Blog

The latest news and blog posts from the National Upholstery Association.  All members can read and comment on blog posts.

Industry Partners and Educator members are invited to guest blog for the NUA twice a year. Contact us if you're interested. 

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  • November 05, 2022 3:40 AM | Laura Archer (Administrator)

    The National Upholstery Association attended the Custom Workroom Conference (CWC) for the first time last month. Our purpose for attending was to connect with upholsterers around the country to further our mission of increasing the health of the upholstery trade! 


    This year, the National Upholstery Association proudly sponsored a pre CWC trip to Colonial Williamsburg where three staff members—Leroy Graves, Tara Chicirda, and Gretchen Guidess— lead presentations on historic upholstery, soft furnishings and the preservation of historic furniture pieces.

    To see more photos, please visit our Facebook album! For more information on NUA sponsored events, become a member today. 

  • September 12, 2022 1:00 AM | Harmony Maraldo (Administrator)

    By Monica Rhodes, NUA Volunteer and Owner of Monday Wash Furniture

    An Interview with Glenn McAllister of Fortner Inc. on expanding and hiring within the evolving landscape of upholstery service, training and employment.

    Right now, upholstery is like a bag of chips we just keep shaking for a few more crumbs. – Cynthia Bleskachek, Master Upholsterer, Upholstery Educator, and Creator of the Funky Little Chair Upholstery Education Systems, on Instagram 8/28/22

    Once upon a time, that bag of chips was full. Back in the day, “reupholstering furniture was the norm,” explains Glenn McAllister, Project Manager at Fortner, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. “Then the influx of furniture from overseas changed the landscape.”

    David Fortner began his upholstery business nearly 100 years ago, going from door to door to offer his services. David, who was unable to hear, taught his son, David Fortner, Jr., the art of upholstery and the two worked side-by-side in their garage with David Jr. serving as the “mouthpiece” for the business. The elder David was otherwise employed, at first, and the younger still in school, but it was soon clear that there was sufficient demand for the pair to take on upholstery full-time. Today, Fortner, Inc., which remains a family owned and run business, thrives as one of the largest upholstery operations in the State of Ohio. Housed in a 60,000 square foot space in a 240,000 square foot complex dubbed “The Fort”, Fortner, Inc. employs “a team of master craftsmen to build and upholster pieces the old-fashioned way” honoring the “same core values since day one”: real furniture, good people, and focus on the client. Fortner’s website details the above and proudly declares the following: "While we’ve evolved throughout the years and now serve some of the biggest names in business across the country alongside our residential clients, one thing hasn’t changed: We’re still family-owned and -operated - guided by the vision of David (Sr.)’s great grandchildren."

    For Glenn McAllister, Project Manager at Fortner, joining the family and joining the business went hand- in-hand. Glenn began dating David Jr.’s oldest daughter, Sharon, in high school and it wasn’t long before he started doing deliveries. He continued to help out around the shop through college, eventually apprenticing under his soon-to-be father-in-law and developing a lasting love for upholstery work as well for Sharon and her family. When Glenn and Sharon became engaged, their discussion about the future naturally included staying with the business. Their son, Justin, became an upholsterer and now owns the company as well as the building complex which “leases iconic spaces to organizations of all sizes and specialities, from creative studios and local start-ups to retail businesses and large-scale manufacturing.” Glenn’s and Sharon’s daughter, Monica, oversees business development. And, on any given day, you are likely to find the couple’s grandchildren mowing the lawn around The Fort or tearing down in the shop.

    Fortner Inc. employs 41 people, just about half of whom have some degree of skill in upholstery and all of whom are considered part of “the family”. Staff retention is high with several employees in their third or fourth decade of employment, a few of them approaching retirement and leaving shoes to fill. Filling those shoes can be a bit of a challenge. Just as reupholstering was once the norm for consumers, the apprenticeship model was once the norm for education and succession within the trade. One became an upholsterer through years of intensive on-the-job training and then taught others in the same manner. There was high demand for reupholstery and, therefore, for skilled upholsterers - and there was supply. The bag of chips was full.

    But things change. Cultural, societal and economic norms shift. Expectations regarding education and the definition of success shift. People want things and they want them now. People move from job to job, sometimes a dozen jobs in a lifetime, and move often. Moving furniture starts to feel cumbersome. It seems to make more sense to purchase transient furniture. To discard it and start over when you move. To discard it and buy more when you want a change. Heirloom furniture gives way to “fast furniture” largely manufactured and shipped from overseas. Our landfills rise as expectations and demands regarding quality fall. Welcome to the new normal.

    Within the new normal, the traditional apprentice model is adrift and possibly drowning. In past decades, without the benefit of formal training academies (such as exist in Europe), upholsterers in the United States learned the craft by apprenticing in shops. While demand for reupholstery was strong and steady, shops could support this model. As demand for reupholstery services declined over the years, many upholsterers aged out without successors and shuttered their businesses. Then, the pendulum swung and demand began to increase again for reasons ranging from a reemerging longing for quality to concerns about environmental sustainability. (Recently, the Covid-19 lockdowns gave that pendulum an extra shove as so many people reconsidered their living spaces.) As a result of these shifts, the upholstery shops that remain are fewer and farther between: some struggling to stay afloat, some (particularly solo enterprises) overwhelmed by the demands of the now increasing number of consumers who value and desire reupholstery services, some pivoting to new business models – and many encountering real challenges to making the apprenticeship model work. Apprenticing new employees is seriously time and resource intensive. It may feel like an unwise choice, or even an impossible burden. So how are these shops to adapt and stay viable? To grow? To continue through the next generation?

    Fortner, Inc. is among the shops that have pivoted and adapted with great success. As reliance on residential reupholstery became less and less sustainable, Fortner started reaching out to corporations, hospitality, etc. “That resulted in a pretty big stream of business,” says Glenn McAllister who describes business at Fortner as “a three-legged stool” comprising traditional reupholstery, custom upholstery of new pieces, and production upholstery/reupholstery. “Commercial custom (for example, producing dozens of the same item over and over again for corporate spaces) is the real bread and butter now,” he says. “Reupholstery is about 25% of what we do currently, and the rest is commercial and custom.” This shift has necessitated an increase in new hires to accommodate production requirements. At the same time, the reupholstery staff is aging. “I would love to have two more quality upholsterers to support, and eventually replace, our older upholsterers,” says Glenn.

    Fortner has employed the apprenticeship model to meet this need with varying results. The shop is divided into three sections, one for each of the legs of the three-legged stool. “Production does 50-75 pieces at a time for casinos, restaurants, etc. and requires a more limited skill level,” says Glenn. “We’re constantly working with what we’ve got so, occasionally, if we have an emergency, we may move someone over from production and teach them what we need them to do in reupholstery.” This is accomplished through one-on-one mentorship. It’s difficult to anticipate emergencies, so “we put together an apprenticeship program five or so years ago with one upholsterer who was willing to teach four men from the production side.” Of the 4 starters, only 2 became members of the team. “It’s difficult to identify the right teacher and the right students and it’s very time intensive and costly,” Glenn explains. The teacher sacrifices time otherwise dedicated to upholstery work to accommodate the instruction schedule, and there’s no guarantee it will pay off.

