News & 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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  • May 13, 2021 12:38 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    by Rhonda Shanahan and Emma Shanahan.


    Whether you’re just starting with your upholstery business or you’re looking for a way to streamline your work a website can help take your business to the next level. In developing The Whimsical Chair website I have learned some aspects that can help take anyone's business to the next level and connect you with the ideal client. The most beneficial pieces came by developing an About Page to give background, showing the client the step-by-step process along with answering common questions on my How it Works Page, and crafting a Cognito form to organize requests on my Estimate Page. 





    ABOUT PAGE

    When developing an About Page I focused on conveying who I am as a person but more importantly what my work has been and the types of furniture I look for to help give potential clients a reference. Another key feature of my About Page is it gives clients an idea about how long I’ve been in this business and where my passion for upholstery comes from.








    HOW IT WORKS PAGE

    Another portion of my website is the How it Works page which walks clients through the process step by step. I cover both the estimate process to get started on their piece, what you should be able to expect from me, and what I need to reserve a spot and get started on a client's piece. Additionally, I showcase what the process of upholstery looks like in a photo gallery of pieces from start to finish demonstrating the energy I give to each project.



    To ensure my clients have all the information they would need I cover the most asked questions by clients on this How it Works Page. Working through a summary of my process and these questions help to give a potential client an idea of what they can expect before they even submit a request for a quote. 



    ESTIMATE PAGE

    For my Estimate Page, I used the Cognito format to help me build the questionnaire for potential clients. It allows me to gather all of their important information; name, email, phone number, furniture type, etc. Another key thing is that I’m able to put an update above my Cognito which talks about how far out I’m booking or if there are any limits to what I’m able to handle at the moment. 








    Once the clients have finished filling out the questionnaire I’m able to see all of their information and keep track of how many new requests I’m receiving in a day. I also can keep track of who I’ve contacted and when they submitted their request to keep client jobs in line and organized. Overall the Cognito form has helped to create one central location where I can keep track of all client-related information which has improved my client communication.





    In my development of this website, I have found that these key portions have best helped me to capture my ideal client. I believe that a well-designed website can improve any upholstery business. Allowing you to develop an outline that will help to capture the right client match for your business. 

    Rhonda is the owner of The Whimsical Chair in Castle Rock Colorado. You can find her at her website, facebook and Instagram.



    ___________________________________________________________

    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.



  • May 02, 2021 12:57 PM | Lindsey Ring (Administrator)


    Monica Rhodes joined the National Upholstery Association as a volunteer in early 2020. As a way to give back to an organization that had given so much to her, she offered us her writing skills and joined that PR committee where she has been invaluable as a contributor--writing, editing, and sharing her ideas.

    Monica loves the story. Her first task was writing the member spotlight series for the NUA blog. Her passion for the craft of upholstery combined with her amazing writing skills has produced some beautiful articles. Each story captures the subject and their passion for the industry, giving us all a peek into their journey.

    Monica has been in the upholstery business for over 3 years. She created Monday Wash Furniture, located in Chicago, out of a desire to re-imagine and restyle discarded furniture. It soon grew to include custom upholstery work as well.

    Please help us congratulate Monica as the NUA Volunteer of the Quarter! She will be receiving a recognition gift for her contribution.

    You can find Monica's business, Monday Wash Furniture, on her website, and on facebook,and instagram and be sure to head over to our blog to read some of her fantastic work.

  • April 23, 2021 1:07 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

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


    My Evolving Perspective 

    I have always been a proponent of re-use. As a little girl, I treasured dolls and other toys passed on to me by my grandma. For my high-school homecoming dance, I wore a lace suit that belonged to my mom and, for prom, I rented a tuxedo rather than buy a dress. Much of my current wardrobe is second hand and my home is furnished, almost entirely, with pieces that were my parents’ or were purchased from antique and resale stores. Some of these pieces are hundreds of years old and all are still up to the task of providing comfort and support. I’d like to say that I routinely re-use for altruistic reasons, but that’s not really true. While I deeply appreciate the benefits to the environment of rescuing, repurposing and reusing, the truth is that my primary driver is simply that I love old stuff. I find old things beautiful to the eye and to the touch and I am hopelessly enamored of their intrigue, history and mystery.

