Welcome to The Finishing Room

Ok, I think I’ve kept you in suspense for long enough so here it is……… fan fare please……. the new name for my business is……..

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 15.24.12

As I’m sure you can imagine, choosing a new name was a difficult process, but in some ways this one was gifted to me by my new location and it just felt so right.

The space that I now occupy is a listed building that once housed workers who would inscribe geometric designs onto the blown glass before it would be acid etched – the space was one of a number of ‘Finishing Rooms’ that existed on the site. Fast forward to 2017 and you’ll find me in the same space working on the finishing touches to your home interior.

IMG_3055
My new workshop as it was in the 1800’s

The look and feel for my new branding is intentionally bold, clean and simple. It was important for me that it felt different to my previous branding, I wanted to feel like it was a real step forward.

The new space enables me to do so much more; I have space for an interiors retail shop, space to work, space to consult on your next upholstery project and at a later date, space to run a few workshops too. All of these things will sit well with my new name.

What do you think?

I’m on track to open my doors to the public for the first time over the Bank Holiday weekend which also coincides with the 2017 British Glass Biennale so there will be a lot to see both here at The Red House Cone and also at the nearby Ruskin Glass centre. Why not come down and say hi? I’d love to show you the new space!

Advertisements

The What Patch??

I’ve decided that it’s probably a good thing that I don’t have children because I’m not sure I’d like the responsibility of giving them a name. I like making the kind of decisions that can be changed at a later date if required, or decisions where there’s little consequence attached to getting it wrong like should I have a Chocolate Digestive or a Bourbon Cream with my coffee – because they’re both winning choices, right?

Having to choose a name for your business is definitely not easy. You have to think about so many things! Does it represent what you do? Does it represent where you want to go? Does it work online? Will people understand it? Can people spell it? Does someone else already have it? The list goes on……

IMG_8886
I still love this branding but the name just isn’t working

A few months ago I came to the tough realisation that I was no longer ‘feeling’ my business name. The Cantin Patch started as the name of this blog and it seemed natural at the time that my business would also take the same moniker. Cantin is an old Black country word that means ‘chatting’ so the name translated roughly as ‘a place to rest and chat’. This seemed great for the blog but also for an upholstery business. It was quirky, it was local and my friend Hannah did a fabulous job of creating a whole branding concept around it which I still love now, but the name has been causing me issues.

“Did you say Camtim?”

“No, Cantin”

“Counting?”

“No, Cantin, like tin can but the other way around”

“Oh! Cantin!”

You get the picture. Apart from the fact that people often don’t know what I’m saying, there’s also something about the name that doesn’t sit with where I want to go. My work and interest is increasingly based on mid-century furniture and current interior trends. The Cantin Patch is far better suited to antiques, upcycling and traditional craft fairs…… and this isn’t an area that I’m looking to move toward.

So I made a decision. Seeing as I was about to move to a new location why not take this opportunity to change my name too?

Of course there are risks in doing this, but if I’ve learned anything over the last few years it’s that you also need to consider the risks of NOT doing this. In real terms it’s still early days for my business so the risks of keeping a name I didn’t like were certainly greater than making the change.

The last couple of months have been filled with conversation about what my new name might be and it’s not been an easy decision to make – I don’t want to change my name again so this one has to work!! There have been a few contenders on the table but one clear winner. I’ve been sitting with it for a month now and I like it as much now as I did when it first came up. I think that’s a good sign.

I’m going to keep you in suspense for a little longer (but not too long!) as I don’t just want to tell you the name, I want to show you the new brand in all its glory! It’s a few days off yet, so watch this space…

 

 

On the Move

About 9 months ago my workshop buddy, Dean and I noticed a pair of surveyors measuring up the building that we occupy. We thought we should ask a few questions. it turned out that our workshop and the rest of the victorian factory buildings around us were in the process of being sold off by our landlords to housing developers who have been desperate to build on the site for years. But what about our workshop??

We were told that the deal wasn’t imminent and that we would likely have 18 months before we needed to go, but in the last few months more and more of the units have become vacant and Dean and I are almost the last men standing. Now, not being a fan of a last-minute panic I decided to start looking for a new workshop location and it wasn’t long before an interesting opportunity presented itself.

