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2023 Custom Workroom Conference Recap

October 06, 2023 12:00 PM | Harmony Maraldo (Administrator)

by Harmony Maraldo, NUA President

A huge THANK YOU to NUA volunteers Bonnie Williams, Amy Petersen, Jonathan Bennett, Kim Newell, and Keaven Hartt for helping coordinate the NUA pre-events and Marketplace booth. You are all rock stars and the lifeblood of our organization.

Also, a special thank you to Susan Woodcock, Rodger Walker, and Laurie Medford for coordinating such an amazing event year after year. What you do is so incredibly important for our industry and I feel grateful to have you as NUA partners and friends.

Want to view more photos of this year’s event? Check out our photo gallery!

How many of you joined us at the Custom Workroom Conference this year?

French Mattress Class with Polly WaiteThis was my second year in attendance, and I had even more fun than last year! The National Upholstery Association kicked off the conference on Sunday afternoon with a French Mattress Cushion class, taught by Polly Waite of Polliander Studios. This particular event required more logistics and planning than previous years, but the effort paid off. We saw a full class of 40 participants, with 4 volunteers assisting. Honestly, I was a little nervous that we’d encounter some unforeseeable setback. (There’s always at least one in every event, isn’t there?) But overall, the class was a great success, and each participant went home with their very own cushion sample.

After the class, I popped over to the conference center to pick up my conference badge (with some extra goodies this year!) Then returned back to the Hyatt for the National Upholstery Association’s Happy Hour event. There, our class participants and a few additional guests joined us for drinks and appetizers. I loved having this time to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones. While I’ve grown accustomed to fostering community remotely through Zoom calls, nothing compares to in-person interaction. I felt like I was home.

Jonathan and Harmony at the WCAA Cocktail Social

Monday marked the beginning of class instruction at the Custom Workroom Conference. All classes fell under one of four different tracks, ensuring there was a relevant topic for everyone: 1) a Business track, 2) a Window Treatment track, 3) an Upholstery track, and 4) a Cross-Industry track, which included widely-appealing topics with crossover into both the custom drapery and upholstery workroom industries. All the instructors were amazing! I took loads of notes, and dutifully stashed my handouts in the 3-ring binder provided to me at registration.

One special highlight of the day was the luncheon and welcome program, sponsored by Hanes. Susan Woodcock performed a top-notch Mr. Rogers impression, and fan favorite (and NUA Board member) Jonathan Bennett led the participants in several engaging rounds of workroom-themed bingo. Another highlight was the evening WCAA cocktail social, sponsored by Kirsch Drapery Hardware. Jonathan made another appearance, this time in a flashy sequined-and-tasseled jacket. What a sight to see!

Tuesday kicked off the Exhibitor Marketplace event. I just love walking around to all the booths talking shop with vendors and checking out their wares. (And yes, I did break out my credit card!) The CWC Education Station was one of my favorite places to mingle and watch product demos. 

Like many others, I even joined in and took pics at the selfie stations around the floor, though I’ll admit I didn’t get the chance to post them all to social media. Back at the NUA booth, I talked to so many of you, our members and friends, about our mission and the programs and benefits we offer our members and the industry at large. I really enjoyed our conversations and hope we meet again at future events!

Harmony at the NUA booth at CWC

At the NUA booth, we held an upholstery book raffle, giving away a total of 6 book prizes. The winners (and the books they went home with) include:

  • Julia Horrocks - Seven Hills Nest (Design Directory of Bedding)
  • Bernadette Miller - Fair Street Design (Early Seating Upholstery – Reading the Evidence)
  • Carol Dykhouse - Creations by Carol (The Sewing Master Guide: From Basic to Expert)
  • Lindsay Orwig - A Chick & A Chair (The Little Upholstery Book, signed by the author)
  • Paula Pagonakis (Upholstery Drapes & Slip Covers)
  • Robin Matthews - Seams Sew Right (Simple Upholstery & Slipcovers)

The NUA also sold limited edition Anatomy of an Upholsterer tee shirts, with the names of each body part crowdsourced from our friends at the Professional Upholsterer’s Network on Facebook. We put the names of all shirt-naming post participants into a box, and asked Lindsay Orwig to pull a random name to win a free tee-shirt. Congrats to our winner, Cheryl Valleroy - we hope you enjoy your shirt!

If you weren’t a winner, or didn’t get the chance to pick up a shirt at the show, don’t worry – we have a stack left and they may make an appearance at one of NUA’s future events!

Kim and Lindsay pick a winner

Wednesday was the final day of educational classes and closing remarks. A bittersweet day, I found myself incredibly exhausted after a packed schedule, yet also sad to part ways with my friends and colleagues. Susan made a heartwarming speech to close out the day, then, I joined shoulders with my fellow conference participants for a final photo and goodbye. Finally, with a tear in my eye, I set off for the airport and the long journey home.

Mark your calendars for next year’s event!

Custom Workroom Conference

September 23-25, 2024

Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick

Providence, Rhode Island


  • November 29, 2023 5:33 AM | Monica Rhodes
    Great recap of the conference, Harmony! It was my first time attending. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to meet you in person.
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