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The lastest news and blog posts from the National Upholstery Association. 

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  • November 17, 2020 9:01 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    Written by Monica Rhodes, NUA Volunteer

    ____________________________________________________

    Cynthia Bleskachek doesn’t just think outside the box. She takes the box apart and does origami with it.

    Let’s start there. With the box. I’m referring here not to the art of upholstery which, as Cynthia points out, always involves out-of-the box thinking. Because each piece is different, upholsterers are naturally nimble problem solvers when it comes to repairing and transforming furniture. The box in which we find ourselves trapped, as Cynthia sees it, is our industry structure (or “shared infrastructure”) which has become disjointed and dysfunctional, leaving gaping pot holes on the path to success and security for current and future generations of would-be upholsterers. Cynthia is adamant that ours is not a dying trade - so many people are passionate about it, ready and eager to make a living in this industry - but classroom training is ridiculously hard to come by and apprenticeships are largely a thing of the past. Cynthia is on the forefront of a drive to change that.



    In her Instagram Stories at the end of Upholstery Awareness Month (October), Cynthia paid tribute to her mom. When Cynthia was a child, her mother established a home workroom, parlaying sewing skills into a cushion making enterprise that evolved into a full-fledged upholstery business. She did this in isolation, without the benefit of the internet to link her to training and business resources.  In college, Cynthia studied Vocal Performance with the intention to become a music teacher, but by the time she was in her senior year, she knew that was not the path for her. After graduating, she went back to school to study graphic design and started working with her mom “to bridge the gap”.  Cynthia ended up crossing that bridge to a 20-year career in upholstery that has been as notable for her accomplishments in instruction and advocacy as it has been for her much-admired work as a master of the trade.



    Everyone I’ve interviewed so far has grown up watching one or more close relatives sew and/or upholster. One of my favorite questions to ask during interviews is, “Did that person/those people make something that is particularly memorable?” When I ask Cynthia this question, she tilts her head. “What I remember (about my mom) is, not just upholstery, but her journey – of figuring out how to set up a business at home before the internet, and my respect for her self-teaching and determination.” Cynthia also remembers the times when her mom had to endure negative interactions with certain clients, or found herself in over her head on a project with no access to professional support. Eventually, Cynthia’s mother found her community in the Professional Upholsterers’ Association of Minnesota (PUAM); it was a revelation that brought pure joy.

    No doubt, this played into one of Cynthia’s greatest achievements outside of the workshop or classroom, the co-founding of the National Upholstery Association (NUA) in 2019. The NUA started as think tank involving a group of talented and dynamic upholsterers dedicated to fostering a supportive community of tradespeople and providing access to critical educational, business, technical and material resources. In many ways, Cynthia notes, “we (upholsterers) are a scattered and invisible population.” Now that the NUA is a reality, no member need be an island, gutting it out alone.

    In addition to developing upholstery instruction, Cynthia provides technical consultation and workroom support to master upholsterer Grant Trick in Irondale, AL and Grahn’s Upholstery in Minneapolis, MN. When I ask Cynthia which she prefers, doing upholstery work herself or teaching others, I know the answer before I even finish the sentence. Teaching is her ultimate passion and it is from this angle that Cynthia Bleskachek tears the upholstery establishment box down and deftly folds it into a paper airplane ready to soar.



    In 2016, Cynthia transformed her Facebook page, The Funky Little Chair, into a physical business and began teaching in-person classes there. In addition, she has made myriad instructional videos, on platforms including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, that are regularly accessed by budding and established upholsterers alike. That’s important but, Cynthia asserts, thousands of hours of hands-on learning, either in a classroom or as an apprentice (ideally both) is at once foundational to true mastery and practically impossible to achieve. She points out that upholsterers should not have to fly across the country to receive hands-on instruction to enhance their skills, but that is exactly what is happening in the face of a dearth of viable local opportunities.



    In recent years, Cynthia has spent a good deal of time thinking and working to solve this problem. The NUA is part of the solution; another is Cynthia’s teaching model which is evolving quickly in tandem with her thoughts regarding a new industry structure for today’s upholsterers “who are often coming in with a tech savvy approach and a head for modern business. “Look at Grant (Trick),” she says, “and RePinned, and Clarke's Upholstery and Knox Upholstery, and Blue Roof Cabin, and A Chick and a Chair!” Cynthia is constantly considering ways to ensure that this new generation will “have options for hiring and scaling, if they want it.”