    A more successful approach, for Fortner, has been to hire a recruiter who scours the country to identify and entice already skilled upholsterers to relocate to Columbus, OH. “We’re looking for more than an upholsterer, we’re looking for a good fit,” says Glenn. Every member of the team is unique and brings something to the table. Last year, the recruiter found someone in Florida who had a lot of experience in custom within the yachting industry who was looking to move.” The recruiter also identified a husband-and-wife upholstery team who wished to relocate from North Carolina. “It turns out they have a son who may want to come out and work for us as well,” says Glenn. “There’s always room for another set of skilled hands.”

    When asked what is needed to support growth and development of businesses like Fortner, Inc., Glenn McAllister points to creating and strengthening connections amongst upholsterers in different geographic locations. Indeed, linkages amongst dispersed members of the upholstering community are key in today’s world and are a source of hope for the future in terms of both education and employment. There are, in fact, quite a few people working as, or training in various ways to become, upholsterers in the United States now. Many of these are “solopreneurs” who have scoured books and the internet, sought out mentors, observed webinars, taken classes when and where they could find them, and practiced, practiced, practiced to the point of achieving success. More and more, these successful entrepreneurs are reaching out to teach not only “newbies”, but also one another, as a gesture of support as well as a revenue generating aspect of their business models.

    Cynthia Bleskachek (quoted above), who is a founding member of the National Upholstery Association, has striven mightily to develop and realize her vision of an apprenticeship network that works in today’s environment. As part of this endeavor, she has created incredibly organized and well-supported training systems (including detailed written and video support materials and one-on-one coaching from instructors) that have been implemented via the internet, and in person. Kim and Bill Chagnon, of Kim’s Upholstery Education, have created and implemented an upholstery education membership group through which those seeking to learn can avail themselves of myriad instructional videos and receive direct support and advice via Zoom and community forums, as well as participate in workshops hosted around the country. Talented solo upholsterers like Rhonda Shanahan (The Whimsical Chair), Nancy Sargent (Cobani Bleu) and Claire Wright (Cosecha Textiles) are teaching in their own shops and/or in host shops across the country. Additionally, some upholsterers are forming/joining business support and accountability groups through which they share knowledge and expertise with one another on a variety of levels. (I am fortunate to belong to an excellent group led by Michelle Minner of Blue Roof Cabin.) The landscape has changed, but it has certainly not gone fallow; It is actually quite robust and, little-by-little, coalescing to form a new normal that is, perhaps, not so bad.

    “People are connected and working together,” notes Cynthia Bleskachek in a follow up post on Instagram (8/28/22). “…upholsterers were historically difficult to find and even harder to engage. Not anymore – they are linked and discoverable, a far more fertile landscape for change to take root.” The National Upholstery Association has proven to be an invaluable resource for facilitating such linkages. And I can certainly envision a scenario in which shop owners currently stretched too thin to apprentice new employees might be able to make that leap by incorporating some of the incredible training resources that have emerged recently, including those mentioned above. Today’s upholstery community is shaking things up - and those crumbs that have shaken out just may form a trail that can be followed. A new, as yet emerging, path of training leading to employability that prepares budding upholsterers to join the trade through multiple linkages with more established upholsterers, including enthusiastic educators - and excellent shops eager to hire, like Fortner Inc. in Columbus, Ohio.

    Wouldn’t that be all that and a bag of chips?

    Fortner, Inc. Recruiting Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWEMff-n6Nk

    Website: www.fortnerinc.com


  • August 15, 2022 1:00 AM | Harmony Maraldo (Administrator)

    By Rachel Fletcher

    The National Upholstery Association was invited to show at the Furniture Manufacturing Expo (FME) for the first time this past July. Our purpose for attending was to connect the gap between the upholstery world, manufacturers, and software makers.

    This year, the National Upholstery Association proudly sponsored the Upholstery Track educational program at the event. Both Lewis Mabon and Carla Pyle taught seminars while Harmony Maraldo facilitated the panel discussion, "Continuing Upholstery Training." 

    Lewis Mabon offers a presentation in the Upholstery Track educational program.
    Lewis Mabon offers a presentation in the Upholstery Track educational program.

    Over the two day event we saw quite a few National Upholstery Association members: Marta Powers of MartaPOW LLC, Riana LeJeune and Justin Copeland of Repinned Upholstery, Laura Archer of Ladysmith Furniture and Carla Bluitt of Crest Leather. Booth hosts in attendance were: Lewis Mabon (Board Member), Keith Fuller (Board Member), Rachel Fletcher (Board Member), Carla Pyle (Past Board Member), Harmony Maraldo (President) and Leslie Hug (Volunteer).

    Marta Powers and Rachel Fletcher pause for a photo.
    Marta Powers and Rachel Fletcher pause for a photo.

    You can learn more about the FME here: https://www.furnituremanufacturingexpo.com

    Harmony Maraldo and Carla Pyle hold down the NUA booth at FME.
    Harmony Maraldo and Carla Pyle hold down the NUA booth at FME.

    The National Upholstery Association booth at FME 2022.
    The National Upholstery Association booth at FME 2022.

  • August 03, 2022 4:00 AM | Harmony Maraldo (Administrator)

    A two week upholstery class at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center - June 2022

    Taught by Tina Ortman of Sturdy Stitching Upholstery

    The Anderson Ranch Arts Center, located in Snowmass, Colorado offers workshops in furniture design, woodworking, ceramics, sculpture, digital design and fabrication, painting, printmaking and photography.


    Tina apprenticed at a shop in Anchorage, Alaska called "Alaskan Durable Products". She mentioned to her brother that she thought it was a silly name, but he countered with, “Durable is good in a company name." He came up with "Sturdy Stitching Upholstery" as the name of her business in 1993.

    Tina’s students this year had some, little and no experience:

    Michael learned how to sew and the importance of mocking up patterns in deck cloth to refine them for the real fabric. He has a wealth of knowledge about MCM pieces. We were able to smuggle his dog, Raj, into the studio on the last day to adorn his work.

    Marcy brought 3 pieces and diverse choices of fabric. She thought she'd name her new upholstery company "Wabi-Sabi Upholstery". I later learned it's a Japanese term for 'not perfect'. At a frustrating point, she considered chopping up her chair with an axe. She then gained confidence and got a job with an upholsterer back home!


    Janie completed two chairs and learned the importance of keeping cushion tops and bottoms lined up at the corners. If it’s not right at the corner, it will not improve if you keep going!


