the Development Director at Peters Valley School of Craft, a national center for fine craft education in New Jersey. She has 10 years of experience in arts nonprofit development roles, including at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC); the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design (NC); and Penland School of Craft (NC). She holds a Masters in Decorative Arts, Material Culture, and Design History from Bard, where she completed her thesis on a butaque chair design.
Grace is currently a bright-eyed student of upholstery; she took her first class with Mike Mascelli in early 2020. She is enthusiastic about thinking through how we can support and advance the future of the upholstery field in the United States through education, advocacy, and building community.
Harmony is a corporate professional by day and upholsterer by night. She holds a Bachelors in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and currently manages the pricing strategy for a multinational company. When she's not developing pricing strategy or presenting to a room full of C-suite professionals, Harmony is growing her upholstery business or volunteering for the National Upholstery Association.
In her downtime, Harmony enjoys knitting, yoga, visiting museums, and reading books about upholstery and furniture restoration.
Why did you want to volunteer for the NUA?: As a new upholsterer, I was looking for a place to find information and to network with others in the trade. Volunteering was an excellent way for me to meet people in the association – and I’ve made a few friends along the way!
What is your level of experience in upholstery?: I’ve been upholstering since early 2018. I officially launched my upholstery business in 2020 when I started taking on paying clients. I originally joined the NUA on a student membership and I’m still on my learning journey - I don’t think you ever stop being a student in a skilled trade.
What brought you to upholstery?: I have an obsession with 18th and 19th century furniture, amplified in part because my spouse is a period furniture maker. My very first upholstered piece was a Federal-style reproduction lolling chair he built. From there, I gained additional experience upholstering period reproduction furniture crafted by students at a woodworking school near me. I live in the Boston metro area, home to a rich history of American furniture with many surviving examples dating back as early as the 17th century. As a result, it seemed natural to choose traditional upholstery as my specialty. My favorite part of the process is tearing down an antique piece and finding clues about its origins – like previous tack holes, repairs, or even early fabric remnants!
Audrey owns Sewing Den LLC in Ashburn, Virginia. Providing both upholstery and workroom services, she enjoys the variety in her shop. Audrey has a degree in Music Education from Shepherd College and spent ten years as a National Park Ranger (complete with the Smokey the Bear hat!) at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts as well as two other DC area National Parks. She’s a mother of two young boys and wife to a tall Ranger husband.
After college, Lewis had the opportunity to apprentice under a Master Upholsterer, traditionally trained in Germany. He quickly progressed and eventually managed the upholstery department. He then apprenticed in the area’s oldest auto upholstery company, learning auto upholstery and designing custom interiors for show cars.
The next chapter was performing over 1,000 upholstery repairs a year while working for the largest furniture retailer in the country. This job included working closely with the Engineering Departments of furniture manufacturers to improve their products. It was during this period that he joined both the National Guild of Master Upholsterers and the National Association of Professional Upholsterers; and wrote articles for both of their publications.
Lewis then started to work for the manufacturers of upholstered furniture in various positions of product development engineering, management and furniture design, while along the way inventing and receiving patents. Following a life-long pursuit of knowledge, he has amassed a furniture library of over 3,000 books and probably the best collection on upholstery.
Jeanne Henzel Swartz
Webinar TEAM Member
Jeanne is a fine artist and upholsterer working in Northern California. She opened her first business specializing in slipcovers in 1999. Since then she has broadened the business's horizons into modern and traditional upholstery, window treatments, and large scale upholstered sculpture/seating for west coast museums.
Why did you want to volunteer for the NUA?: I'm excited to help move the industry forward and encourage our members work smarter and better!
What is your level of experience in upholstery? 21 years
What brought you to upholstery?: Prior to becoming self-employed, I was as a costume designer and technician for high level professional theaters. I was making slipcovers for a colleague who ran a side hustle. In 1999, I had been laid off from my job in the first dot-com bust and my friend with the slipcover business asked me if I wanted to buy it because she was moving to New York City to get her Masters degree. I said yes and the rest is history. Though I started out specializing in slipcovers, the leap to upholstery and curtains was easy to make thanks to my training in sculpture and the theatre, where I was always being called to make or invent new three dimensional forms.
Amber M. Robertson
Events Committee Lead, CWC Lead, Merchandise Program Manager
Loving life in beautiful Montana, Amber is a certified furniture hoarder with a PHD in stuffing 3 pounds of stuff in a 2-pound bag and has an unparalleled ability to smack her fingers with her nail hammer.