    This work requires focused attention and an immense amount of time. When classroom teaching became impossible due to Covid-19, Cynthia suddenly found herself with opportunity to dive deep into creating the much-anticipated Funky Little Chair Upholstery Training Systems. The first six on-line courses debuted during Upholstery Awareness Month in October. These six are basic level; intermediate and advanced courses are on deck for 2021. The word “systems” is key. The project-based modules focus on skill scaffolding and provide multiple layers of instruction including on-line coursework supported by detailed written and pictorial materials. Later this month, virtual support in the form of one-to-one consultation with an experienced professional upholsterer will become available for an additional fee. Once purchased, the courses and materials will be yours to keep.



    Looking forward to evaluating and further developing the FLC Training Systems, Cynthia stresses the importance of a 360 degree outside-the-box view. It is crucial, she says, to consider all of the things outside of the physical and/or virtual classroom that impact an upholsterer’s development and trajectory. Among these, access to other upholsterers - community - is vital. Cynthia has a vision of the Training Systems funneling into local opportunities, across the country, for upholsterers to connect and work more effectively together. This requires a rigorous examination of trade culture in light of complicated geographical, logistical and economic factors and the insight, charisma and stamina to build a nationwide network of opportunity based on mutual benefits. If anyone can commandeer that high-flying paper airplane that - in its former shape - only served to box us in, no doubt it is Cynthia Bleskachek.

     

    You can find Cynthia on Facebook, Instagram and FLC Training Systems on www.thefunkylittlechair.com



  • September 30, 2020 8:40 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    Written by Cynthia Bleskachek and originally posted on The Funky Little Chair blog 9/26/18. To read the full article click here.

    ____________________________________________________________________


    Get ready to celebrate, because October is Upholstery Awareness Month!!


    What:

    A month-long opportunity to recognize, celebrate and share the skilled craft of upholstery.

    How:

    Find share-worthy examples of upholstery work – that which impresses you, inspires you, amazes you. . . and share it! BE SURE when sharing someone else’s work that you have permission and it is properly credited! Use the hashtag #upholsteryawareness so we can all easily find, ogle and applaud craftsmanship at its best! (tag the NUA on Instagram using the hashtag #nationalupholsteryassociation so we can share your post)

    Where:

    Everywhere! This is a global event, a chance to spread the upholstery love across any platform where you feel comfortable. I will be focusing on Instagram and Facebook, but feel free to take your revelries anywhere you like!

    Why:

    Upholstery is often invisible to the naked eye. Many of our most talented craftspeople operate in small workshops, largely under the radar. The average consumer has no idea how much time, skill and practice custom upholstery really requires. The most challenging portions of any project are often unseen – in the springs, the padding, the planning.

    Happily, we now have amazing new tools for showing and sharing the upholstery process through photos and stories. Let your friends and followers see the craft of upholstery through YOUR eyes!

    When:

    All through October – how often is up to you!  Set a goal that is ambitious but realistic. Weekly? Every other day???? DAILY??????

    Who:

    If you are a professional, a student, a supporter of upholstery – this event is for you! You’re all invited to be cheerleaders for the past, present and future of our craft.

    No, no, no. . . WHO????

    OH! WHO is the founder of Upholstery Awareness Month?? How did we find out?? That’s the best part . . .

    One morning in September, an upholsterer woke up and texted his friends about Upholstery Awareness month. Those friends thought it was a great idea and messaged more friends. Those friends also thought it was a great idea, and here we are.

    So who was the first upholsterer in this story?

    Bruno Paulin-Lopez. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? 

    42489213_2147800052098571_47534318620246016_n

    If you haven’t already discovered Bruno, now is a great time to do so – his work is sure to inspire and amaze.You can follow him on Instagram, or check out this wonderful YouTube video that takes you right into his story and workshop!

    And when his friends asked, “But Bruno, how do you know it’s Upholstery Awareness month?” he gave the best answer possible:

    42558935_10215538347844846_8822244429533282304_n.jpg

    And in the end, isn’t that how good things happen?

    One day, someone . . .  starts.

    If we believe in the future of upholstery, it is up to us – ALL of us – to fight for it, to dream it, to build it.

    How does upholstery survive? How do we ensure that skills are passed along? How do we move our rich history into a prosperous future?

    We make it so.



  • September 11, 2020 12:56 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)


    Written by NUA Volunteer, Monica Rhodes

    ___________________________________________________________________________

    Sewing is all about connection, about binding pieces together to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. As I listen to Susan Woodcock, owner of The Custom Workroom Training Center (a.k.a. Workroom Tech) in North Carolina, tell her story, it is clear that she was born to sew. It is also abundantly clear that she was destined, on a larger scale, to bring our tradespeople together as a community that is even greater than the sum of its members. 