Stourbridge is famed for glass and crystal with production dating back to the 1600’s and peaking in the 19th Century. So why am I giving you this whistle stop history lesson? Well it’s all to do with a local landmark – the Red House Cone. Stourbridge is home to only known complete glass blowing cone, a massive brick built chimney containing furnaces where the glass blowers would work in sweltering heat. The location of many a school trip in my childhood, the cone is now a visitor centre and museum ……. but more importantly home to a variety of local makers, artisans and crafts people. Oh, and if you hadn’t already guessed it, it’ll be my new home by the end of today too!

 

IMG_9764
There’s no missing this local landmark (so I’ll be easy to find!!)

I’ve been fortunate enough to secure a great workshop in one of the listed factory buildings, the space where they used to quality control and check all of the glass once it had been blown. It’s a much bigger space than I currently have which means that I might even start running a few workshops in the near future. Even better is that it’s open to the public, so I can have a shop space as well as a workshop space – I’m so excited!!

Inside, the space is a very simple victorian warehouse with white painted brick walls and bare floorboards – the perfect backdrop for modern interior goodies and beautifully upholstered chairs. It’s going to take a few weeks to get set up, but I’m aiming for my first ‘open house’ at the end of August – you should come and say hi!

So it’s all change for the Cantin’ Patch, which brings me to my next piece of news……….. (but you’ll have to wait for that)

P.S. Give me a shout if you’re feeling strong this week – my sewing machines need moving and they’re REALLY heavy!

We have some catching up to do….

So it’s been three months since my last post and what a three months it’s been!

As always I started out with the very best of intentions to keep you updated with progress on my concave (egg) chair but by the time I returned to Tresithick for my final week of tuition, the deadline for my written research project was looming and I’d done my usual trick of leaving everything to the last moment!! Needless to say, rather than showing you lovely people gorgeous pictures of my chair, I was hurriedly pulling together a bibliography, referencing photos and attempting to print a sizeable 19,000 word piece on the ‘History of 20th Century Furniture Design’. I did it……… but the printer nearly went out of the window.

I should add that despite my self-induced stress the written research project was actually a really enjoyable thing to do – the sheer quantity of written work wasn’t actually a requirement but instead it was a result of how much I was learning. I felt sorry for Richard who had to plough through it!

So we have a lot to catch up on don’t we? The chairs, the assessment and a few other things that I’m not sure I can share with you just yet…..

The egg chair continued to be a joy to work on although I wouldn’t want to give the impression that it was a walk in the park. Once you’ve created your tailored cover for the shell, you’ve got to fit it – and this is the tricky part. Imagine trying to put a coat on a child who under no circumstances wishes to wear a coat. It was about that easy. Naturally you want to create a cover for the shell that is as fitted as possible, but as you have ‘wings’ at the top of the chair you’ve somehow got to stretch the cover beyond the point you fitted it in order to settle it into place.

thumbnail_IMG_9017
The shell with its new tailored cover. What you can’t see is me in a little crumpled heap of exhaustion behind the camera.

This is where having a fabric with stretch is essential, the last thing you want to hear is the sound of ripping fabric as you’re wrestling the cover into place. I’d love to do another of these chairs, but if you ask me to do it in anything other than super-stretchy wool you’re definitely off my Christmas card list.

With the shell fabric wrestled into place it was time to tackle the inside cushions. bring on the teal! It’s not always easy to tell from samples exactly how a colour combination will work, but boy was I pleased with this one. My confidence was also boosted by the lovely comments from my colleagues in the work room who seemed to fall for these colours in the same way that I did.

thumbnail_IMG_9020
Each cushion had to be carefully tailored to fit the space
thumbnail_IMG_9028
Final button positions and colour took a little while to decide

New cushions were made to replace the bio-hazard originals (which had a final flourish as padding to protect fellow student, Josie’s mammoth leather armchair as she worked on it) and the covers were again, tailored to fit. The big decision that remained was that of buttons. To match or to contrast? With a short discussion in the work room, matching was a clear winner – a more sophisticated design decision we all thought.

With my final week at Tresithick drawing to a close it was clear that I would still have a little work to do on both of my Diploma chairs to get them ready for final assessment and verification in May. The good news was that the remaining jobs were easily achieved back in my own workshop and both chairs were ready in time.

Returning to Cornwall for verification felt a little odd. This was the first occasion that I’d spent time down there without having a project to work on, not that it was too much of a bind to while a way a few days in sunny Cornwall of course.