    Days of late, though, I’ve been giving more thought to the larger picture. I have learned a lot through my membership in the NUA – from people I’ve interviewed, like Kriss Kokoefer, owner of Kay Chesterfield in Oakland, CA, and from board and committee members including Carla Pyle, and Jamie Facciola. These women apply their great minds, endless heart and collective sense of purpose to protecting the earth and human health on a daily basis. 


    A Global Fast and Furious Race to the Bottom

    Recently, the NUA, as an act of solidarity with garment workers, has shared posts related to Fashion Revolution Week, an annual event organized by the not-for-profit organization Fashion Revolution. The Fashion Revolution movement arose in 2013 following the deaths of 1,134 Bangladeshi garment workers, and the wounding of 2,500 more, in the collapse of an eight-story building that had been declared unsafe for use. It is not news that garment workers have long been exploited but the overall culture shift, in recent decades, to unprecedented levels of product consumption and waste has led to a ballooning in the number of lives on the line and has gravely amplified the magnitude of their risk. The collapse of Rana Plaza that April morning in Savar Upizila, Bangladesh was the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. Despite that horror, covered in the news and witnessed by the world, thousands upon thousands of garment workers around the globe, including undocumented workers in the United States, have reported for duty every day since- under appalling conditions that do not yield a living wage.  Brands want to keep their profits high and their costs down so they will move orders to whichever factory will make it cheapest. To get the work, factories often compete to pay the lowest prices. They cut corners on health and safety. Slash wages. It’s a race to the bottom,.”writes Martine Parry on the Fairtrade blog.


    Image source: Fashion Revolution Instagram


     “Fast Fashion” has become a well-recognized phenomenon. Dana Thomas of the Wall Street Journal notes, “Workers and the environment suffer as trendy, inexpensive clothes are swiftly mass produced in subcontracted factories and sold in chain stores world-wide…American shoppers snap up about five times more clothing now than they did in 1980.” Sadly, these items are often discarded as quickly and remorselessly as they were made. 

    “Fast Furniture” is the lesser recognized but equally destructive equivalent to “Fast Fashion”.  “As with fast fashion, fast furniture’s environmental problems are closely tied to ethical issues: the transfer of domestic manufacturing overseas where companies can pay lower wages,.” Eleanor Cummins writes in The New Republic. Similar to garment workers, thousands of people in the furniture production chain report to factories each day to crank out mass produced pieces that are not likely to last more than a few years. As these pieces occasionally end up on our benches, we upholsterers have witnessed the evidence: chemical laden particleboard and other inferior quality materials held together with bits of plastic and rubber and covered over with random forms of padding and a deceptively attractive outer fabric layer. When this happens, we have to help our clients decide: Does it make sense to reupholster this piece? Can we shore the frame up with better quality materials to give it the strength to last? Sometimes, the answer is yes. But where does the staggering majority of these rapidly assembled products born of hard, under compensated labor end up? In the landfill, serving no one and harming everyone. 


    Fast Furniture mirrors fast fashion in many ways, but it is an even more challenging problem to address in one regard in particular: size. To be considered are the amount of materials that go into large and complex pieces of furniture (like sofas and recliners), the energy it takes to ship those pieces from overseas factories (and the pollution that causes), the volume it occupies in landfill (9.8 million tons of furniture went to US landfills in 2017, double 1990 volume and 5 times 1960 totals, see “Re-up and Re-use” infographic), and the fact that sheer unwieldy size is one of the primary reasons furniture is tossed to the curb. In today’s culture, it is common for adults to change jobs many times before retirement. This means moving more frequently and often choosing to rent instead of buy homes. Moving furniture is logistically difficult and expensive. Particularly for young people who have not accumulated savings, it just seems to make sense to toss a sofa bought for a few hundred bucks a couple of years ago (that has perhaps become wobbly, broken and/or less fashionable) and buy a new one to compliment the new space. 

