Monday, November 23, 2015

Upholstery Studio

Well I did that thing, that thing I said I never wanted to do, I opened a little shoppe. Or rather an Upholstery Studio. It is located in the back of a new local Antique and Art mall. I have a retail area and a workroom where I can do upholstery and create. It's kind of an unusual place for an Upholstery business to be but that's what I like about it.

When I first started thinking that I wanted to have a retail space to work and meet with clients the main objective was to get out of my house. I have been working from home for over 3 1/2 years and it's been great. It was a season of my life where I wanted to be alone with my work and just learn my craft. Then something changed.  I started to really miss working around other people. You know being able to have coffee breaks and a chat. Talking with customers. Experiencing those occasional random and wonderfully strange people walking in. I love to laugh and well you can't just laugh by yourself all the time, it's weird. I started to look at locations in my town and realized if I rent a location by myself I'll be working alone again just away from my house. At this point I don't have employees and I don't need a lot of space. I have a home studio so adding a huge expense of renting a retail location seemed silly just to get out of the house. After thinking it through I just kind of figured it wasn't going to work out. 

But the dream wouldn't die. I just kept thinking about it.

Then I walked into the store my new landlords own. I've been shopping there for years.(btw I bought Ben from them, if you know what that means you get a cookie)I was telling them about what I wanted to do, just to put it out there in the universe you know, and he said "hey I bought the building next-door and we were thinking of renting spaces and turning it into an antique mall. Maybe you could do something with some of the space." So we went over and took a look and I thought, this could work.

Here's why I think it works. I have the ability to go behind a closed door and work and still be available when someone wants to talk to me about upholstery. Either by appointment or walk in. I also don't have to worry about the walk in traffic that doesn't want to talk to me. Like if someone just wants to buy a pillow there is someone else running the mall that can help them. Another benefit is I'm able to rent just the space I need not a whole building. Being in a mall gives me more foot traffic then I would get just being a stand alone upholstery shop. That gives me an opportunity to sell smalls, which do add up and help pay the rent. Of course best of all is I'm not working alone all day. When I need some social time there will always be someone around to play with.  

Just to be real I realize that of course there are a few things that may not work out. Like if I get enough traffic that I cant get anything done. (or I cant stop chatting with people long enough to get anything done) Another thing is if you have a creative business you know it's a lot about branding, location and knowing your customer. If I'm in a mall I don't have control over the look and feel of the entire space. Right now that's not a problem the other vendors are great. There is art, gift items like cards and candles, lots of great small antiques. I literally have bought something every day. It's different then what I'm used to but since my main goal for this space is custom work I think it works.  Things may change down the road but even if you rent a whole building you never know if the owner could sell and you have to move or who could move in next door, right? So I'm not worried about it.

Right now I've got the showroom portion of my Studio complete. This is where I have pieces on display/for sale to showcase my work. I will be selling some vintage decorative items, pillows and special order upholstery fabric. I will also sell supplies like foam, batting, burlap by the yard, nail heads, etc. that people can purchase for there own DIY projects. My main focus for the studio is custom upholstery work but since I have the retail space as well it'll be fun to be able to sell different things. It will probably take me a while to figure out what sells but I will figure it out. 

My workroom is getting close to being finished. I'll be painting this week. It will be my place to do upholstery work and create. I plan to be there three or four days a week and work from home the other days. I will have to see how that plays out. I am kicking around the idea of teaching classes or possibly one on one time that people can pay by the hour for me to teach them. I'm not sure when or if that will pan out. We shall see.  

Shelton is a small town. I wanted to open my business where I live and be part of my community. With that said, I have amazing custom clients in the Tacoma WA area, and I still plan to work with them and also continue to sell my pieces at The Modern Cottage Company. I love the girls of MCC. Alison, the owner, Amanda (Ferpie and Fray) & Devon (Bride on a Bike). They have become a dear friends. You just don't find those kinds of kindred spirits that often in life. They support me, inspire me and make me dream big. Plus I love seeing my stuff it that store it's just gorgeous. 