    When I ask Susan to name a tool that feels like it is an extension of herself her eyes light up. “I LOVE my industrial sewing machine.” Susan learned as a girl on a Singer model 3115. Today, her preferred machine is a direct drive with a servo motor; she has owned a Brother 7200 for 15 years. “You buy a machine as an investment,” Susan notes, “it can be your machine for 30 years.” Susan’s mother, widowed in the 1960s, supported five children fashioning exquisite window treatments and soft furnishings in her home workshop. “She could, and would, sew anything,” remembers Susan, “embroidery, quilts, garments, colonial costumes for barbies…There was no limit to her creativity.” Susan and her siblings (three brothers and a sister) grew up with confidence in their ability to make things. “It was just part of life.”



    Susan, among other things (including trade writing, editing and brand management), ran her own home-based high-end window treatment business for 30 years.  A few years ago, she was listening to the Sew Much More podcast by Ceil DiGuglielmo and noticed that “so many people featured there started out with hands-on training, but that really wasn’t available anymore.”  With this seed planted in her head, Susan and her husband Rodger, a retired firefighter, started looking for places in Tryon, NC to set up a trade school. Tryon, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a haven for artists, musicians and small businesses - warm, welcoming and alive with creative energy. Susan muses that Workroom Tech probably would not have come about had she and Rodger not moved there five years ago. 



    Workroom Tech was a natural extension of a previous and remarkable accomplishment. Susan had always enjoyed attending trade conferences but, by about 2008, the opportunities to do so had become scarce. In 2015, Susan and Rodger took it upon themselves to produce the first annual Custom Workroom Conference (CWC) culminating in in the first annual CWC event in 2016. They decided to start small, planning for 50 attendees. Looking for guidance, Susan consulted her friend Tim Allen, Marketing Manager for Hanes Fabrics, over lunch one day. By the time the check arrived, Tim had pledged full sponsorship. Susan was floored by this, but even more so by what happened next; 180 people signed up for the conference. Susan and Roger had to scramble to arrange additional hotel rooms. “People showed up not knowing what they would get,” says Susan, “just starving for those relationships.” 



    From the beginning, the conference included upholstery classes, but in 2019 the emerging National Upholstery Association (NUA) held a symposium there. “So many drapery people attended (the symposium) and so many upholstery people attended drapery workshops.” Susan says smiling. The CWC attracts participants from around the world. Susan and Rodger have found that 200 attendees plus exhibitors and vendors is the sweet spot, keeping the atmosphere dynamic but intimate. “200 people gathered together, people who make things with their hands. There’s nothing else like it in the world,” says Susan. “People with different business experience and perspectives. There’s nothing better than all those people having fun, sewing, learning, going home and using skills, and staying in touch. No other industry embraces new people like ours. People come not knowing anyone and go home friends with industry superstars.” Sadly, this year’s conference has been postponed until October 2021 due to Covid-19.  Susan shakes her head, “It’s hard to imagine not passing things around, touching things. That energy is what makes the conference so important and you just can’t get that online.”



    The energy generated by the first CWC events fueled Susan’s vision of the trade school. She wished to create a place where people would gather together, face-to-face, to acquire technical and business skills toward establishing their own workshops.“Many people want home businesses for various reasons. There is great interest in having a creative business and doing something that you love. At the end of the day you’ve made something. That’s very appealing. I want people to be proud to own a workroom. It can be whatever (they) want it to be.  This is no ‘old lady in the basement’ situation.” Since opening doors three years ago, Workroom Tech has been a great success. People have come from all over the country to learn while enjoying the camaraderie and lovely surroundings, often joining one another for coffee, a glass of wine or a meal outside of class. And many have gone on to open their own workrooms. After several students expressed an interest in a credential, Susan created a certificate program: 150 hours, 25 devoted to business and the rest to hands-on experience at Workroom Tech and/or in a verified apprenticeship. In addition, candidates must be serious about opening a workroom and must contribute in some way to the broader welfare of the trade. 

    Susan’s vision for Workroom Tech was always centered on bringing people together face-to-face, but Covid -19 has forced her to convert to online classes. The silver lining is that many people who may never have had the opportunity to travel to Tryon are able to partake of instruction; and the community, camaraderie and common goal are sources of solace, friendship and inspiration during this difficult time of restricted contact. Online classes for beginners accommodate up to 30 students (vs. 6 in-person). So far, all have focused on window treatments. Susan packs boxed kits for beginners containing all needed supplies, save for the face fabric, which participants source themselves. This is no small feat as packing and mailing kits is time consuming and logistically challenging. Classes for professionals are more flexible in terms of size as participants source all of their own materials. Susan is considering an online upholstery class for beginners centered on a small, simple to source item, like a footstool, that participants would provide themselves. 

    These days, when not writing or teaching, you’ll find Susan sewing quietly at one of the 4 large tables in the brightly lit training center, content doing her work, but looking forward to the day those tables are once again filled with people talking and sharing, creating together, passing materials and finished work from hand to hand. 