The other odd feeling was that this felt like a bit of an end of an era. I’ve been coming to Tresithick for 6 years now and it feels like a part of my world, not just a course I decided to take. Richard has been the most inspirational, patient, generous and supportive teacher and mentor that I could have wished for.  The confidence that he has given me has been phenomenal. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere in the workshop at Tresithick without using the words fun, laughter, energy and inspiration – it really struck me as all of the Diploma candidates joined for a celebratory dinner that I’ve made some brilliant friends over the last 6 years (you know who you are!) and that certainly includes Richard, Sonja, Zoe and Bella the dog.

Picture1
The last 6 years has flown by and I enjoyed every week at Tresithick as much as my first back in 2011

The achievement of my level 3 Diploma means that there are no more levels for me to achieve and strictly speaking, no need for me to return to Tresithick. I’ve decided not to accept that. There’s always something new to learn, right?

Oh, and the good news is……. I passed! 86% no less, almost a distinction and much more than I had hoped for. Officially chuffed.

So here are the finished pieces – what do you think?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now, where were we?

I can’t believe that three months have whizzed by since I was last at Tresithick and updating my blog *slaps own wrist*.

Remember this little velvet beauty?
Well, here I am once again and this time it’s for a couple of weeks. The plan was to complete my traditional armchair this week so that I can start my next diploma piece, the egg chair, next week (more on that soon). That said, it’s already Wednesday and it’s not looking like that’s going to happen.

So where were we? Looking back at my last post I had just started to apply the top fabric to the back of the seat, but in actual fact by the time I left the workshop in November the chair was far more advanced that that…

The arms were finished when I left in November but I didn’t photograph it. I’m slipping.
The intention for this week was that the sprung seat would go in and I would be able to complete the remaining outside panels. The truth of the matter is that on a chair of this size (particularly when being rebuilt using traditional methods) time somehow vanishes on the things that you think will be done in a flash. Half a day to add 9 springs, how can that be??? I do however remember at regular intervals that this qualification would not be so valuable if everything was easy or right first time.

The original springs made this chair feel like a ride at Alton Towers. I’ve stiffened things up a tad.
Three days to get here. I was hopig to be sitting outside with a pasty by Thursday afternoon. not going to happen.
I’m holding on to an optimistic view that the next stages of the build will be a doddle. People love an optimist, right?

The magpie in me is keen to move on to the egg chair but apparently patience is a virtue or something. 

As ever there’s lots of laughter in the workshop and I was delighted to see Josie and Anna and Pam who I’ve shared weeks with before – you may recall Josie’s large leather armchair from last time. It’s coming on a treat. 

Time to reveal my fabric choice!

Today, Richard fixed me with a very ernest look and declared “I think it’s time”. 

Regulated to within an inch of its life

Yesterday was all about the second layer of stuffings for the inside back of the chair. A good layer of hair was fixed in place, regulated (a process of evening out the hair so that it’s a consistent depth and density) and my liner was then added to create the final line and shape. So with the arms and the back both at this stage, it could mean only one thing – it’s time for the top fabric to go on!

All shaped and ready to go

But hang on a minute, why risk putting your fabric in place when you still have no seat? Well it’s all about access – at this stage of the build we still have good access to the wooden rails that will be used as tacking points for the fabric, and the ultimate aim is to create as tight a space between the seat and the back as we can. A great, yawning gap doesn’t look great and if you drop it, you could loose your custard cream. So, if we build the seat now it means that we’ll have a very tight gap for our fabric to squeeze through and partly restricted access to the frame for tacking. Of course, once attached it also means that I’ve got to take very good care of my new fabric. 

So what have I gone for? Well as you may know I’ve talked before about tricky fabrics, those that can make your life as an upholsterer that little bit harder. This can be through the construction of the fabric or a pattern that needs careful matching. Unusually for me, I’ve opted for a plain this time, however I thought I’d give myself a hard time by opting for my arch-nemesis, velvet.

Ta-da! Don’t fret, I’m not leaving those flappy bits on the corners

I’ve been really inspired of late by the current fashion for velvet, it just looks so sumptuous and tactile! I’m also loving the shades of blues and greens that seem to be popping up regularly in my favourite interiors magazines. The fact that velvet can be tricky to handle and easily marked seemed to diminish as I envisaged how this chair might look. And so the first panel goes on…… What do you think?

Taking the plunge

For those of you who have been following my progress via this blog over the past 5 years, I have some pretty big news to share with you. I’ve only gone and done it, yep, it, the whole reason I started this blog and this creative exploration…… I’ve quit my day job! I’ve been officially a self-employed upholsterer for 3 weeks now and I’m pleased to inform you that I’m not yet destitute. Is it too soon to claim it as a success?