    Ways to Participate 

    New high-quality furniture is expensive, but solidly built older pieces may be found in abundance in antique and resale shops. Found, purchased and heirloom furniture can be updated to fit a range of tastes and spaces and, if maintained, will be readily welcomed back by resale shops should a change be in order. Upholsterers can do their part by informing the public of the benefits of re-upholstery, giving good council as to whether or not reupholstering a piece is advisable, and discussing the fabric, padding and structural design options that are feasible in relation to the client’s budget.

    I encourage consumers to reach out to local upholsterers to discuss options for updating and maintaining furniture. That said, I know that re-upholstery is not an option for everyone, and that everyone needs furniture. The situation is such now that sometimes the best/most rational option is to buy new at the lower prices on offer. During Fashion Revolution Week, advocates for garment workers urge the public to ask apparel companies, “Who made my clothes?”  and to demand transparency regarding the chain of production with the goal of transforming it to value and serve the health and well being of people and the planet above profit. One of the things I like best about old furniture is that every piece has a story. New pieces have stories, too. We should be asking, “Who made my furniture? And where? And how? And with what materials? What does that mean for us and for our children and for our planet? What can we do, and push big companies to do, to be sure that story has a happy ending?

     


    Kriss Kokoefer is on a successful mission to convince large corporations to “Re-up(holster) and Re-use”. Toward this end, she has created a furniture waste infographic that she employs to sway companies to retain a percentage of their furnishings when relocating and/or redecorating, and to engage in maintenance contracts to regularly service and update (rather than discard) furniture that requires attention. 

    Carla Pyle, owner of Natural Upholstery has made it her business to help tradespeople, DIYers and consumers learn the benefits and practical ins and outs of sourcing and using natural materials. 

    Jamie Facciola’s  writings and presentations on circular economy are passionately revelatory and her Instagram personification of furniture items kicked to the curb in Oakland, CA is at once razor sharp witty and heartbreakingly poignant. 



  • March 31, 2021 11:00 AM | CARLA PYLE (Administrator)

    What's up back-stage at the National Upholstery Association?

    Spotlight on the Volunteer Coordination Committee

    Team celebrating on a mountaintop

    The Volunteer Coordination Committee supports the NUA's mission by growing our team of qualified volunteers through prospecting, recruitment, and retention efforts. This committee helps prospective volunteers find their best fit and looks for ways to ensure high volunteer engagement in our endeavor to enhance the overall member experience. 

    We are currently (April, 2021) comprised of four members; our responsibilities include laying the foundation for a successful volunteer program, recruiting and training new volunteers, keeping a database of volunteer information and skills, matching volunteers to opportunities that suit their skills, keeping volunteers informed, and conveying the NUA's purpose to the public. 

    Current openings on the Volunteer Coordination Committee are:

    Volunteer Outreach Assistant – will assist in recruiting and collecting/maintaining data, as well as communicating with volunteers about schedules, training, and opportunities.

    Volunteer Communications Coordinator – Use your writing skills to create blog posts and newsletter submissions, send emails to potential and existing volunteers, keep communication templates up to date, and other related tasks.

    “The best part about working with the NUA’s Volunteer Coordination Committee is making new friends in the upholstery world! Enthusiasm runs high on our volunteer team for advancing the field of professional upholstery, while getting to know others in the trade. We look forward to meeting you and helping you find the best fit for your skills & goals, as we work together for the future success of our rapidly evolving trade!” 

    ~ Carla Pyle, Committee Chair

    We invite you to join our committee and be a part of achieving NUA’s exciting goals this year!

    Ready to dive in? Check out all of our current volunteer opportunities, and fill out a brief volunteer application to get started.


  • March 19, 2021 12:54 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

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

     ___________________________________________________________

    70% -80% of what the furniture industry produces goes to landfills.*

    It’s 1996 and 29-year-old Kriss Kokoefer is laying wide awake on the floor of a friend’s San Francisco apartment, her three modest suitcases stacked in the corner and her mind churning. Already, she has shed the skin of her past life in Cincinnati, OH - the round-the-clock demands of the hospitality industry that hadn’t fed her soul. Kriss has enrolled in an interior design school and thinks she is going to become a residential interior designer, but she is wrong. 