    Anne finally made cushions for the chaise lounge and McGuire chair she scavenged out of the Aspen dump about 15 years ago.


    Danette approached her Eastlake-like chair with her engineer precision. She wanted to learn to re-tie springs but her chair was already beautifully tied and had an intact traditional hog hair/burlap base. She made an ottoman frame and installed the coil springs in that piece instead.


    Sarah had the biggest challenge with her old vinyl covered chair that had gotten wet in the past and grown an enthusiastic colony of mold. Stripping, remediating mold, replacing rotten stretcher bars and refinishing wood slowed her down. She then did one of the most precise jobs of spring-tying I've ever seen a new upholsterer do!


    Patricia redesigned one arm of her barrel chair into an asymmetrical art piece. The Anderson Ranch Woodshop Coordinator, Karen, and intern, Angelo, worked tirelessly to build the framework to match Patricia's vision. She took it from there and came in early and stayed late to get it done. She was able to sew the mock-up of her cushion pattern and finished with her upholstery fabric just after the class ended.


    Laura is a steady and sure upholsterer who has done several chairs in the past. The smooth character of her fabric challenged her to make the base padding just as smooth.


    Angelo was the enthusiastic, cheerful intern. He found two dining chairs at the Aspen dump and upholstered them with samples he quilted from an old fabric book. He designed and digitized (his specialty) the class T-shirt logo "Always Be Knolling" using upholstery tools. You can learn all about Knolling by watching Tom Sach's 10 Bullets on YouTube.

    Group Photos

  • June 28, 2022 12:45 AM | Harmony Maraldo (Administrator)

    By Harmony Maraldo

    Thank you to all our members who completed our second annual Member Survey! Below is a summary of this year’s results.

    General Demographics

    The National Upholstery Association consists of Professionals, Educators, Industry Partners, Students, and Retirees of the upholstery trade. Our current mix of member levels is as follows:

    • 70% Professionals
    • 8% Educators
    • 5% Industry Partners
    • 14% Students
    • 3% Retirees
    Compared to last year, we saw a small uptick in the educator category.

    Our members overwhelmingly joined the NUA for educational and networking opportunities

    We saw similar results last year, so this is no surprise. The National Upholstery Association is working hard to expand our educational and network offerings.

    Some of our offerings include:

    • Quarterly Newsletter – Stay abreast of NUA community and industry news
    • Monthly Educational Webinars – On varying upholstery and business-related topics
    • Community Meetings – Meet your peers, ask questions, and join the discussion
    • Monthly Member Updates – New! Monthly update of upcoming NUA events and news
    • NUA Blog – Read stories about fellow members and industry experts
    • Annual Pricing Survey – see how your pricing matches up to other professionals in your area
    • Fire Regs Resources & FAQ – learn about the new law and how it may affect your business
    • Recommended Reading – book lists compiled by topic
    • Trade Show Representation – come say hi to our volunteers and Board members at our booth at FME and CWC this year. Sign up to join us on a field trip to Colonial Williamsburg while attending CWC!

    *Items marked in RED are available to members only

    This year we are also working to expand our Educator Directory and enhance our Recommended Reading page. Stay tuned for updates!

    The NUA receives high praise for our Webinars and Newsletters

    Our webinars are top-notch and available only to members. Join the webinars live (we usually have a Q&A at the end!) or catch the replay on demand. A list of past webinars can be found on our website (Members – please access on-demand webinars here).

    We love our Newsletters, too! Our curated content includes upcoming event updates, industry news, member spotlights, and more. Have some news about your business you want to share with the world? Read a great article you want to share? Send us an email to let us know and we’ll consider including it in our next publication!

    Member Discounts (still) rate lowest among our membership perks

    How embarrassing! We could cite a number of reasons why this benefit has been so difficult to implement, but instead of making excuses, we’re taking action. This year, we’re doubling-down on growing our relationships with our Industry Partners (IPs) – including vendors with whom our members do business.  We’re working on expanding our IP benefits, and we’ll be exhibiting at the Furniture Manufacturing Expo this year – schmoozing and networking with vendors on behalf of our members.

    We believe the NUA provides mutual benefit between our members and Industry Partners. We aim to highlight and promote our best partners, giving them an opportunity to market to a highly targeted audience. In return, we hope to snag exclusive offers for NUA members, not available anywhere else. If you are an Industry Partner and want a premium promotional spot on our website and on social media, please email us and we’ll gladly be in contact with you.

    When asked about additional benefits, our members were most interested in access to a regular news feed highlighting industry news and research

    Last year, we began including industry news in our Newsletters, and people liked that. We also joined LinkedIn, where we’ve begun sharing newsworthy articles from the upholstery industry. If you use LinkedIn, we welcome you to follow us to receive news to your feed!

    Still, we know there is more work to do in this area. We’ll be looking at other ways to connect our members to industry news. If you have any specific suggestions, ideas, or want to volunteer to tackle this project, send us an email – we’d be happy to hear from you!

    Our members overwhelmingly want to receive important information via email – not social media

    We hear your feedback! The NUA has become more deliberate in our communication with members over the past year. While we still post event reminders to social media, we recently began sending Monthly Member Updates via email – a compilation of upcoming events and news from the NUA and the upholstery industry. We’ve also gotten better at sending individual emails for big news – such as the launch of our Fire Regs page and FAQ.

    Members: Not receiving our member emails or newsletters? Log into your account, go to your Profile, choose the Edit Profile button, then click on the Email Subscriptions tab. Ensure your subscription boxes are checked!

    Conclusion

    The National Upholstery Association’s programs are made possible through your membership dues and the support of our dedicated volunteers. To all our members - thank you for your support and for being a part of our community.

    If you want to get more involved, consider applying to become a volunteer. We are also recruiting for Committee Chairs, so if you’re a natural leader or looking to build experience leading a team, we want to hear from you!

    Harmony Maraldo
    President

  • April 07, 2022 1:43 AM | Lindsey Ring (Administrator)

    By Monica Rhodes, NUA Volunteer and Owner of Monday Wash Furniture

    On the day I had the honor of interviewing Lindsay Orwig, owner of A Chick and a Chair Upholstery, about her work and the establishment of the Professional Upholsterer’s Network on Facebook, she began by saying that she never intended it to be known as “the PUN”. She, herself, steadfastly referred to it as “the Network”, but it just didn’t stick. Lindsay believes it was Kate Malfroy (Rapt! Upholstery) who first referred to the collective community as “PUNsters” - and that was that. “You can’t control a runaway train,” says Lindsay laughing.

    Given this, I initially thought I’d be clever and title this blog “PUN not Intended”, but as I went over my notes, and reflected on Lindsay words, one thing became abundantly clear: the commonly used moniker “the PUN” may not have been intentional, but the Professional Upholsterers’ Network is, to its core, an intentional community – created for a specific purpose and guided by thoughtful, rock-solid values that reinforce and ensure its integrity. That purpose is “to be a place to ask questions and get your questions answered, to share knowledge or ask for help. The key to that,” says Lindsay, “is you have to be kind.”