This may not look like much but it’s my resignation letter – a very big thing indeed!
Oddly, the shift feels both monumental and completely natural all at the same time. For someone as naturally risk-averse as I am (I’m yet to order anything more exotic than an Americano in a coffee shop) this is the biggest risk I’ve ever taken and it’s still sinking in that I’ve actually gone and done it. That said, it also felt like the right thing to do.

The decision happened about 3 Months ago when changes were afoot in my corporate day-job. These changes weren’t bad and my role wasn’t at risk – in fact, my company were incredibly supportive of what I was doing and even open to the idea of me reducing my hours a little more should I want to. However, change was the theme and as a result it was on my mind. I would sometimes get asked at work “so, what are your plans” to which I had a standard response of “I’m hoping to be fully self-employed in the next 12-18 Months” or sometimes “by the time I’m 40”. I realised however that 40 was fast approaching (what was that? I don’t look it? Thanks…..) and the 12-18 Months seemed to be an ever moving goal post.

So what needed to change in order for me to take the plunge? It’s at this point that I should acknowledge my Husband, Darren, who has been asking me this very question for a couple of years. For every Americano I order, he’ll have a double-shot, skinny, pumpkin spiced latte with sprinkles and a flake for good measure. He is the constant source of supportive challenge that wants me to see that sometimes risk can be a good thing that can actually lead to success, or fun, or more opportunity or at the very least, it doesn’t kill you. So what needed to change for me to make this decision? I had a nice amount of commissions lined up, I have enough skill to do a wide variety of jobs at a high level, I have a workshop space, I have the equipment, I have a fully supportive Husband, I have a brand, a website……. you get the picture. What didn’t I have? That moment of bravery where I say “let’s do this!”. I also didn’t have any excuses left. 

And there it was, the realisation that this opportunity was just waiting for me to take it. Very little was going to be different in 12 or 18 months and waiting until I’m 40 would just mean I’d be a year older (What was that? I don’t look 39? Stop!). So why wait? Decision made. Boy did that feel empowering!  

My lovely colleagues – one of the things I’ll miss about my day job
Fast forward through a 2 month notice period, some fond and emotional farewells and a weekend in Copenhagen that we booked before I made the decision to leave my job (I wouldn’t normally opt to celebrate giving up a regular income by visiting one of the most expensive cities in Europe, but hey, it was lovely!) and here I am, self employed. It’s so exciting to be able to see what I can achieve when upholstery is the only thing that I do. I’ve just completed a set of 10 box cushions for a beautiful Danish suite within a week when it would have otherwise taken me nearly a Month! What’s also interesting is that now I’m producing things more regularly I can talk about what I’m doing more via my social media outlets, and this in turn has already started to generate more enquiries. You know, there’s a ‘risk’ that this might actually work….

This was a nice project to kick off my self employment!
My decision does also beg the question about this blog, because after all, I originally started writing this to chart my progress from corporate HR person to creative business owner and you could argue that I’m there now. Job done. Well, it’s still early days and I’m sure there’s still plenty to learn so I’m not signing off just yet.

So here goes! I have a feeling this next chapter is going to be an exciting one……

Getting Qualified

I made a decision last year that I forgot to tell you about. After 5 years of working on my upholstery skills with Richard at Tresithick I decided to work towards a qualification, a diploma to be precise.

Taking the time to work towards a qualification had always seemed something of a challenge in the past, not least because it required 6 weeks of tuition each year and my work holiday entitlement was only 5! For this reason I opted to take my own projects to the training centre, but the more time I spent with the other students studying for their awards, the more I realised I’d accomplished many of the things they were doing without gaining official recognition from the governing body. So, my mind was made up – I wanted a qualification too!

What’s interesting is that I’ve never been asked to prove how qualified I am, and I actually don’t expect that it will happen. I’m very fortunate that my work has come from recommendations, so I suppose that’s qualification enough for most. This qualification is for me, for my own satisfaction and sense of achievement, and of course for that odd occasion when someone might want me to prove my credentials. I’ll carry my certificate with me just in case. 

 

An anti-macassa may not have been a bad idea
 
Today was the first day towards my qualification and I’m working on a ‘substantial traditional armchair’. As luck would have it I had one waiting in the wings. This piece was rescued for me by a friend a couple of years ago – destined for the tip it had my name all over it. I thought it was 1930’s given the fabric, but as I’ve stripped it today it seems that it may have had a previous life and could be a little older. Today was mostly assessing the state of the frame and removing (what seemed like) a million tacks. I’ve not yet decided on fabric. Any ideas?