    ***

    “I put myself into something I was fascinated with, but I didn’t know where it was going to lead,” Kriss says. While in design school, Kriss took a job as an account executive at a commercial furniture dealership. “I fell in love with the industry and the commercial side of design.  I love combining design and business. The rest is history. I have had several different positions within the contract furniture industry. The one that really launched my beloved career was with Teknion (a prominent Canadian purveyor of office furnishings) as their Bay Area marketing person. The job required me to get to know every interior designer, furniture dealer, and architect practicing commercial work in the Bay Area. This has served me ever since.” 

    Today, Kriss Kokoefer is the fourth owner of Kay Chesterfield, Inc. in Oakland, CA, an upholstery business launched by Sam Kay one hundred years ago. She is also the creator of the Re-Up infographic featured here, a representation of her mission to save furniture from being dumped into  landfills. Kriss arrived here not so much by traveling off the beaten path as by focusing her passion to change the topography of commercial design and guide some major players across that terrain. She prefers a different metaphor, though: steering “the big ships”.

    Years ago, armed with the relationships she had forged with architects and designers during her tenure with Teknion, Kriss launched Kokoefer + Co. a successful independent representative group for high-end office furniture.  When Kokoefer + Co customers needed repairs or her manufacturers needed local warranty work, she turned to John Jones of Kay Chesterfield for help. One day, Kriss was retrieving a re-upholstered Womb chair and John mentioned that he and his wife, Jo Anne, were planning to retire. Kriss, ready for another challenge, obtained an SBA loan and bought the business.  Fortunately, John and Jo Anne stayed on for six months to mentor her. Like the Jones, Kriss was not a trained upholsterer, nor had she ever run a workshop. “John and Jo Anne came into re-upholstery, 25 years ago, from the same commercial furniture background as I did and they were willing to help me make the big career transition.” The second stroke of good fortune was that a majority of the Kay Chesterfield employees remained, some of them hired back when the Kay family still owned the business; this gave Kriss a great deal of capital and comfort in terms of skill and industry know-how. 


     When I ask Kriss what prompted her to buy the shop in 2012, she says, “I loved that it was local, I loved that it was a craft, I loved that it was environmental, and I loved that, as the owner, I would have control,” referencing the fact that, as a manufacturers’ rep, she could not manage quality control of furniture coming from all over the world. 

    If you visit the Kay Chesterfield website, you will see, front and center on every page, the message: Re-Up(holster) to benefit the environment. Kriss notes though environmental and human health were not the only reasons she bought the company, they were certainly priorities. Committed 100% to the care of the employees, her business, and the environment, Kriss is tackling the rigorous requirements of B Corp status. Certified B Corporations balance people, planet, and profit. “They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment (www.bcorporation.net).” Kriss is adamant that profit, crucial to the health of her business, is, by extension, integral to her ability to impact the health of the planet.


    When Kriss was with Teknion, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and rating system was just being developed. More and more interior designers were asking, “what’s your sustainability story, what’s your environmental story?” Says Kriss, “I was also heavily involved in IIDA (the International Interior Design Association). Suddenly, many industry-sponsored presentations were about environmental health and human health. That’s when my eyes got opened and I got onto my health kick. I don’t think people talk about human health enough…all of the toxins and what they do in our bodies.” 


    Kriss references Simon Sinek and his book Start with Why. “My ‘Why’ is keeping furniture out of the landfill. So, everything I do, I use that as my framework.” Kriss tells me she’s taken on “a sort of evangelistic role”. She has hired highly skilled and experienced project managers from the commercial furniture world to oversee the day-to-day affairs at Kay Chesterfield so she is free to meet with, and give presentations to, what she calls the “big ships”, decision-makers at large businesses, and influential design firms. By working at this level, she maximizes her efforts. “Most designers want to create something fresh and most of their clients want to look different from their competition, so when a company is making a change or moving their headquarters, they often throw everything out and start over.” Kriss wants to gently change their thinking.