    To this end, “the PUN is actively moderated,” says Lindsay. “Not to censorship, but from verifying that folks are actually professional upholsterers, to making sure a kind tone is set within the group. We're building a community, and we want it to be the very best community that it can be.” Featured at the top of the PUN’s Facebook page is a post by Justin Dazey, one of its five administrators, which includes the following passages: “We have rules on kindness for a reason. We are here to be a supportive group. It's difficult to offer meaningful support in a group of relative strangers without an emphasis on kindness. Before commenting, take a moment to consider why you are choosing to share the feedback you are about to offer. If the answer is anything but focused on the growth or benefit of the receiver, it's best to just skip the comment altogether…Put the benefit of the advised first and the rest will follow naturally. Share to lift up not to beat down.”

    In a group that has grown to be a staggering 3,500 upholsterers strong, that can be a pretty tall order. I believe the old adage, “Management sets the tone”. It certainly applies here. Lindsay’s kindness shines bright in every aspect of her work: her relationships with clients, her social media, her teaching (as a lead instructor at Cynthia Bleskachek’s the Funky Little Chair) and the PUN. Faith in Lindsay’s kindness led me to reach out to her during my first weeks of business ownership to ask a question about bookkeeping. I was pretty sure she wouldn’t rebuff me but, at the same time, I didn’t really expect her to respond to me, a nobody in the trade. To the contrary, Lindsay messaged me almost immediately - responding in a way that made me feel more valid than inexperienced. After that I thought: With this woman managing the PUN, I can feel safe looking for help there. That’s important because, believe me, I have a lot of questions and some of them are pretty basic. Lindsay is quick to note that she could not do this alone and she credits the Network’s team of administrators for the group’s continuing success. “They’re not just moderators,” Lindsay explains, “we all have the same administrative powers and nobody’s judgement outweighs the others’.”


    The Professional Upholsterer’s Network was born of necessity tempered by consideration. Lindsay began her upholstery business five years ago. She had recently moved to Minnesota, and had begun re-upholstering second-hand furniture as a hobby. One day, she was chatting with a woman at her neighborhood dog park. Before Lindsay could even finish describing her new found hobby, the woman had asked for a business card and had inquired about the possibility of hiring her. Lindsay demurred, after all it was just a hobby. A couple of weeks later, Lindsay, who admits she’s a talker, was conversing with the receptionist at her doctor’s office - and the same thing happened. There’s something here, Lindsay thought.

    The response to her upholstery hobby was so different from the response she’d received as a commissioned mural painter before the move, so much more energized and enthusiastic.  Lindsay went on to do work for family and friends, devouring books and videos to develop her skills. After a time, a woman from church approached Lindsay and asked her to reupholster two heirloom chairs. Lindsay explained that she was not a professional. “I know,” said the woman, “but I trust you.” When the woman came to pick up her newly re-upholstered mid-century chairs (in teal – Lindsay’s favorite color), Lindsay had covered them with a blanket. She pulled it off for the big reveal and the woman, who had always been reserved and soft spoken, started jumping up and down and yelling “eeeee, eeeee, eeeee” before gathering Lindsay up in a hug. Lindsay thought, I LIKE this! and decided to go pro.


    Lindsay took advantage of the fact that Cynthia Bleskachek, a master upholsterer and powerhouse educator in the trade, was local. She studied hands on with Cynthia as well as with the late great master upholsterer Steve Cone. “I have 10 million questions at all times,” says Lindsay. “I’m like a toddler always asking, ‘why?,why?,why?’ Once I understand the why, then I understand the how.” Realizing that it would be too burdensome to constantly unload truckloads of questions on Cynthia and Steve, Lindsay decided to invite upholsterers she admired to a Facebook group to exchange information. Thus, the PUN was born.

    When I ask Lindsay if it took off like a snowball rolling down hill, she shakes her head, “It did not.” Several months in, the group was hovering around a couple hundred members, most of whom were pretty quiet. “It was crickets a lot of the time,” Lindsay says. Around then, she discovered Jack Carr’s Professional Upholstery and Soft Furnishings page (which has since been shut down and archived). “It was really good,” she says. Lindsay started to think that maybe the PUN wasn’t necessary, but David Yougdahl, a consistently supportive member, urged her not to quit. “What you’ve got here is something good. You have something special going on.”

    So, Lindsay hung in until, one day, “somebody was just really nasty, really mean, and I thought - What are we doing?”  Lindsay was on the verge of giving up when David Youngdahl, Rachel Fletcher (Knox Upholstery) and Ragne Smith (Felix Hart) each contacted her individually, not simply to console her, but to help her make things better. These three became group moderators, and later full- fledged administrators, working tirelessly to uphold the positive tone and values of the group 24/7. “I know that Rachel and Ragne consider the PUN as much their baby as I do,” Lindsay says. Justin Dazey was brought on board soon before David abdicated due to family concerns and, more recently, Chrisi Creel Mitchell joined the team. Lindsay explains that they all have different personalities and approaches, some applying a soft touch, others drawing a harder line, but they are all steady and strong and dedicated to upholding the same values of kindness, consideration and support. Lindsay describes the combined force of the PUN administrative team so well. “Sometimes 2+2 doesn’t equal 4. Sometimes 2+2 equals 10. More than 10.” The administrators are a force as evidenced by the fact that this group of well over three thousand people has welcomed and absorbed their guidance and, now, largely self regulates toward true kindness, real support and the enthusiastic sharing of knowledge - keeping one another in line as the administrators stand ready to step in as necessary.


    “This team is amazing,” says Lindsay. “That’s why the group is what it is. The PUN is all about feedback - giving it, receiving it. You have to be receptive to both. I checked the stats on the page, and on average, I found that over 80% of our members were actively participating! I don't know if that's typical of groups, but that seems high to me. That means that over 80% of our members are liking, commenting, and posting on the page - that's huge! It means we don't have a lot of lurkers just watching and looking, but actively engaged. This is how we build community!”

    And what a fantastic community it is. If you are a professional upholsterer interested in learning from, supporting and helping others in the trade - and you haven’t joined the Professional Upholsterer’s Network already – please, stop by and pull up a chair.

    (Pun intended.)

    You can find more from Lindsay on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and of course, the PUN

  • January 13, 2022 7:25 AM | Jamie Facciola

    To all active members, dedicated volunteers, supporters, social media sharers, and friends of the National Upholstery Association: THANK YOU. Thank you for supporting our organization and the upholstery trade.

    We see you – busier than ever, short staffed, and overworked. The ongoing pandemic has provided both challenges and opportunities for our industry. On one hand, we’re seeing an extraordinary interest in reupholstery services, as people spend more time at home and choose sustainability over convenience. On the other hand, we’re confronting labor shortages; our seasoned colleagues are retiring, but lack of training and career opportunities in the United States mean there are few qualified upholsterers to take their place.

