When acquiring a new skill, I often learn best by first researching and reading about the subject. I like to analyze a book word for word and cover to cover. This helps me to process the information, and prepare myself for the order in which things will to be done. This can be a good first step, if you too, are also a reader.
For beginners learning upholstery, I highly recommend Upholstery: A Beginners’ Guide by David James and Professional Upholstering: All the Trade Secrets by Frank Destro Jr., both which can be purchased on Amazon. These are well-written resources to own and keep in your workroom.
Upholstery, being a tactile skill, is quite difficult to learn merely by reading about it, even if that is your preferential way of learning. This is where Kim’s Upholstery has stepped in and provided learners with the visual resources for developing the necessary upholstery skills required to work on and complete various upholstery projects. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have literally watched her videos dozens of times, and I refer back to them on a very regular basis. Simply watching these videos, however, isn’t enough to learn.
Martial artist and actor, Bruce Lee, (Remember him?), had a great philosophy about learning that I feel could also apply to learning the craft of upholstery…
“If you want to learn to swim, jump into the water. On dry land, no frame of mind is ever going to help you.”
Even if you love watching the videos over and over, my best advice is to step away from the TV or computer monitor, and just try. Choose one video that you are most interested, carve a little time into your schedule, and give it a go. By attempting and practicing each skill, you will soon figure out what does and does not work. Redo inexpensive pieces of your own. Begin with recovering a seat cushion, and work your way up to learning more difficult skills and projects. I promise it does get easier with time.
You may also want to learn, but are reluctant to try on your own. Or you may learn best with someone at your side demonstrating. If this is the case, and you are fortunate to have one of Kim’s Upholstery Workshops being held in your area, or are able to attend one of her workshops at her Greenfield, MA studio, this may prove to be a great opportunity for you. Her workshops, for sure, are a lot like jumping into the water. Please let me explain.
The workshops are scheduled as either one, two, or three days long, depending on what is being offered. Starting at about 8 am, you back your vehicle down the driveway, and Bill and Kim and the other 3 or 4 students are there to welcome you and help unpack your upholstery pieces and supplies. They are brought into the back section of the building. Spacious and roomy, you place your piece on the elevated workhorses set up at individual stations for each student.
We then meet in the front section of the studio at the breakfast table, where you are introduced to the other students and spend a few minutes getting to know one another. It is lots of fun meeting with other upholstery enthusiasts, and you might be surprised how much, besides upholstery, you may have in common. We open up a little about where we live, what we may do for work, and how we got into upholstery. After a cup of coffee, and some snacks, we go into the workroom, and you literally jump in! You are learning actual skills from the very first minute.
Although the students may be at different levels of learning, Kim and Bill are available, right beside you, explaining each step in detail, and guiding you along the way. So, where a brand newbie may be learning how to web a chair, the student at the next station may be learning to pad his chair, and the student across may be learning how to make and place buttons. The greatest part of the workshop is that the teaching is individualized, and each student moves comfortably at his or her pace, learning skills at various levels.
The other students are very supportive of one another, cheerleading along the way, as the pieces move closer to completion.
Around noonish, we break for lunch (although you can keep drinks and snacks in the kitchen all day for any time you need a rest). Depending on the weather, and how the group is feeling, we either walk to a small Italian pizzeria across the street, or sometimes will order in. Lunch is a fun time. I find it interesting to chat with students from all over the country. I have met students from North Dakota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maine, and each student contributes to the positive energy in the workshop.
After lunch, its back to work. Several more hours of building up our chairs. Although students are mostly quietly working, there is room for some laughter as we find humor learning from our mistakes. Throughout the day, Kim is right by your side, showing you what needs to be done next, and answering any questions. Before you know it, you look up at the clock, and it is 5 o’clock. As we wind down, we clean up and talk about the what we will be working on the next day.
Usually, at least one of the evenings, we meet up at one of the local restaurants to relax a bit and wind down. Trust me, by 8 o’clock, we are all very tired from the day and are looking forward to returning to our hotels to rest. But no worries, the fun will resume tomorrow. And so, the next day begins.
The best part of all? There is a great feeling of accomplishment on your way home from the workshop. You will leave with so much knowledges, tips and tricks, and a fantastic supportive network. Your completed (or nearly completed) piece will return home with you, and can be a reminder of what you have learned, and how far you have come.
How can you generally prepare for one of these workshops? (Next time I will discuss preparing for one of the workshops in detail).
Unless you live within an hour of Kim’s Upholstery, it would be worth considering staying in one of the nearby hotels or bed and breakfasts. As I mentioned, the days are long, and you will probably be quite tired as the evenings grown near. Kim has a list of some nice places to stay. My best advice is get a good night’s sleep and eat a decent breakfast. The days are long, but go by very fast, and you will need the rest and nourishment.
So, jump in!
I welcome your questions and comments!
Have a wonderful week,