    “At the end of the day, you’ve made something,” Susan said. 

    At the end of each day, so many who have benefited from Susan’s teaching can be proud, not only of the beautiful things, but of the relationships and the businesses they have made. I sincerely hope that, from time-to-time, Susan steps back to appreciate what she has made – this strong and supportive community of tradespeople secured together by the common threads of joy and pride in creating and the desire to help one another thrive. These are the ties that bind and, at the end of the day, they are what will get us through.

    Susan Woodcock is the author of several publications including the books, Singer® Sewing Custom Curtains, Shades and Top Treatments and First Time Window Treatments: The Absolute Beginner's Guide

    Susan's podcast "30-Minutes with Workroom Tech" is produced by The Sew Much More Podcast, and can be found at SewMuchMorePodcast.com and iTunes. 


    Links:

    www.workroomtech.com

    www.customworkroomconference.com

    www.homedecgal.com

    www.hanesfabrics.com


    In addition to Workroom Tech online classes, Susan has classes available on:

     www.Craftsy.com 

    www.theworkroomchannel.com

    ______________________________________________________

    This article is part of the NUA educator member spotlight series.  Find a list of our educator members here.


  • August 05, 2020 9:28 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    Written by Monica Rhodes, NUA Volunteer and owner of Monday Wash Furniture

    ____________________________________________________________________


    This is a story of promise.

    Glenn Quezada has an artist’s eye and heart. An artist’s hands. They probably look like his father’s hands, and his uncle’s, and his cousins’ and brothers’ - all of them upholsterers in Honduras and the United States.


    Glenn is a student of fine arts, a woodworker, an upholsterer from a family of upholsterers and, fortunately for the upholstery and woodworking trades, a teacher. When we spoke, he expressed concern for the fate of the upholstery profession as well as an ethical obligation to teach those who wish to learn the craft. One reason Glenn joined the NUA is that he “saw the upholstery trade dying out and felt a need to be part of the revival.” Last Fall, he attended the NUA’s Upholstery Symposium in North Carolina. There, he was excited to meet Cynthia Bleskachek and others fiercely dedicated to the future of upholstery. “I’ve lived the difficulties in the industry,” said Glenn. “There is much less support than in other trades.”

    For the Quezada’s upholstery is truly a family affair. Glenn’s father learned the craft at the age of 14. He came to the USA, worked in New York for a few years, then took the money he earned back to Honduras to start his own business. There, he taught Glenn’s uncles and they taught their sons. Glenn’s older and younger brothers also upholster. Glenn’s wife, Lucia (a former pastry chef), now lends her creative talents to GQ Interior, their 2,700 sq. foot workshop in Cerritos, CA.

    Glenn spent summers as a teenager working in an upholstery shop in southern California. When he graduated high school, his mother sent him back to Honduras to learn upholstery from his father. When Glenn returned 18 months later, he enrolled in the Fine Arts program at Cerritos College, his heart set on becoming a painter. At that time, three of his cousins were working in a local upholstery shop. When one left to return to Honduras, Glenn took his place as an assistant in order to pay tuition. Glenn devoured his coursework. When he ran out of art classes, he studied woodworking. “And,” says Glenn, “that was the moment that got me; it opened up furniture as art.” Glenn saw his future laid in front of him – a fusion of upholstery, woodworking and fine arts.


    Glenn loves restoring antiques and, though he does all types of upholstery work, leather is a specialty. Asked what advice he has for those of us intimidated by leather, Glenn explained that, “you must learn its characteristics: wrinkles, pores, stretch; you have to get a feel for it.”  Years ago, an antique dealer brought Glenn a dining chair to restore. The damaged leather seat cover was imprinted with a grid and embossed with images of chess pieces. Hearing this, I exclaimed, “Whoa, that’s daunting!” Glenn laughed, “I like to get in trouble, it gives me a chance to do more artistic work when I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Glenn meticulously mixed his own tints and dyes to complete the work. Understanding the complexity of that job, I gasped when he told me that, upon receipt of the finished chair, the dealer was upset. Again, Glenn laughed. He was upset because the restored chair made the seven remaining dining chairs look so terrible in comparison. The antique dealer had Glenn restore the rest of the chairs and the two men did business together for years, helping Glenn’s business to grow. Glenn started at age 21 honing his skills in his cousin’s garage. Today, he employs five people in addition to himself and Lucia and, true to his vision, GQ Interior is an amalgam of upholstery, woodworking and fine artistry. Glenn’s website, GQinterior.com, features not only restored and rereupholstered furniture, but a gallery of contemporary Cuban art, including a fascinating table and other pieces that Glenn made in collaboration with artist, and dear friend, Rudy Rubio.