 

I needed a bigger bin really. The springs looked like they’d come off a Routemaster.
 
As you know, I love Cornwall and time spent here is real food for the soul. This time I thought it would be fun to come in my little red Citroen – my first ever car and owned for 22 years. At her MOT this year I realised that I’d only driver her 9 miles in the past 12 months and that just wasn’t good enough. I smile from ear to ear when I’m behind the wheel, so a road trip seemed in order. It was a sedate trip (these cars weren’t built for speed!) but we made it and I’m hoping for the odd sunny spell so I can take the roof off. Actually, the chair was so big the only way it went in the car was through the roof! Who needs a van?

We made it! Staying at the beautiful Spring Cottage in Probus is a real treat.

Even More Part Time

For those of you who’ve been following my blog for the last few years, you’ll know that my move into the world of upholstery was driven by a desire to do something more creative with my career, moving out of my current corporate HR role and into my own creative business.

I don’t often talk about the HR / upholstery balance on the blog these days, largely because since I reduced my day job to 4 days I was happy that I had started the transition from one role to another. I’ve been part-time for a couple of years now and for a risk-averse person like me, the financial impact of losing a day was easy to manage and the benefits of having Fridays in the studio were numerous.

2015 was a great year for commissions. I’m so delighted that people have trusted me with their furniture and upholstery projects, it’s a real confidence booster! One really fun project came in toward the end of the year, around October time. Nick, an ex-colleague of mine from my days working in Manchester for fashion retailer, BANK, contacted me regarding a window seat in his recently renovated Victorian home. What I thought would be a simple box-cushion turned out to be a deep-button extravaganza and something that i could really get my teeth stuck into.

Why he wanted to change this I’ll never know 😉

We discussed fabrics and design details, but when it came to timescales I felt a little sheepish. Nick really wanted it ready for Christmas and I was counting the number of Fridays left in the year. With 2 weeks in Cornwall booked, I was looking at around 5 days in the studio and a deep button project could take me a couple of days. I knew I could do it, but it did also mean that it was unlikely I could take on much more for the year – and it was only October!

 

The finished seat. Spot me admiring my work in the reflection!


I needed more time, and that meant taking a risk.

I’ve been very fortunate these past 7 years to work for a company and a line Manager where honest conversations are encouraged. They know that ultimately I’m aiming to be an upholsterer, and this conversation, just like the last was met with a “ok, let’s see if we can make it work” kind of response. The outcome? As of January 4th, I only work 3 days a week in HR! It’s a 6 month trial to make sure it works for all of us, but so far so good.

So what can I do with 2 days a week? My aim is that I can turn around my commissions a little quicker, have some more time for my own projects and maybe even pay my studio rent each month from my upholstery kitty. That would be something eh?

So here’s to tipping the balance a little more in favour of my aspirations.

The House of Hackney Chair is Finished!

With the busy Christmas period well and truly out of the way (not that it wasn’t lovely of course) I made a bee-line for the House of Hackney chair which had been waiting patiently in my studio for its finishing touches.

You may recall that the piping fabric was causing the hold-up as the House of Hackney velvet revealed the white cotton backing when wrapped around the cord. Thankfully a trip to my local fabric store solved the issue and I was able to find a really good match in a plain black, short pile velvet printed on a black cotton base. Perfect!

With the right fabric sourced I made the single piping for the back of the chair and attached this directly to the frame so that I could stitch the back panel directly to it so that it gave a nice tight close. The bottom edge was tacked off underneath.

 Then I made up 2 lots of double piping to cover the tacks around the back rest and the bottom edge of the seat. This was glued into place. Now, I don’t know if it’s just my glue gun, but they are pretty hard to use. It seems that mine really is all or nothing, one squeeze and you seem to have endless amounts of hot glue coming out for minutes. How I’m not permanently glued to the chair I will never know. So much concentration was required I actually had to remind myself to breathe.

 

Anyway, with the bottom cloth attached, I was done! And here it is….


  
   
What do you think? I’m really delighted with how it’s turned out, and even more delighted when a visitor to our studio saw the chair and said “that wouldn’t look out of place in House of Hackney’s window” and he didn’t even know it was one of their fabrics!  I did a little imaginary air punch at that moment, not an actual real-life one you understand. I’m way too cool to do that.

So what’s the future of this chair now? As much as i want to keep it, it’s officially up for sale. Interested? Drop me a line!