    The National Upholstery Association has a vision of reestablishing the systems that provide professional development opportunities, apprenticeship paths, support groups, grants and scholarships, hiring and placement assistance, training opportunities, and ongoing education to current upholstery professionals and those interested in entering the upholstery trade. But it's a long road, and we're just getting started.

    This year, the NUA celebrated its second birthday. Oh, how far we’ve come already! It took an extraordinary effort to lay the foundation groundwork; to create the non-profit entity, establish a budget, build a Board of Directors, develop initial programs, launch a website, solicit membership, recruit volunteers, and more. A huge thank you to our Association Founders for having a vision and volunteering their time toward execution of what is arguably the most mundane task of non-profit startup and administration.

    In 2021, with the groundwork laid, we turned our focus to developing programs and resources for the industry. However, our focus did not come without challenges of its own; as upholstery shops became overwhelmed with work, many of our dedicated volunteers took time off from their volunteer efforts to focus on their businesses, their families, and their mental health. The NUA is 100% volunteer-run, so we recalibrated our short-term goals in 2021, scaling back our efforts and focusing on the programs that are most important to our members. To those who gave their time – a little or a lot – we thank you, and invite you to return to service as time allows. And to those volunteers who continue to work tirelessly for the NUA while juggling their families and careers, we appreciate you for the heroes you are!

    I am so proud of what we accomplished in 2021. Some of our triumphs include:

    • Launching the 7 Reasons to Choose Reupholstery campaign, which included shareable graphics to highlight on our members’ websites and social media

    • Conducting our first annual Member Survey, where we asked our members what they want and how we can best communicate with them

    • Initiating our first annual Pricing Survey, establishing baseline pricing for common upholstery services by region, service area, and shop size (results available to members only)

    • Opening the NUA Shop, a place to buy NUA-branded merchandise and show your support for the Association

    • Building a stronger relationship with our Industry Partners, in turn producing new Discounts available to NUA members (and more in the works!)

    • Holding monthly Webinars on topics including: fire regulations, working with designers, history of upholstered furniture, social media, leather, online training resources, business resources, and more (active members have access to on-demand replays)

    • Moderating monthly Community Meetings on topics including: pricing, customer service, workflow best practices, new upholstery and custom furniture design, regional meetups, and more

    • Growing social media reach; year-over-year growth of 37% for Instagram followers, 10% for Facebook, and 29% for our Quarterly Newsletter. Our total followers across all platforms hover around 5,000 today. We also joined LinkedIn this year, so please connect with us there. And if you don’t already receive our Newsletter, consider subscribing - it’s the best way to learn what’s going on around the NUA and in the upholstery industry.

    • Posting a variety of industry-relevant resources on our blog, including Industry Partner Spotlights, Educator Spotlights, Interviews, Industry Resources, and more. A special shout-out to Monica Rhodes, blogger extraordinaire, who writes and curates this content specifically for our members!

    But that’s not all. We’ve also begun work on near-and mid-term projects such as: 

    • Preparing for participation in Industry Events and Trade Shows, such as the Custom Workroom Conference

    • Launching the NUA Ambassadors Program, through which members can organize Regional Meetups and other networking opportunities with the assistance of the NUA

     We’ve also started gathering preliminary research into several long-term goals, including:

    • Developing a comprehensive directory of Upholstery Educators in the United States, both online and in-person, by region

    • Establishing an Educator Think Tank and Professional Development Committee, with the goal of tackling the imminent shortage of labor and connecting upholstery candidates to career paths

    Our success is driven by the support of our members. Your membership dues and contributions allow us to continue our mission of strengthening the upholstery trade. Your financial support allows us to hold networking events, hire webinar speakers, run the website, recognize our volunteers, and meet our very modest operating costs. Did you know that active members can view all NUA Meeting Minutes and Financial Statements? You might be surprised to learn how much work happens behind the scenes.

    Another valuable way to show your support is by volunteering time! We are seeking organized and motivated individuals who would like to help with the research and development of new committees. We’ve received so many excellent ideas from our members - now is the perfect time to help your association start turning those ideas into actions.

    We also have several immediate positions available on our Membership, Public Relations, Volunteer Coordination, Webinar, Events, and Newsletter committees. Are you interested in giving a few hours a month to the cause? Apply now!

    Not a member? No problem. Don’t have time but have a family member or friend interested in gaining non-profit experience? Send them our way! Interested parties are invited to apply on our website.

    I’ve been a volunteer with the National Upholstery Association for the last 18 months, and it’s been an amazing experience. Committee work is incredibly rewarding; not only am I doing my part to amplify the industry, but I feel privileged to communicate and collaborate with so many bright and resourceful upholsterers and upholstery students.  Volunteering has given me an opportunity to network with other professionals in ways that I didn’t know was possible. And I’ve made many friends along the way. I highly recommend it!

    In spite of a challenging year, the National Upholstery Association continued to make headway in its mission. We accomplished amazing things in 2021, and we have more great activities in the works for 2022 and beyond. Our success is a direct result of our members’ financial and volunteer support, and we thank you all for your contributions. Please consider continuing your support by joining our association, renewing your membership, buying merchandise from our shop, or applying to volunteer.

    May all your seams be straight and your patterns matching,

    Harmony Maraldo
    President, National Upholstery Association 2022-2024


  • December 14, 2021 12:11 PM | Jamie Facciola

    By Jamie Facciola, Furniturecycle

    Photo credit: Jamie Facciola

    ‘Unite and rebuild’ proclaimed an article, in 2019, about how an industry once left to perish could be on the verge of a comeback. The idea that the National Upholstery Association, a brand new trade association started solely by women and dedicated to a trade full of tradition, honor and importance, had launched with such little media fanfare, infuriated me. Determined to imagine a narrative beyond the tired, formulaic piece about DIY upholstery or an upholsterer's retirement, I wrote one myself. I typed that proclamation as one of the NUA’s newest volunteers, hungry to join others in collective action at the industry level. I knew already that reliance upon upstream options, such as buying or selling more durable couches, would never deliver a prosperous and thriving reupholstery industry; just as selling more organic carrots has not brought forth more prosperous family farms. The challenges that led the industry to be regularly described as “dying” are so much bigger and more complicated than any one shop; working as an organized group, I believed, was our only chance to counter them.

    Looking Back 

    Just two short years later, the need for the NUA has only intensified. From navigating an unforeseeable pandemic that led to a crushing boom in business, to managing material and labor shortages, conditions grow more complex each day. How can we imagine a collective prosperous future without an organized body committed to its survival? We have an entire industry that needs future-proofing.