    Glenn Quezada has a wealth of knowledge. Fortunately, when the opportunity to share it walked up and grabbed him by the hand, he found himself excited to give it a try. One of Glenn’s former instructors had asked Glenn to upholster a chair for his mother. When Glenn took the instructor shopping for fabric, the woman who assisted them at the store overheard their conversation and got visibly excited. She told them that the upholstery instructor at the ABC Adult school in Cerritos was retiring and that the program was slated to close. The woman placed a call to the school and Glenn was scheduled for an interview. Soon, he was teaching 5 classes per quarter, each enrolling 20-25 students of all levels and backgrounds. It was overwhelming. “As you teach, you learn, you know? How to structure a class, how to present information…” Glenn found that instruction and preparation took 20 plus hours away from his business. He took some time off to decide if he could make it work. Concluding that education is vitally important, Glenn restructured his business to accommodate teaching.

    Glenn’s students choose their own projects. “Some are starting at zero, some are experienced; they are doing furniture, boats, cars….” Glenn teaches fundamentals and makes the rounds instructing each student individually. He also teaches upholstery workshops for woodworking students at Cerritos College and there are plans to formally incorporate upholstery into the curriculum. Currently, classes at ABC and Cerritos College are on hold due to Covid-19. A group of enthusiastic students is pushing Glenn to teach from his shop. It will require a great investment - not just money, but time. Still, he knows, the need for upholstery education is great.

    As our talk concluded, I asked Glenn if he plans to teach his two young daughters the trade. I could hear the smile in his voice, “They may hate it, but they’re going to learn it.” With Glenn teaching, I am confident that his children won’t hate learning. I know that they will be proud to have hands like their father’s, grandfather’s, uncles’ and great uncles’.

    Upholsterer’s hands.

     Link:GQinterior.com

    ______________________________________________________

    This article is part of the NUA educator member spotlight series.  Find a list of our educator members here.



  • July 29, 2020 1:53 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)


    Written By Audrey Lonsway, VP NUA

    ___________________________________________________________________

    Have you had a chance to attend one of the NUA’s Community Meetings? They’re a great chance to talk to other upholstery shop owners around the country - face to face! - via Zoom. NUA members and non-members are welcome to participate. Each month there is a topic that helps center the conversation, but it’s cool how participants use it as a great jumping off point to ask questions and share their ideas.

    This month’s topic was “Community Support”. Everyone shared ways that their business supports their community. From discounts for special groups, such as students and churches, to donations of fabric tubes and foam for schools and businesses that use them in some non-traditional ways. Someone even saves their foam for a local artist to use for shipping their pieces! How cool is that?! Auction pieces and gift cards were also a topic of conversation.

    The discussion turned to how upholstery shops receive support from their communities. Sure, the natural thought is how clients support us with that little thing called money, but there was a great brainstorming session on what support is out there for small businesses. Small Business Administrations, Chambers of Commerce, SCORE mentors, networking opportunities for women-owned and veteran-owned businesses - so many ways to get support! Let’s not forget the NUA :-) The NUA offers webinars, discounts, and new ways to advocate for upholstery professionals to other industries.

    Next month, the August NUA Community Meeting’s theme is “Moving In or Out” with discussion about having a store front vs. in-home business. Pros/cons? Also, I’m personally excited about September’s theme of “Shop Set Up”. Everyone will get a chance to show off their work space! What’s something that really works for you? I hope you’ll join us for these upcoming Community Meetings - See you Soon!




  • July 10, 2020 5:15 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)


    Want to make sure your business is legally taken care of? Not sure where to begin? Well you are in luck July's Webinar is titled, Top 10 Things You Need to Know to Run Your Business

    This webinar will begin to detail and highlight the questions you need to answer for your business to ensure that your business is taking care of being legally protected. Participants will learn how to choose an attorney, key factors in incorporating, contracts pertaining to a variety of business relationships, intellectual property--why it is SO important, how to protect their web presence, and best practices for social media.

    To register for the webinar, members check your email dated 6/30/20 for the link.




    The Webinar is presented by Angie Avard Turner, owner of Gracious Counsel. She describes herself as an “Attorney for Creative Entrepreneurs”. On her website https://www.graciouscounsel.com/upholstery-business you’ll find a whole suite of contract templates for your Upholstery Business.

    The templates range from estimates, privacy policies to confidentiality agreements with employees and all things in between.


    We are excited to announce a New Perk for NUA members! 

    National Upholstery Association members now receive 15% off your purchase of Gracious Counsel templates! Check the Member Resources page for the discount code.


    Here is a little bit more about Angie and her business.