    “There are two focused junctures for re-upholstering contract furniture,” says Kriss. 1: When a business decides to move its headquarters. “This is a great time to inventory what soft seating the company owns and then have the designer imagine how to use it in the new design. My goal here is small, 10-20% because designers typically want to start with a clean slate to express their one-of-a-kind ideas.  I don’t want to stop them but if they can commit to some reuse it's a step in the right direction.” 2: Maintenance programs for soft seating. “‘Resimercial’ is the hot new term in corporate settings. It refers to corporate or public spaces looking like a home, hotel, or spa. Since this is a new trend, I do not believe facility managers have a plan for keeping the upholstery fresh. I want to get this stage of re-upholstery out of the design budget and into the maintenance budget. There are many ‘living room’ settings in businesses now to attract and retain employees (millennials in particular). From what I have read in recent industry articles, these settings are one ‘tool’ to entice people to come back to the office after the pandemic is over.  I would like facility managers to have a plan to re-upholster these pieces 80% of the time (as opposed to buying new soft seating pieces).

     

    Toward this end, Kriss developed the Re-Up infographic in 2020. She didn’t have a background in statistics, but she knew, “The big players really want to see the data.”  Kriss found that, though there were plenty of statistics regarding the detrimental impact of “fast fashion” (cheaply made garments often quickly discarded and replaced), there was a shocking lack of data regarding its counterpart “fast furniture”. After gleaning a handful of available statistics from articles here and there, Kriss hired a marketing professional to put them all on one page in the form of a clear and striking infographic with references to the original material.

    The infographic crystallized Kriss’s message. Her marketing consultant asserted that the Kay Chesterfield website must be redesigned to fully align with it. Though Kriss was proud of her existing website and loved its aesthetic, she knew this was true. If this was her “Why”, then she had to be all in.

    Kriss Kokoefer seeks a tide change. She wants to see decision-makers making an intentional choice to re-upholster. “The health of our planet is declining and re-upholstery is a tool to make a positive difference.” She is very hopeful. Kriss mentions three recent contracts: an airport with a Zero Waste initiative, and two large tech companies that relocated headquarters. Both tech companies chose to re-upholster as many pieces as possible and reintegrate them into their new designs. Kriss’ excitement brims over, “THAT is unheard of. THAT has never happened before! They want their employees and their communities to know that they don’t throw furniture away.”

     

    Kriss encourages all of us in the re-upholstery trade to go for the 10- 20% commitment from our clients. We can all “work to change the thinking of new spaces. We need to go to all commercial end-users that have soft seating, get in there, and get maintenance contracts set up. Target facilities managers and make it easy for them with a re-upholstery system (to regularly repair and update existing furniture).” This will benefit our businesses, their businesses, the planet, and the health of everyone involved.

    Kriss is gaining traction. “Gensler, the biggest commercial interior design company in the world, recently created a sustainability group with a new lens looking at furniture and construction waste!” Kriss leans in and her face fills my monitor. “They created a group! And they want to have a private meeting with me tomorrow afternoon. So, I am SO hopeful.” 

    The tide is, indeed, changing. Behold Kriss Kokoefer steering those big ships toward a brighter horizon. 

     

    * Statistic from Re-Up and Re-Use infographic pictured here. Original source: www.waste360.com/waste-reduction?how-steel-case-s-initiatives-support-local-economy

     

    Links:

    Downloadable copy of the infographic

    www.kaychesterfield.com

    www.instagram.com/kaychesterfield

    www.facebook.com/kaychesterfield

  • February 28, 2021 8:21 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    To celebrate the many reasons we love our craft and want to support our trade, we’ve created this shareable info-graphic. Download, re-post, add it to your blog, website, or print it out. Help us shout from the rooftops the many reasons people should choose to reupholster instead of replace.



    Download a PNG file for social media or website

    Download the printable PDF


  • February 10, 2021 1:32 PM | Michelle Minner (Administrator)

    By Monica Rhodes, NUA Volunteer


    Until very recently, it was virtually impossible, in this country, to learn traditional methods from a Master upholsterer. Enter Louise Cornick, an incredibly charismatic and resourceful upholstery-loving woman not inclined to take no for an answer. 