    As other associations, like the American Trucking Association, Screen Actors Guild, and the Bar Association, work to stay ahead of changes in their industries--such as the transition to a gig economy and online streaming--we need to, as well. In the last 40-50 years, while we’ve lacked representation and political power, employment in manufacturing has sunk to less than 10% of the American workforce, while imports of wooden furniture soared to 89%. Meanwhile, consumer perception of furniture longevity plummeted, landing at 7.8 years--back in 2006. And furniture waste has exploded: in 2018, over 9.7 million tons of furniture and furnishings, irrespective of quality or reusability, got landfilled, up 450% since 1960. Our connection to labor, craft, quality, materials, community and the environment has been lost. 

    We shouldn’t be surprised then, that in this same amount of time, skilled labor in the repair trades became stigmatized, training hard to access, a livable wage uncertain. With new, cheap furniture so abundant, used pieces, even high-quality ones, suffer from stigmatization, too. Our societal knee jerk reaction is to see used furniture as gross, out of date, and not worth investing in. These values have seeped into all of our political, cultural, and economic systems: we live in a throwaway society where buying new is cheaper than maintaining what already exists. Nobody knows this better than upholsterers.

    Looking Ahead

    During presentations, I like to say, reupholsterers have not only the right skill set, but the right mindset: their entire job is to make an imperfect piece perfect. Let’s be real, being imperfect in our culture is a death sentence. We’ve been conditioned by planned obsolescence to see imperfections--real, perceived, or otherwise--as a sign that it’s time to discard and replace. The immediate compulsion to go shopping for the newest, latest version can feel almost obligatory. But you won’t notice, because your consumption will be praised and rewarded through every sphere of influence. Which is exactly how we know that the ethos of reupholstery was born long before the rise of Amazon marketplace.

    Reuphosltery came into existence many millennia ago--out of necessity--because scarce resources meant that “making do” made sense. Now that the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction, this ancient trade can appear out of sync with modern times. And yet, we’re really one step ahead.

    As the climate continues to change and reliable access to natural resources grows increasingly uncertain, once again, out of necessity, extending the life of goods is returning to vogue. It is a common practice to look to, and learn from, the past in order to live more harmoniously today. Business models that monetize every different way to reuse and resell the same thing are on the rise. Estimated sales for used furniture are expected to grow to 16.6 billion by 2025, a 70% increase from 2018. That huge number is dwarfed by an even larger one: 4.5 trillion, the amount of economic output that could be generated by circular economies by 2030.

    The tide is turning, and it’s not just businesses leading the way. Just look to the Civilian Climate Corps, an initiative to create 300,000 green, good-paying, union jobs; the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, in which corporations would be responsible for the plastic pollution they create; the Right to Repair movement’s fight against planned obsolescence; and the subpoenas issued to Big Oil over their role in spreading climate misinformation. Meanwhile, global marches led by youth activists fighting for their right to grow old on a livable planet fill the streets; these are unprecedented times.

    Looking at Us

    Is our industry ready to meet this moment? It won’t be without a strong trade association. While other industries try to match up to our ancient mindset and skill set, we need to catch up with their resources, partnerships, power and messaging.

    How will the reupholstery industry position itself to take full advantage of this forthcoming wave?

    To me, this is the NUA’s ultimate task. Here is how I think about it:

    First, let’s be clear. Our value proposition is baked in: we add value to and extend the life of what already exists. This is a core pillar of the circular economy.

    Next, I’d reframe reupholstery’s underappreciated, ancient skills as critical to the transition away from an extractive, linear economy. If that’s the rule for entry, then reupholstery needs to be considered a critical part of a future workforce, one that deserves inclusion in the hallowed pantheon of green jobs.

    Third, the future won’t look like the past. Though a cottage-industry-approach helped reupholstery survive the age of disposability, its scale is too small to meet the needs of a circular economy. From business models, to technology, to training, to language, to access, to awareness and education, to policies, to partnership building and beyond, permutations are coming.

    Finally, this is not just about a livable planet, this is about livable economies. A living wage. Respect. Opportunities. Humans. Our decentralized workforce is highly-skilled and woefully underfunded, under-resourced, and misunderstood. Both current and future generations deserve better.

    So, how shall we respond to a global shift that prizes extending the life of goods and celebrates the importance of good, green jobs? By leveraging the NUA to make our voices heard, our contribution known, and our power felt. The road is steep but not impossible. The NUA is living proof that though ‘They tried to bury us. They didn’t realize we were seeds'.


    _____________________

    Jamie Facciola is the departing Secretary for the NUA and also publishes the quarterly newsletter. During her time with the NUA she is most proud of initiating the quarterly strategic alignment process, creating an industry partnership with the Sustainable Furnishings Council, and contributing to the NUA’s sustainability goals. What she’ll miss most are committee meetings that provided comfort and community during the darkest days of Covid. Jamie’s background is in environmental science, corporate environmental management, and social entrepreneurship. She has worked on local solutions to circular economy challenges in Oakland, CA for the last several years as a laborer, entrepreneur, employee, consultant, and advisor. Her current project, Furniturecycle, explores furniture waste from the bottom up. Jamie is the granddaughter of an upholsterer who worked out of his garage in the SF Bay Area for over 40 years. She hopes you will follow along and stay in touch! Instagram / LinkedIn / Observations & Musings


  • December 08, 2021 8:11 AM | Jamie Facciola

    By Monica Rhodes, NUA Volunteer and Owner of Monday Wash Furniture



    If you work in the drapery, soft furnishings, and/or upholstery trade, chances are you know of Ceil DiGuglielmo. In addition to running her own homebased drapery and soft furnishings business, Sew Much More Custom Sewing in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Ceil supports and assists workroom technicians through multiple avenues: The popular Sew Much More podcast featuring personal interviews with tradespeople, Sew Much More: 30 Minutes with Workroom Tech, an on-air  collaboration with Susan Woodcock that offers an array workroom tips and advice; the Sew Much More Opportunity Thinking Series of podcasts highlighting personal innovations that make work life easier for us all; the Curtains and Soft Furnishings Resource Library (CSFRL), a multi-media clearing house for trade related information and educational materials, and the Drapery and Digital Design Digest, an on-line magazine catering to home décor professionals and enthusiasts.

    One day in August, I was in my workroom prepping my machine. As I adjusted my lamp to thread the needle, Ceil DiGuglielmo began her fifth anniversary podcast. She talked about being astounded by the opportunities the podcast has brought her, about fear being her constant companion, and about learning to ask for help. Ceil described going through a stack of photographs from the past five years and realizing just how much had happened. Some of those events were etched in her memory, but so many had been forgotten. We tend to see our present status as a situation, not a process; so busy with what we are doing that we fail to witness what we have done. During her anniversary podcast, Ceil encouraged her listeners to get out their photo albums and reflect on all the past moments, big and small, that form the foundation of their businesses. To appreciate themselves and all they have done. Value themselves. Be astounded, as she was. Be proud.