Why did you want to volunteer for the NUA?: I believe in the mission of the organization and want to invest in the future of our industry. I want to help give new upholsterers the shortcuts I’ve learned and help them to get ahead in the industry.
What is your level of experience in upholstery? Full time professional with about 6 years experience.
What brought you to upholstery?: My Mom and Gram both did upholstery work as a hobby. I’m the first one who’s been able to make it a career.
Q2 2021 Volunteer of the Quarter Award
Monica Rhodes is the sole proprietor of Monday Wash Furniture in Chicago, IL. She has degrees in Anthropology and Southeast Asian Studies from the University of Michigan and a Masters’ Degree in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Monica worked in Thailand and Vietnam, on the Pacific islands of Saipan and Guam, and in refugee communities in Utica, NY, Long Beach and Los Angeles, CA and Chicago, IL before taking a necessary hiatus. When it came time to return to work, she surprised herself by choosing to rescue and reupholster discarded furniture. She has committed herself passionately to this mission, learning everything she can in every way she can imagine, and is excited to have this opportunity to support the NUA.
Why did you volunteer for the NUA?: I have benefitted so much from my membership in the NUA that I feel it is right to do what I can to contribute to the Association and its mission.
What is your level of experience in upholstery?: Professional in business for 3.5 years. I have much more experience writing, which is why I feel that writing is the best way for me to contribute to the NUA, right now, as I continue to gain experience as an upholsterer.
What brought you to upholstery?: One day, my husband and I were talking and he asked me: “If you could do anything in the world as your job, what would it be?” Before I even had a chance to think, the words “fix furniture” jumped out of my mouth. I began by re-imagining and restyling discarded furniture - which I still love to do - and gradually included custom upholstery as a part of my business.
Rachel Fletcher, Owner of Knox Upholstery in Knoxville, Tennessee, is globally respected in the upholstery trade. She is an instructor at the Custom Workroom Conference and administrator of the Professional Upholsterer’s Network, a global group of over 2,800 professional upholsterers. In January 2019, she joined a mini-think tank to help build what is now known as the National Upholstery Association (NUA). In May 2019, Rachel was elected President of the NUA, unanimously, by her peers. Under her leadership, the NUA has grown to 200+ members and provides robust educational offerings.
With a bachelor's degree in communications from Millikin University, her career before upholstery included marketing, advertising and promotional events. Rachel learned how to upholster while working as a theatrical Props Assistant at University of Tennessee - Knoxville. After falling in love with the trade she began her upholstery business out of her home in 2010.
Q1 2021 Volunteer of the Quarter Award
Lindsey has a BA in Advertising and MA in Technical Communication and currently works full time as technical writer for a software company. A life-long thrifter and lover of good craftmanship, she long-harbored a desire to learn how to reupholster furniture, collecting tools and books on the subject for years before finally taking the plunge and reupholstering her first chair in 2018.
She lives with her two kids, three cats, and one cat-like dog in West Texas.
Why did you want to volunteer for the NUA?: For the community and inspiration that comes with working with people who are doing what they love and passionate about the craft.
What is your level of experience in upholstery?: I'm a snail-paced, self-taught student--cobbling together a curriculum of online resources and books and learning as I go.
What brought you to upholstery?: I've been thrifting my entire life and wanted to save all of the beautifully made but well worn pieces I encountered on my hunts.
Social Media Manager
In 2009, Rhonda found an upholstery class through her local extension office in Wichita, Kansas. She worked on several pieces for her own home and found it wonderful to be able to restore and refurbish antique and vintage chairs. Rhonda and her family moved to Colorado and she continued to learn with upholstery education online. She started The Whimsical Chair in 2014.
Why did you want to volunteer for the NUA?: It’s important to me to support the upholstery industry. I have made some amazing friends this past year in the NUA.
What is your level of experience in upholstery?: I’ve been doing upholstery for 12 years. I started my business 7 years ago.
What brought you to upholstery: I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl. I have always loved beautiful furniture and whimsical textiles. It just made sense that I would love doing upholstery.
Carla owns Natural Upholstery based in Livingston, Montana. An obsessive explorer, she has worked as a wildlife biologist, textile artist, and upholsterer. She and her woodworker husband developed a line of mid-century style accent chairs before turning to restoration of existing furniture. Taking a cue from the generosity of her upholstery mentor, Carla teaches beginner workshops, and educates all levels in the use of natural & organic foundation materials in the modern method. In her mind, the trade stands as a captivating testament to our cultural history and holds infinite potential as a medium for artistic expression.