    In addition to owning Upholstery Education and planning and managing the courses, Louise Cornick has her own upholstery business, Sitting Pretty, and is a founding member of the National Upholstery Association. Given this, you might be surprised to learn that upholstery is relatively new to Louise. She and her husband, Rob, moved to Southern California from the United Kingdom in 2012 after Rob retired from the Royal Navy. During a previous four-year stint in the States years ago, while Rob was still active in the Navy, their children had been small and Louise had made friends easily as she interacted with other parents. This time, her children were grown and, though she had worked in the travel industry in the past, she did not yet possess a green card, necessary to obtain work in the USA. One day, a course catalogue for Foothills Adult Education in El Cajon arrived in her Bonita, CA mailbox. Louise would later learn that Bonita was outside the school’s mail delivery radius. It kind of makes one believe in fate.

    Here is what happened when a gregarious person with a “business head and passionate heart” looking to make friends ended up with a rogue course catalogue in her hands: She changed the game for upholsterers in America.

    Thumbing through the catalogue, Louise was drawn to the creative options. She came upon a listing for an upholstery class and thought, “OK, why not?” Louise was one of 28 students in the class taught by a single instructor, Tony Asaro. Students brought their own projects and Tony made the rounds able to offer only a few minutes of attention to each individual. His instructions were brief, brusque and tinged with (sometimes questionable) humor. Some students didn’t like his manner, but Louise enjoyed Tony immensely. He became both a mentor and cherished friend. Louise credits her love of upholstery, in part, to the chemistry they shared. Eager to dive deeper, Louise spent additional time in Asaro’s classroom and eventually signed up for an intensive 240-hour course at San Diego Continuing Education.

    Louise became interested in traditional methods, but Tony was not able to help; nor was her instructor at SDCE who brushed her off saying there was no way she’d find anyone to teach her. Louise found this intensely frustrating, even more so when she learned that such instruction could be obtained in the UK – where she no longer lived. She turned to the Upholsterer’s Friendly Forum on Facebook to learn what she could about traditional upholstery. Among those who reached out to help was British Master upholsterer Gareth Rees. 

    On a visit to the UK to see her elderly mother, Louise learned that Gareth was offering a workshop, but she was unable to make time to attend it. Lying awake in bed, her frustration boiled over. If only she could get Gareth to come to the US to teach her. A voice in her head practically shouted, “Don’t just think it. Do it!” And, she did.

    Through a series of messages, Louise invited Gareth to come to California and teach herself and 12 fellow upholstery students, all of whom agreed to pitch in to cover costs. Louise and Rob took the risk of purchasing a ticket for Rees, who had never been on a “long haul” flight, and invited him to stay in their home. Louise and Gareth both had the same thought, “Oh, my God, this is really happening!” The two had never even spoken on the phone. Choosing to maintain the mad magic of it all, they decided to wait until they were face to face to hear each other’s voices.


    Louise tended to all of the details, including securing a classroom at Foothills Adult Education over a long weekend. Afterward, everyone agreed the workshop had been an immense success: expert training by a Master, expertly organized and catered by Louise. Her considerable gift for entertaining made it an incredible experience for all. There was food, fun, camaraderie - both inside and outside the classroom - and “the highest quality instruction available in the world.” Louise smiles, “There was so much energy, humour, banter, and Gareth knew everything. He was so engaged. There was just so much pleasure.”



    Louise shared the experience with members of the forum and was flooded with inquiries about the next workshop. There were no plans for that but, unable to turn her back on such enthusiasm, Louise mustered the courage to ask Gareth if he’d consider doing it again. His answer, a wholehearted “Yes!” At this point, Louise was not viewing this as a business but the momentum continued and, in May of 2018, she formally launched her company, Upholstery Education. The courses have since expanded to 6 days and include three Master upholsterers each teaching a separate skill for two days. Courses are offered on both coasts annually, one in San Diego, CA and one New York, NY.


    Armand Verdier, Greg Cupitt-Jones, Louise Cornick, Gareth Rees, Bruno Paulin Lopez

    To learn more about the Master instructors click here.