    Angie Avard Turner is a creative entrepreneur with over 20 years of creative experience.  She is also an attorney who represents creatives of all kinds, and she has been licensed to practice law since 2001.  Angie is a business consultant, an author, a featured writer, a designer, a public speaker, a problem solver, an out-of-the-box thinker, an unconventionalist, a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. She is just a regular ole gal who has been around the creative block a few times.  She wants to help you round that block with each new success!

    Head on over to Gracious Counsel and see what she has to offer.


     

  • July 10, 2020 5:01 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)


    Message from the President of the NUA

    As a woman of color I have been particularly affected by the events in the recent weeks, months, years...and decades of the killings and outright murders of Black, Brown and Indigenous women, men and the LGBTQ+ community and I feel compelled to say something on behalf of the National Upholstery Association. This was after some great thought and urging from the board and I want to thank them for not only having my back, but the back of Black and Brown communities as a whole.

    The Black Lives Matter movement is a human rights issue and as the National Upholstery Association we wish to stand on the right side of history and that means standing with those we love, those we do not know and those we wish to know better.

    There are too many names to list. There are too many bodies battered and broken. There are too many lives destroyed. There are too many people who have allowed this injustice to stand and the NUA is calling upon our members, and everyone everywhere to take a stand for racial justice; the human rights that belong to all of us.

    We wish for love that is not blinded by feel good tropes.

    We wish for the safety of our members. 

    We wish for equality for our members.

    We wish for justice for our members.

    We wish for solidarity, support, compassion and love between our members and for all.

    The guiding principles at the NUA are Knowledge & Learning, Diversity, Accessibility & Openness, Community, Outreach & Partnership, Creativity & Innovation. Therefore, racial justice and equality - for all - is the very thread of the National Upholstery Association. It is the very thread and foundation of the upholstery trade.

    As Upholsterers, we are creative outside-the-box problem solvers. We actively seek out knowledge. We are here to eagerly learn from our peers, and to educate ourselves. We are here to listen and we are here to learn from people with differing experiences. Without an open mind, and diversity, the upholstery trade cannot flourish. We need community and racial justice for our trade to thrive.  Will our world thrive.

    The National Upholstery Association will continue to forge a path that is inclusive of everyone. We will continue to reach out into circles that are yet our own. We will continue to make ourselves uncomfortable in the pursuit of learning and equality. We will continue to move with love.

    We stand on the right side of history. We hope you will stand with us.

    Rachel Fletcher
    President,
    National Upholstery Association

     

    Watch YouTube video



  • July 10, 2020 4:42 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

     
    Written by Carla Pyle, NUA volunteer coordinator & nominating committee member
    _________________________________________________________________


    Upholsterers possess a unique strength of character that comes from self-reliance, resilience, and determination. Yet even those of us who are accustomed to working solo have discovered unparalleled challenges in the first half of 2020.

    During those weeks, I have witnessed group zoom meetings turn into brainstorming sessions for how to survive, and yes - thrive, in the face of adversity. I've seen mentors reaching out to offer helpful advice to newbies and peers alike. Over the past year, I've seen ideas transformed into reality as I've worked alongside an amazing group of volunteers that have grown the National Upholstery Association into a thriving community. Together we have demonstrated that the common thread that ties us together also makes us stronger individually, as we pull each other up. Workrooms, classrooms, and industry partners are finding a common platform on which to strengthen business practices, build new educational programs, and create support networks that help us grow stronger together.

    The NUA has several short- and long-term opportunities for those of you who are eager to help shape the future of upholstery. 

    For those seeking a longer-term commitment, nominations are now open for Board of Directors positions (2 years). As a member of the current board, I can tell you it's an exciting, enlightening, and infinitely rewarding experience. 

    For those looking for a shorter commitment (tuned in with your schedule), please refer to our volunteer job descriptions on this page, which is updated regularly.

    If you have ideas about the direction this professional organization should go, now's your chance to make a difference!

    Submit your name or nominations for the Board of Directors today to:
    info@nationalupholsteryassociation.org or submit your nomination via our volunteer page.

     Note: our normal election schedule has been delayed due to COVID-19. The election date will be announced in the October, 2020 NUA Newsletter and on the NUA's social media channels.

    Questions? Send them to info@nationalupholsteryassociation.org


  • June 29, 2020 2:10 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)
     

    Written by Monica Rhodes, NUA Volunteer and owner of Monday Wash Furniture.

    ________________________________________________________________

     

    I like stories. Let me tell you a good one.

