Reading, Digging, Admiring

I admitted to a friend the other day that I was feeling the guilt again, since I came back from Truro I’ve only completed one small project and my skewers are still in their packaging. When I thought about it though, I’m still progressing but with some of the other foundations that I need for my future career to be a success.


I bought this book on recommendation, I’m not a massive reader but I felt confident from how it was described that it would be worth it. ‘The Element’ by Ken Robinson talks about embracing your passions and recognising the value that they have and the reality of what your passions can become. I’m finding it really uplifting and parts of it feel like they were written specifically for me. Spooky!


This workshop isn’t going to appear on its own, so it was time to get out the spade and start digging out the base. I’m hoping to have finished the excavation this weekend and then it’s buying hardcore and hiring a whacking plate – I get to play with machinery. Does it get more fun than that?


Earlier in the year I was given some sound advice to hunt out people who I admire to see what I could learn from them. The London Chair Collective came into this category for me, but more recently I’ve been admiring Hopper and Space. Joe and Ben not only restore and re-upholster some ultra cool mid-century pieces, but they have created a distinctive and sharp brand to support it. While the style of my pieces is a little different to theirs, I hope to have a similar presence one day.


Fear of Flying

I absolutely hate flying, everything about it from the take off to the landing. Every noise makes me jump, every bit of turbulence has me gripping the seat and I can’t close my eyes because if I do, who’s flying the plane? No amount of self-help books or reasoning have made me any better – something that big just shouldn’t be that high and going so fast! Now, I know it’s irrational and thankfully it hasn’t stopped me from seeing some wonderful and fascinating places, but the fear does stop me from travelling as frequently as I might otherwise like and takes away any last chance of being excited about a forthcoming trip.

The thing I have noticed is that immediately after a trip on a plane, I always think to myself “that wasn’t actually all that bad?” closely followed by thoughts of booking tickets to far away dream destinations while I’m holding on to my new found frequent-flyer style confidence. But I don’t. Instead, I let the time pass, and with that time come all of those irrational fears which creep back one by one as I forget the feelings from my last flight.

Coming back from Truro (by car!) this time last month left me on a real high. I’d spent a week with some really inspiring people, people who were passionate about what they do, who love their work and feel massively rewarded as a result. Some of those people once had corporate roles like mine and successfully made the transition without looking back, doing exactly what I want to do. For one week, I was a part of that world. I’d not expected to be inspired in this way, I knew I was going to enjoy developing my skills, but the people I met made the week so much richer and I came away more determined than ever to become Jon the upholsterer.

There was a risk though, I had to act fast because like my fear of flying if I didn’t put this hugely motivated feeling to good use it would go to waste. I would very quickly settle back into my current pattern and ponder over all of the risks and pitfalls slowly talking myself out of doing anything bold. I didn’t want that to happen.

“Quit your job and just do it, we’ll manage!” was the suggestion of my ever supportive partner, Darren who was as motivated as I was by the passion I had gained. For me though this was a little like confidently coming off a flight to Dublin and booking a trip to the moon. I needed to do something, a step in the right direction but with less risk and less pressure – my overwhelming feeling was that I needed time and space to develop my skills and and build up a small enterprise. Part time work was the next thought, but 3 days a week was still a bit of a leap financially and in my current field it’s not a common practice. A few days later and I’m still pondering, “Does part-time have to be 3 days? What about 4?” comes the suggestion from Darren in the pub with our friend Louise who then plants the next seed: “would your current employer consider letting you drop a day in your existing role?”. Genius! Why hadn’t I thought of that already?

I have a new friend, Helga, who has been following my progress since I started in January, we met through Dean who inspired me to start this whole project in the first place. in her own words, Helga ‘gets a kick out of spotting and developing creative talent’ and very kindly offered to meet me to help me explore my next steps. What followed was a couple of hours in a country pub where Helga helped me to talk through my ideas, challenged some of my self limiting beliefs (of which there were many!) and create a small plan. A couple of things became clear that night – firstly, making a change doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact it’s quite simple when you stop putting barriers in the way. Secondly, while I considered all the risks of starting a new career, I’d never considered the risks of not doing it. That was eye opening. We discussed what I need – ‘a space, a cushion and a plan’ was the suggestion.

So where am I now? well all told these past few weeks have been really exciting and I’m enjoying the process of exploring possibilities. However, I have made some steps too:

  • The Space – This is important for me in 2 ways, physical space is essential for my work so I’m buying a workshop. Ok, it’s a big shed but it’s space all the same. I’ve had it designed and I started on the base today. The second type of space is ‘head space’, and for that I need time, an allocated time to practice and create without having to worry about anything else. So I’ve applied to reduce my hours at work by 1 day.
  • The Cushion – I like a safety net, and for me having a regular paid job for 4 days a week does just that.
  • The Plan – Well, so far what you see is the plan – it’s not huge but it’s simple and it’s flexible and that’s just the way I like it.

The most important thing for me right now is that I’m pushing forward, I’m doing something and a little like when I step off a plane, I feel quite brave.

My First Commission
Another milestone and something that boosted my confidence was completing a paid piece of work for someone else. One of my personal goals at the start of the year was to sell a piece of work, so I suppose this counts? It was 2 simple drop-in seats form some antique chairs for the receptionist at work using her own fabric. It’s one thing to produce something for yourself, but totally different when it’s for a customer, she was delighted however and the whole thing felt very rewarding.