    Explains Louise, “It’s a very boutique experience, there’s nothing else like it, not even in the UK. Three Masters in one place.” Students learn very specific skills, not on whole pieces of furniture, but on custom made frames designed to facilitate those particular methods. “It’s about technique. It’s about hand skills,” says Louise. It’s also about being comfortable and at ease. Nourishment for the mind, the body and the soul. Tea, coffee, delicious snacks throughout the day. It’s about “the best experience ever.” 

    Says Kasia Heurich of Abracadabra Upholstery in Middletown, NY, “I live in an area where many people have antique furniture and I was asked on many occasions to reupholster them using traditional techniques. Since I only knew modern upholstery, I never accepted those projects. I was dying to learn the traditional techniques, but it’s pretty much impossible to find anybody here in the US to teach these. I was thrilled to sign up for Upholstery Education. I was following Armand Verdier and Bruno Paulin Lopez on Instagram already; meeting them in person was just unbelievable. Greg Cuppit-Jones is so talented and unbelievably patient. A wonderful teacher. And Gareth Rees, not only an amazing upholsterer, but now also the chairperson for the Guild of Traditional Upholsterers.  Louise is so devoted to promoting traditional techniques in this country. It is only thanks to her that I had the opportunity to meet and learn from these masters of traditional upholstery.”



    Plain and simple, Louise Cornick is a game changer. As American upholsterers, we should thank our lucky stars that the Foothills Adult Education catalogue found its way into her hands – and that Louise is uniquely Louise. She gets it done.

    Due to Covid-19, Upholstery Education postponed the last 3 Masters Course in New York. The hope is it won’t be long before that course, and another in San Diego, can proceed.


    Links:

    www.upholsteryeducation.com 

    www.instagram.com/upholsteryeducation

    www.facebook.com/upholsteryeducation

    www.facebook.com/sittingprettyupholsteryservices

    ______________________________________

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





  • February 03, 2021 5:05 PM | CARLA PYLE (Administrator)

    Thank You Volunteers!

    NUA volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization. In recognition of our colleagues’ stand-out efforts, the Board has established two designations for honoring that work. In each quarterly newsletter, and at the end of each year, one volunteer will be recognized for work that goes above & beyond the call of duty. 

    The two volunteers honored below have not only delivered more than was expected, they have done it with a friendly and positive demeanor. Thank you both for shining your light and raising our spirits with your presence!
     

    Jill Ragan Scully
    Volunteer of the Year 2020

    Jill took up the task of webinar host in the first days of NUA’s existence in 2019, as the inaugural Board & Committees sought to establish high value member perks. As webinar coordinator and host (with early help from Linda Miller), Jill has not flagged in bringing meaningful monthly conversations - about skills, tools, business acumen, and so much more - to help members advance their own knowledge in the workroom and office. 

    Jill is being recognized for her undying dedication to planning, producing, and publishing of the webinars for permanent member access. The three most popular webinars have been Wood repairs with Scott Bennett, Once Upon a Hide with Carla Bluitt of Crest Leather, and Upholstered Furniture Design with Lewis Mabon. We can’t wait to see what’s next! Members can log in to access webinars at any time. If you’re not a member, you can join here to take advantage of this valuable resource. 

    Jill will receive a recognition gift for her service.
     

    Lindsey Ring
    Volunteer of the Quarter, Q1 2021

    Lindsey joined us as web administrator in September 2020, and she has shown us the true meaning of ‘proactive’. A full website rebuild was mentioned as an 'eventual' goal at that time, and Lindsey took this as an immediate call to action, exploring ways to improve the NUA’s website. By November, she had established a test site and wire diagrams showing how the website could be improved for drawing traffic and for creating a more intuitive flow. She offered to make the transition happen over the Thanksgiving holiday, and with help from Rachel Fletcher, Audrey Lonsway, and Michelle Minner, she worked her magic. 

    Lindsey will receive a recognition gift for her proactive website management.  
     
    Nominations for volunteer recognition may be sent to info@nationalupholsteryassociation.org any time during the year.

    Want to help? Contact info@nationalupholsteryassociation.org to find out how you can join our volunteer team!


  • 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.



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