    A while back, around Christmas time, a gifted upholsterer was working in her shop when a man came in from the cold. A couple of decades previous, this upholsterer had begun her training with a master named AL Goss. She had been a star student, a natural who learned quickly and improvised well on her own. Prior to that, since childhood in fact, she’d been an avid DIYer soaking up sewing, embroidery and crocheting skills from the three generations of women in her family who had come before her. Her all-time favorite gift came from her grandmother when she was just eight years old - her grandmother’s own beautiful blue sewing machine, which immediately took the place of honor in her cozy purple bedroom. As a young mother, raising four children and running her own pre-school, this upholsterer-to-be continued to spend what spare time she had creating beautiful window treatments, quilts, and eventually even cushion covers for her sofa hand-in-hand with her mother. That last project was the one that launched her decision to study upholstery. So, you see, this upholsterer, in her shop on that cold winter’s day in Massachusetts, was a person who held three things particularly dear: family, love of learning, and the creation of beautiful and useful things.

     

    Brushing the snow from his shoulders, the young man approached the upholsterer, who was now a teacher of upholstery herself. He wanted to take a hands-on class. He wanted her to be the one to teach him. The man’s grandfather had been a master upholsterer, but he had passed away before the man had had the chance to learn from him. The man’s grandfather was Al Goss. And so, it came full circle. The man would have the chance to learn from his grandfather… through Kim Chagnon.

    This is a really good story. It is the story of promise for our trade.

     When I video chatted with Kim Chagnon of Kim’s Upholstery a couple of weeks ago, she told me a few other stories, as well: a sweet story of a woman, about to have her first baby, who cried when Kim made ready again the rocker in which the woman’s grandmother had nursed her first child; an inspiring story of a woman and her two daughters who implored Kim, for almost a year, to make them her first hands-on students, leading to significant growth in one daughter’s business refurbishing MCM furniture.

    It was nice to share a laugh with Kim. She has a bright smile and a warm demeanor. I know a good many of you are familiar with her face from the numerous expert tutorials she and her husband Bill have posted on YouTube. I was eager to learn about the remarkable evolution of her business. Beyond the YouTube videos, there is so much more.

    I learned that Kim was still running the pre-school when she signed up to study with Al Goss. She was on a waitlist for his beginning upholstery class for almost a year and, once enrolled, drove 20 miles one evening per week to get there. She pushed to take on challenging projects beyond the scope of an average beginners’ class. Mr. Goss, noting her strong sewing and artistic eye, encouraged this. She would prove to be one of the best students of his career.


    Kim went on to upholster projects for friends and family, which soon led to doing upholstery work for clients with Bill by her side. The volume of work increased rapidly to the point that, one day in 1998, Kim and Bill realized that “something had to give”. They both gave up their day jobs and committed to upholstery full time.

     Around 2010, Kim and Bill were invited to do small project tutorials for the Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA). It was immediately clear that viewers wanted to dive deeper. In response, Kim and Bill launched a series of YouTube videos to give DIYers and beginning upholsterers a more in depth understanding of what is involved in the completion of a quality upholstery project. The response was overwhelming. The couple found themselves riding a tidal wave of emails from people seeking advice and guidance. They met the demand by creating several more You Tube Videos (today there are over 300) and also began, in 2012, producing and mailing out instructional DVDs.

     

    It was not long after that Kim agreed to venture into hands-on teaching with the mother and daughter trio mentioned earlier. Kim admitted that she was nervous at the time but, “It went very well,” she said. Recalling the way that the daughter’s business took off afterward, Kim smiled broadly, “I just love to see students excel and propel forward.”

    In response to ever-increasing demand from DIYers and budding upholsterers, Kim and Bill have transitioned to teaching full time. In 2015, they launched the Kim’s Upholstery Online Classes website with just 12 videos. Today there are close to 100. In addition, the website supports a community forum, and weekly live chats during which Kim and Bill answer members’ questions directly. They also host periodic live sessions for a private Facebook group. Members know they can feel confident asking any question at all. “There is no such thing as a bad question,” said Kim. “We all learn from each other.”

    And that’s the way it should be. The vitality of our trade depends on the sharing of knowledge and experience on all levels and from all angles. I am pleased to have the opportunity to write these educator spotlight articles (yes, there will be more to come) because our future lies in the recognition that we never stop learning and that continuing education is crucial.



    Toward that end, Kim, in addition to everything else, hosts annual meet-ups for upholstery enthusiasts and professionals to “allow people of all levels to get together to talk about issues like pricing and how to handle client situations” among other things. Of course, there’s an educational component, too. There have been two meet-ups so far. A third, scheduled for September 17th and 18th in Virginia, is tentatively on hold due to Covid-19.

    I asked Kim if she and Bill have had to make other adjustments due to the pandemic. Kim explained that hands-on workshops originally scheduled for the summer have been postponed until 2021; those scheduled for October and November may still be a possibility. But Kim’s Upholstery remains ready and able to conduct the majority of its business as usual. There’s so much available in the form of on-line video content, and the forums and weekly video chat sessions provide not only upholstery advice and guidance, but also support and personal connection as members cope with conditions during this stressful and unprecedented time.

