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