    I often listen to Sew Much More while I work but, that day, I switched off my lamp and machine and just listened - because it was like Ceil was right there with me and she both deserved and naturally commanded my full attention. Her voice was clear and soothing, her words utterly authentic. 

    “We have seen some of the best of human kind reaching out and helping one another. Look, I know we have also seen some of the worst of human kind – but right now, I am choosing to focus on the positive parts of what I’ve seen these past five years because I have to.”

    Ceil spoke of the precise moment that she, while standing in a parking lot, overcame her doubts and anxieties and truly committed to launching the podcast.  At that, I pictured a trail of photographs connecting the Ceil of today with the Ceil of 5 years ago; a few of the photos, impressive formal portraits, the rest a series of random candid snapshots. When I share that image with Ceil during our interview, she tells me, “I think the milestones are important, but I really do believe that it is the constant little things we do that make a difference. It’s the showing up every day and doing those things that make those big moments possible. It is little choices that we make; those little steps of not being afraid, or more likely, being afraid and doing it anyway; the day-to-day habits that keep our businesses steady and moving forward. Those are, really, really important.”

    Ceil DiGuglielmo wears more hats than most people. When I ask her if she thinks of all the things she does as separate jobs or as one large enterprise, she says, “I really do see it as one thing. Separate things that I do with a big circle around them keeping it all together. I look at the library as a compilation of so many different people’s experiences. There are so many people contributing to the content that it becomes a more and more valuable resource every year; and the podcast is a valuable part of the library – people’s stories and their experiences; and when I’m in the workroom working on something, I think – I really should document this so I can add it to the library. So, I really do see it as all working together.”  

    Each of these efforts plays into what Ceil DiGuglielmo calls her “joyful obligation to pay it forward”. Says Ceil, “I would not be here if it were not for those people who helped me and supported me and answered my questions.” Prior to opening her own workroom, Ceil had steadily worked her way up through a series of management roles at a prominent Philadelphia department store. She and her husband had been trying to start a family for almost a decade when the first of their two adopted daughters came into their lives, born prematurely. There was no family leave at that time; Ceil used up two weeks of accumulated vacation and, exhausted and missing her baby, returned to work. It just didn’t make sense. In her case, the financial and emotional costs of commuting and working away from home far outweighed the benefits.

    Ceil’s first foray into self-employment was designing custom bridal head pieces. As that business did not generate much revenue, she sought to pivot to something else. Ceil had paid for her own sewing lessons as a middle-schooler and developed her skills making clothing for herself and, later, her daughters. She had also made her own window treatments. Seeking advice and resources, Ceil attended a SCORE (small business mentorship program) meeting sixteen years ago and, there, met a couple of designers with whom she started to work. Ceil muses, “I still can’t believe I thought I should go ahead with this business! My friend, Dawn, encouraged me to start and introduced me as her window treatment expert to a designer friend. Her confidence in me was greater than my confidence in myself. Dawn, along with the designer she introduced me to and the designers I met at the SCORE meeting, were my first window treatment clients.”

    Not surprisingly, running her own business was a challenge. One of the things Ceil always asks when interviewing a guest on her podcast is, “Have you ever thought of quitting?” Because she has. She knows what it takes to become successful: the sacrifices involved, the difficulties endured and overcome. Ceil is truly grateful for the help and support she has received along the way and she derives profound satisfaction from helping other people solve their problems and, sometimes, “just get through this day.”

    “My biggest concern for our industry, besides education and that a lot of us are aging out of the industry, is that is that we work ourselves to death.” Ceil knows, from experience, that it is vitally important to “not take just any scraps that are thrown to us; not take just any job because someone is willing to pay us; not let anyone else set the boundaries for us. We are so intent on getting things done for people that we are not thinking about when we will eat, sleep, or see family. Or just sit down.” Ceil admits this tendency to disregard reasonable boundaries was one of the hardest things for her to overcome.  She ultimately came to realize- there is value to what I do - and she longs for all of us to embrace that knowledge. One of the ways Ceil makes that happen is by listening compassionately to her guests on the podcast and allowing them to shine. “I care deeply about who’s listening,” she says, “but I care most about the person in front of me. My job is to make them feel comfortable, feel at ease, and come across in their best light.”

    “When people put their headphones on, (I am) literally inside their heads – and that is a very precious space.” 

    The Sew Much More podcast transcends the workroom. Often deeply personal, each episode highlights the backstory, motivations, passions, fears, mistakes and triumphs of the interviewee. We have much in common but also a great deal to learn from one another. Listeners are so happy when they relate to others’ stories in this community of people with similar jobs. The idea that we are all connected, even though we are working alone was so important to me. When I realized how different all of our stories are, that’s when I started realize what the impact was.”


    When Ceil DiGuglielmo aired her first podcast, she was thrilled to see that six people had listened, “not realizing that two of those people were myself,” she points out, laughing.  Ceil explains that she had dragged her feet at first, nervous to take the plunge. Finally, she decided that if there were topics and stories that she was interested in, somebody else out there was certainly interested as well - and would benefit from listening. With the encouragement of friends, she forged ahead. Had she reached merely one person in a meaningful way - through that one podcast – it would have been worth it.  To her lingering surprise she has, to date, recorded over 300 podcasts that have been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times across 46 countries. At this point, Ceil can’t even count the number of times listeners have contacted her to say, Thank you, I really needed to hear that.”

    Ceil DiGuglielmo takes this very seriously. “When people put their headphones on, (I am) literally inside their heads – and that is a very precious space,” she says.  Podcasts provide a dread free zone for learning, relating and obtaining validation. These conversations unspooling in the private spaces between our ears feel intensely personal, yet we don’t have to ask questions ourselves and endure the anxiety of revealing what we don’t know in order to get answers. Ceil goes on to say, “When the lightbulb goes on for someone, when someone receives the affirmation that what they are doing is right, it is so reassuring.” Listeners realize, Cynthia Bleskachek does it that way, Susan Woodcock (who frequently notes that there are always at least three right ways to do any given task) does it that way…“Oh, I am doing it right after all!” Ceil says that one of the biggest compliments she receives is that “people feel like whoever I’m talking to is now a new friend.” On more than one occasion, that feeling of kinship has blossomed into flesh and blood friendships and/or partnerships.  “That just light’s me up with joy,” says Ceil, “knowing I’ve connected people.”

    Ceil has made a multi-faceted career out of joyfully connecting and supporting other people. Every move she makes, every job she “gets to do”, as she puts it, is geared toward increasing her capacity to help others. I am writing this knowing that Ceil will demure, because that is the type of person she is. But the truth is Ceil DiGuglielmo does good things because she’s a good person. Choosing to see the good because she has to. Choosing to do good because she wants to.

    Please follow the hyperlinks in the first two paragraphs to learn more about Ceil and the many resources she makes available to those in the soft furnishings and related trades.