It's funny how dreams start so small and you didn't even know you wanted it and then it grows until you can think of nothing else. I'm excited for this new chapter. I think it'll be great. If it doesn't work out I'll just keep going until I find what works for me.

The Studio is located inside The Off The Wall Gallery & Cota Street Emporium (new name) at 114 W Cota St, Shelton Wa. Hours currently are Thurs-Sat 11-5 but will change to include Tues & Wed soon. I am not working there until the work room is finished but am available by appointment. My showroom/retail space is open during mall hours. 

One last thing, I have to say thank you to everybody who's been so supportive of me from the beginning. My friends and family who were my first customers that let me practice on them. My former coworkers who bought those first little shelves I made, the people who let me sell my things in their stores. All the people who have bought my stuff or let me work on their own special pieces. Those who follow my blog, Facebook and Instagram. Thank you. Every nugget of kindness is like a little brick that help build my confidence and gave me the courage to keep going. So thank you!
- Michelle

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Monday, August 24, 2015

"Deconstructed" Chair Transformation

I absolutely love the look of deconstructed furniture. I love using burlap, little exposed tacks, webbing, all of it.  This piece was perfect for it because of the chunky exposed frame. 

It was at this point after I stripped all the fabric and old foam that the idea struck me. 

So I promptly ripped the caning off. I know I took off perfectly good caning but it looks so much cooler with upholstered arms. I chose to paint the frame because the stain had the tell tail seventies black speckling. I used General Finishes paint in the color driftwood. It's a gorgeous grey but its coming off purplish in my photos. Grey always does in my workshop. 

Another element of deconstructed furniture is exposed webbing and burlap.

The linen fabric is attached to the frame with tiny steel upholstery tacks. Tedious yes, but so worth it.

Same thing with the arms and upholstered seat.  

Such a difference I love this one so much. 

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Matching Patterns in Upholstery

I recently found a unique high wingback with a carved wood frame that screamed for something different. I lean towards neutrals because that's what I like in my home but I really wanted to step away from that. I loved the shade of blue in this bold HGTV Home fabric but knew doing the whole chair in it would be too busy for me. So I tried something I have been meaning to do for quite awhile. Inspired by a photograph from Traditional Home I decided to sew two different fabrics into a stripe pattern for the chair.  I have to laugh at myself sometimes because if I had just chosen one fabric I would have been able to do this project in half the time. My goal is to make money with my pieces after all. It seems I'm always trying to reinvent the wheel but trying new things is what keeps me going. 

The difficulty in this piece was elevated because there was a separate seat cushion. I not only had to match the stripe but also the pattern.  

I decide I wanted my stripe ten inches wide. I cut my patterned pieces at 11" and sewed them to the white fabric with 1/2" seams.  I sewed another stitch right next to the first stitch just for extra strength. 

I find the best place to start when matching a pattern is to sew the cushion first.

I started with the boxing. It needed to be four inches so I cut my piece at five inches for seam allowance by 11 inches making sure my pattern was centered. The back of the cushion does not need to match up because it has a zipper and wont be seen.

Next for the top and bottom pieces find where the pattern matches and don't forget to allow 1/2" for the seam allowance. I actually left a little extra on both front and back to give myself room for error. Once those pieces were cut I sewed my patterned fabric to bands of white fabric to form a square. Then I laid the old cushion fabric as a pattern on top matching up where the front needed to be, pinned it, then cut out the shape I needed for my cushion.

I used tons of staples (yep staples not pins) across the front to make sure everything stayed lined up when I sewed the pieces together. 

Once the cushion is done I do the bottom under the cushion. That you kind of just have to eyeball the pattern. It's more forgiving then the cushion. Only the front 6 inches or so has the pattered fabric the rest is just white. Next up the back. Tuck in the sides and bottom then place your cushion back on before you staple to make sure it all lines up.       

The frame is painted with driftwood milk paint and sanded back. The white fabric is a Hemp Canvas that I have used several times now. It has a heavy linen texture that I love but it's kind of like wearing white jeans. You can see every lump and bump.  Kind of maddening being the upholster but in the end it always looks good.

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