    If you would like to join me within the Kim’s Upholstery community to share knowledge and strengthen your skills with Kim and Bill, please follow this link to begin your membership. Both monthly and annual membership options are available.


    You can find Kim in the following places.  

    Online classes
    website
    facebook

    Pinterest
    Instagram



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     The National Upholstery Association is proud to present various viewpoints of our members and partners within the upholstery community. Perspectives (or opinions) will vary. This Blog is made available for general information; not to provide specific business, financial, or legal advice.



  • June 18, 2020 7:32 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    Written by Carla Pyle, NUA Board Member and  Natural Upholstery educator & consultant
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    “Now more than ever, we realize that human health and well-being is precious. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the products and technologies we interact with every day can have tremendous impact on our health and safety. Chemical Insights, an Institute of Underwriters Laboratories, combines the best minds, rigorous scientific research and a commitment for thorough and accurate results, to find answers to questions that support safe, healthy working, learning and living environments.”

    - Chemical Insights Mission Statement


    When was the last time a customer engaged you in a lively conversation about the potential health effects of the upholstery materials you use in your work? This is a subject that’s getting more attention, both in upholstery workrooms and in the wider industry.


    The Taskforce

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have some science-backed facts about safe & healthy furniture, all laid out for you to learn and share with your clients? That is one of the goals of the Furniture Flammability and Human Health Taskforce, recently initiated by Chemical Insights https://chemicalinsights.org/.


    Overview

    The Taskforce is part of step five in a five-step process that Chemical Insights (CI) employs for each of its research initiatives:

    1. Involve a wide range of stakeholders in their initiatives, convening all parties with a connection to the topic (summit). Based on the outcome of these discussions, CI sets a research agenda, designs a methodology, selects research partners and establishes an action plan. (eg. manufacturers, users, health care professionals, policymakers). When setting a research agenda, CI considers these factors: Emerging issues in the marketplace, New technologies and unintended risks, Health risks posed, and Lack of regulation or guidance (eg. indoor air quality is not regulated)

    2. CI then conducts the independent research for the selected initiative -all research is objective, independent, transparent and self-funded. Research often spans multiple years and involves partnerships with academic research institutions.

    3. Once the research has been conducted, scientists from CI & partners analyze the data to confirm key findings, evaluate end-user health impact and develop action steps.

    4. CI shares findings with key stakeholders to discuss, and at times debate, the results and impacts of their research. They also publish scientific papers and deliver presentations for the scientific community; develop targeted education, such as webinars, for relevant industry professionals; and share general information with the public, through articles, social media and web-based tools.

    5. Once CI shares their research findings, they work to support the safe commercialization of evolving technologies through the development of best practices, standards, guidelines, health criteria and assessment tools.


    Goals

    The Taskforce’s three key GOALS are to:

    1) Provide a forum for knowledge and suggested actions related to harmonizing efforts on Furniture Flammability and Human Health.

    2) Develop guidance documents on achieving fire-safe/chemical-safefurniture.

    3) Develop “safe choice” educational materials for consumers.

    If I were to distill this down in to a single sentence targeted to upholsterers, it might look something like this:

    The Furniture Flammability and Human Health Taskforce is a collaborative effort that brings industry professionals and stakeholders together to utilize scientific documentation on furniture flammability and human health in order to create consumer-targeted educational resources that upholstery professionals can share with their clients.


    Timeline and Participants

    Taskforce members will participate in a series of online workshops, ending in the development of the guidance and educational materials defined, with an objective of finalizing the materials by the end of 2020.

    The National Upholstery Association (NUA) is represented on the Taskforce by board members Jamie Facciola and Carla Pyle. We are joined on the Taskforce by professionals from a wide ranging group of industries, including furniture manufacturers, designers, architects, furniture retailers, firefighter safety research organizations, academic researchers, chemical industry representatives, and lobbyists.


    The nitty-gritty

    A barrier fabric for upholstery wins the battle of the Burning Chairs! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tz9AcajFjUs Watch this amazing short video showing one of the flammability tests conducted as part of the data-gathering phase of this project.

    If you have time, check out the webinar https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=9zXJUQGs3LQ&t=8s presented by the Sustainable Furnishings Council https://www.sustainablefurnishings.org/ in March of this year, explaining the entire research and testing process in greater detail.

    Once the Taskforce’s work is complete, I look forward to giving you an update & sharing useful educational resources you can take to your shops to help you engage intelligently on the subject of furniture flammability & health.


    _____________________________________________________________________________

    The National Upholstery Association is proud to present various viewpoints of our members and partners within the upholstery community. Perspectives (or opinions) will vary. This Blog is made available for general information; not to provide specific business, financial, or legal advice.



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