A week of options…

So this week has been back to work, and it would have been all to easy to allow myself to be fully consumed by the day job and lose the head space that the Christmas break has given me – but I didn’t.

I’m feeling really committed to upholstery as being the medium for my creativity. It should allow me to make something from scratch or resurrect something from the dead, it allows me to be the ‘specialist’ that I enjoy being and it allows me to be a part of the interiors world. Why I didn’t consider it before I have no idea – the seed was planted back in November when I met an upholsterer of a similar age to me (he was selling a house that my parents were looking to buy) and I had a light bulb moment. It wasn’t even as if he was selling it to me, in fact he didn’t really even talk about it, he just mentioned it in passing, but what he had inadvertently done was give me the idea that I’d been struggling to find.

Now all I need to do is work out if I’m any good at it! It’s a small technical detail, but at the point of writing this I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I did however see some really wonderful chairs and stools in a magazine this week that were just the kind of thing that I want to make. Brilliant.

I’ve established a few things – there is an Association of Upholsterers (AMUSF) who’s website has been pretty helpful. There are a few ways to learn the trade, you could take an NVQ or a City and Guilds approach, but for that you’d have to be working in the industry already. The AMUSF have accredited training centres where you could do a recreational course or an AMUSF qualification. Some colleges run evening classes or you could buy a book, some tools and have a go. This has been my main challenge this week – how do I go about becoming this brilliant, directional upholsterer who has amazingly stylish furniture photographed for magazines??

I’ve encountered a few obstacles too. It would appear from my research that the West Midlands is a black-hole for upholstery training. No evening classes, no accredited courses, nothing – so, I’ll have to travel whatever I do. Looking at the options further afield, evening classes are out because I can’t get there on time after work. Many of the specialist training centres offer great courses or qualifications, but most of them require 1-2 days per week classroom tuition on a weekday for 9-12 months and my day job has to come first. The AMUSF qualification is attractive, but it’s 6-7 weeks of classroom study in a 12 month period. I get less than 5 weeks’ annual leave from work. Oh, Did I mention the course is in Truro?

Undeterred, I have to decide on my approach and I want to come to a decision this weekend. I can either commit to a qualification which will use most of my holiday time for the next 2 years and cost me quite a lot of money or I can take a shorter course to learn some basics and practice, practice, practice!

The crux of the matter is do I need a qualification to become an upholsterer?


4 thoughts on “A week of options…

  1. Not at all…not only are you creative but you have considerable technical abilities. Remember what you achieved when you bought your first property?

  2. I subscribed (or thought I had) to your site so imagine my surprise when in fact, I hadn’t and you’ve got all these posts to catch up on.

    First of all – genius idea – from what you’ve said upholstery ticks all the boxes. And your question about “do I need a qualification” is a really great one – and one I might nick for a blog post if you don’t mind (an “agony aunt” type question if you are agreeable and I’ll wait to hear if you are)

    It’s interesting because my initial instinct was to say “yes, you do” – but that’s coz I’ve got so many qualifications that it looks like I’ve done a long stretch in prison! And if I delve further the thing I do now – training and developing creative businesses – I don’t have a qualification in (at least not at the time of writing). Yet I make a living from it – I’m told I’m good at it – and I do all I can to develop my expertise and be good at it.

    But not having a qualification bugged me a little, and so I’m currently part way through a Certificate in Facilitation at Henley Business School. It’s a Masters level qualification and I learned a lot from it. The first thing I learned was that a lot of what I did almost instinctively actually mapped over into “best practice” in the area. I learned some theory around learning and how groups work. I matched my observations and experience with the writings of academics and theorists. I felt that I had “rounded out” my sense of mastery…and I saw things about my practice that I could improve (especially my graphics).

    So I think you can absolutely learn and make a living without the qualification – or with some basic tuition and, as you say, some mindful practise and reading. But after time you may want to consolidate that experience with the pursuit of a qualification that will validate your learning so far, give you strength in depth and give you new things to stretch for (no pun intended) because they reveal a “blind spot” – something you didn’t know that you didn’t know. Right now you have plenty to go for that you DO know you want to learn.

    Auto-didacts are passionate and creative practitioners often because they don’t know the “rules” and therefore inadvertently break them. From a business perspective, you might want to look at some of the high end furniture makers and upholsterers that you want to emulate and see what they have got in the way of qualifications. It strikes me that at this stage some form of informal “apprenticeship” or mentoring may get you further down the road when you may be better placed to make a decision.

    I’ll probably read in the next post that you have made a decision – but the question made me think so thanks for that.

    1. Thanks for this Helga, I’m really happy for you to use this question as a topic for your Agony Aunt page.

      What I’m finding at the moment is that I have so much ‘conscious incompetence’ that every time I open a book or pick up a tool I’m learning something new, but you raise a really good point in so far as – what happens when I reach the limits of my self tuition?

      You may have seen from my later blog, but I’ve booked onto a course for August and I intent to get my money’s worth! At this point in time, they are the only upholstery contact I have and I’ll spend the week picking their brains on a whole host of stuff. No doubt with a few completed projects under my belt they can reduce my blind spot with a bit of feedback and teach me some techniques that at this stage I’m totally unaware of.

      I really like the idea of researching my upholstery ‘idols’ – my research so far suggests that few formal qualifications exist, so it will be interesting to see which ones (if any) they boast about.

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