(debunking the myth)

Sadly worn, hauntingly beautiful blue velvet arm chair Image by ed robertson (494387-unsplash)

Your answer most likely depends on your perspective. If you’re an aspiring professional looking to fortify your education, and having trouble finding an accredited program, then you may be of the mind that things aren’t looking so rosy for upholstery’s future, and you would be totally justified in your belief. At least for the present…

From my perspective, I see upholstery as an industry that is undeniably in the midst of a paradigm shift, and it’s not easy to see the entire forest when you’re busy winding your way through the trees at ground level.

Upholstery is in flux, though SURELY not dying.

In previous posts, we’ve talked about evolution and we’ve begun to acknowledge & recognize where we now find ourselves within the trade. Still, I can’t help feeling a bit surprised when a passing mention of the state of the upholstery industry elicits a muttered “too bad it’s a dying trade”. Truly?!?

To my mind, I see the upholstery trade as a beacon within a throw-away culture that so desperately needs this saving grace – a way to minimize waste in an industry that throws millions of tons(!) of furniture into landfills each year.

Maybe it’s because I’m finding myself a part of a community that is reaching for those branches that lead to a better view. As collaborators, we’re pulling one another other up with each new foothold to share the slightly better view as it is revealed, bit by bit.

Pulling each other up - image by natalie pedigo (306019-unsplash)

Who we are (a snapshot of the amazing people who make up this industry)

  1. Professionals (ranging from large workrooms to sole proprietors – serving residential & commercial customers)
  2. DIY Makers (serious artisans, perhaps in transition between hobbyist & professional)
  3. Hobbyists (finding creative inspiration in upholstery, supporting their immediate family & friends)
  4. Educators (sharing knowledge from unique experience and training)
  5. Foundation Industries (suppliers of tools, textiles, and materials that make it all possible)
  6. Sister Industries (related industries with overlapping interests) such as Interior Design, Drapery & Soft Furnishings, Custom Furniture Manufacture
  7. Industry Leaders (collaborative groups growing the trade through sharing – creating resources that support all facets of the trade)

What we’re building

  • A way to connect with role models & mentors who are who are not only exploring new ways of working together, but also offering support to those who demonstrate an earnest desire to learn and help each other.
  • Innovation centers & maker spaces that encourage an atmosphere of collaborative spirit AND pushing the limits of what’s possible.
  • New business models adapted to rapid change, such as service & design cooperatives with pooled resources, pop-up events, and new educational prototypes.
  • A connected web of online resource(s) that serves the varied faces of the industry (yes, this step is still in the ‘idea’ stage, albeit with a LOT of support from the community at large!)

It’s all a work in progress.

As such, we’re always on the look-out for ideas and input, not just from the industry, but from ALL quarters. Because innovation success grows out of contributions from a broad spectrum of life experience.

together We Create! (image by my-life-through-a-lens 110632-unsplash)

The way forward

  1. Open source: As an industry, I believe we are willing now more than ever to share our resources, as we continue to witness how the benefits of shared knowledge far outweigh the ‘lone wolf’ approach of protecting proprietary knowledge.
  2. People working together: As humans, we seek to create a deeper connection to place – where we live, our surroundings, nature. There is imperative now more than ever to move in this direction.
  3. What if we created a world where the first thing that comes to mind is “How can I help you?”

This is my wish, expressed from a position of appreciation for all that has come before, and all that is shifting within the current movement: Let’s build a community that will embody these precepts.

Got an idea? I would love to hear your thoughts – please share in the comments below.

Since this post came out, the upholstery community has joined together in forming the National Upholstery Association.

Sign up for the mailing list and join the movement!