  • September 22, 2021 10:46 AM | Jamie Facciola

    By Monica Rhodes, NUA Volunteer and Owner of Monday Wash Furniture



    UK-based Master upholsterer, Robbie Richardson reaches out to trades people and lay people alike through his popular podcast In Stitches and will soon expand that reach with the launch of Stuff Stitch Magazine, the first comprehensive upholstery trade magazine to exist in almost two decades. For Richardson, “telling the story of what lies beneath the covers” is not just a clever tagline, it’s a mission. “It’s about the detail under the covers (of a piece of furniture). It’s also about the story we never tell because there is no outlet to tell the story of upholstery.”

    What do we all have in common? It’s stories. We all like to hear stories. And our trade is desperately underrepresented in terms of detail, in terms of what lies beneath the covers. If I get one person, that’s not an upholsterer, interested in the process of upholstery, then that podcast has worked. 

    Richardson, co-owner of Richardson & Paige Distinctive Upholstery Services in Devizes, Wiltshire, UK, has been upholstering for 42 years. Furniture repair is in his blood. By the age of 9, he was regularly enveloped in the heady scents of timber, wood stain and pipe smoke as he built tea chests – and even a sofa – alongside his grandfather, who was a traditional cabinetmaker. At that time, Robbie didn’t know he would follow in his grandfather’s, and his father’s, footsteps. In fact, when he graduated from school, he “hadn’t the foggiest” idea what his next steps would be. When his grandad suggested upholstery, upholstery work started to occupy his dreams. “At that point,” Robbie says, “you know you’re going down the right path.”

    Robbie’s Richardson’s path has veered in new directions over the past 18 months. He explains that the podcast was sparked, in part, by boredom and isolation. “Boredom breeds creativity, you know.” In February of 2020, Robbie traveled to France with Nik Paige, his partner - both in business and in life - for the past 30 years, to do some work on a cottage they own in the countryside. In March, Robbie returned to England to tend to the shop. Two days later, the UK was under Covid lockdown. The couple decided that Nik would remain in France and continue to see to repairs, as their home there was more remote and possibly safer in light of the pandemic. Little did they know that their time apart would extend to a year and a half. 

    Covid-19 dealt a severe blow to the business and Robbie was forced to furlough the staff. To combat the consequent silence and isolation, he began listening to podcasts. It felt like having company. After listening to only three podcasts or so, Robbie decided to reach out to others through one of his own. He named it “In Stitches” signaling that, in addition to information about his trade, listeners could expect plenty of good humor, a valuable and sought-after salve during such troubled times. 


    Robbie was nervous at first. “It was a bit of a seat of your pants kind of decision, but it felt like the right thing to do. I was really intimidated…but I knew it was really important, so I put that fear to the side.” In Stitches has been a huge hit, delivering on its promise:  Essential listening for upholsters and teachers alike, you’ll hear an eclectic ‘weaving together’ of life and skills as we talk to some of the best upholsterers in our business and provide a forum for those new to our trade.Robbie is a skilled interviewer - quick witted, charming and disarming. He loves stories and is adept at peeling back the layers as he engages his guests with interest, empathy and humor.

    Says Richardson, “What do we all have in common? It’s stories. We all like to hear stories. And our trade is desperately underrepresented in terms of detail, in terms of what lies beneath the covers. If I get one person, that’s not an upholsterer, interested in the process of upholstery, then that podcast has worked.” Robbie has been pleased to find that the podcast has “also built a bit of community.” 


    Robbie’s success with In Stitches led him to wonder what other novel paths he might travel. One day, he was discussing ideas with some colleagues and one of them mused, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a magazine?” Robbie lit up, “and all the alarms went off – whoot! whoot! – and then I just really wanted to get on with it and do it.” There were a lot of responsibilities to tend to at Richardson & Paige and Robbie realized he needed to focus on those. “But (the idea about the magazine) just wouldn’t leave me alone – it was a REALLY big itch and because I tried to suppress it, it just became even bigger.” If that hadn’t been the case, Robbie probably would have waited 18 months before partnering with Vernon Gadsby and Claire Rourke to set the wheels in motion. “I couldn’t do it without them,” he says. Richardson gives a nod to his dogs as well; he walks them for two hours each day and that’s when his creativity flows. While walking, he often pondered what the magazine might look like and what might be of interest to the readership.

    Formal planning and development of Stuff Stitch Magazine began in February, culminating in a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary capital to launch. Though not everything could be accomplished in the first issue, overall plans include a featured upholsterer (who will appear on the cover); a tool review; tips for the workshop; a skill share page addressing different levels from hobbyist to professional; a book review; and various interest pieces, including articles by upholsterers from the United States. Regarding his hopes for Stuff Stitch Magazine Robbie says, “I want it to mean that, as a group, upholsterers are in position to explain what we do better, to sell what we do better, and charge more for what we do. There are far too many of us working at poor rates of pay for a highly skilled job. It’s really important to me that there is an understanding of our work as a skill.”


    The magazine will be available both digitally and in print. At first, Richardson, Gadsby and Rourke didn’t think there would be much demand for a printed version; they envisioned distributing 100 copies total to shops in the United Kingdom.  “But when we launched the Kickstarter campaign, it went mental,” Robbie says. Twenty percent of his podcast listeners are from the US, so he expected some interest there; but it was coming from everywhere: US, Canada, Australia and many other countries. “It was thrilling.”

    Considering the level of enthusiasm, it’s interesting that the upholstery profession has gone so many years without a trade magazine. Thinking on this, Robbie says, “a lot of us are quite insular and most of us just want to enjoy our craft and not get diverted into something that leads us out of our comfort zone. I just love doing stuff that challenges me, but it’s just the last 18 months that that’s happened. It’s amazing how once you lift the lid off of one thing, then other things come to fruition.” Robbie is currently working on the format for a video magazine to air next year on YouTube. “It will be video/tutorial/interview/walk around the workshop and will give you a different perspective on how we do things.” The podcast, magazine, and YouTube channel will all come under the banner of Stuff Stitch Media. Richardson hints at even bigger things on the horizon - additional ways “to get more people interested in this trade, understand this trade, understand what lies beneath the covers.” 

    Robbie Richardson has journeyed a long way since those early years in his grandfather’s workshop, but he still thinks about his granddad often. “Even today, if someone is smoking a pipe, it takes me right back to sitting and watching him work.” 

    Before we part, I ask Robbie, “What do you think your grandfather would say if he could see you now?” 

    Robbie doesn’t hesitate, “I know what he would say. He would say, ‘Well done lad’.”

    To subscribe to Stuff Stitch Magazine: 

    Visit www.stuffstitch.com Click “Subscribe” and choose either the digital or print edition to purchase 6 bi-monthly issues.

    Would you love to know more about Robbie Richardson and Stuffed Stitch Media? Be sure to sign up for our November 9th webinar to hear Jill Ragnan Scully of Impressive Windows and Interiors speak with Robbie live.

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