Upholstery is one of the most important crafts involved in the creation of beautiful furniture. It guarantees longevity, individuality, and a high level of quality. It’s a role that takes skill, strength and scrupulous attention to detail.
Yet, the love and labour become hidden in the beauty of the finished product. We only see the masterpieces in all their glory – shaped to perfection and designed to magnificence.
But here at Sofa Workshop, we believe that true craftsmanship lives and breathes in the upholstery workshop. That’s why we went behind the glitz and glamour to explore the craft and graft of furniture creation.
Jamie Bishop has been upholstering our products for over 20 years.
Jamie, how did you get started in the upholstery business?
My father was involved in the upholstery business as far as I can remember. I spent a lot of time visiting upholstery workshops with him when I was younger, and I knew instantly that it was a trade I was equally as passionate about.
Upholstery is also a local industry in the town where I grew up, Long Eaton. It’s actually known as the UK centre of upholstery manufacturing. Over 2,700 people that live in Long Eaton are employed in furniture manufacturing.
You’ve worked with us for the last 20 years. In your time here, have you seen any major shifts in the upholstery industry?
As an individual manufacturer, we haven’t seen much change at all. Some of our bestsellers in the ’80s are still our bestsellers now!
However, there are a lot more furniture manufacturing companies today, and larger ones at that. It has become faster and easier to get hold of furniture than when I first started working in the trade.
Why did you choose to become an upholsterer?
Of course, my father had a lot to do with my transition into becoming an upholsterer. But I think it’s the hands-on element of the trade that really helped me fall in love with it. There’s never a dull moment, you’re never sitting on a chair behind a desk. You’re on your feet all day, and though that can sometimes get tiring, there’s nothing like the pride and satisfaction you feel when you see the finished piece at the end.
Our sofas and chairs look beautiful, but what’s underneath all the fabric?
Every model is made differently when it comes to Sofa Workshop, from FSC sourced kiln Beech and Birch wood to springs and foams. 90% of the material we work with is locally sourced.
Although there has been a huge uplift in the ‘fast furniture’ business, there is still a demand for customisation and craft from our customers. Why do you think this is?
As is the case with many products and services these days – take retail for example – not everyone wants a mass produced product. There are still a lot of customers out there who want to put their own stamp on their furniture.
Buyers want the size of their room, the style of their home and space where the sofa will sit to be considered. That’s why Sofa Workshop buyers love the wide range of fabrics and styles they are offered because it gives them so much more control over their choice.
What is the most difficult/rewarding part of being an upholsterer?
The difficult part about my job is definitely the number of years and experience it takes to really hone the skill of upholstering. Even when you have mastered the craft, there are always new techniques to learn.
The rewarding part is seeing the finished product at the end, and the sense of pride you feel when the piece you have been working on for months is finally complete.
Do you have a favourite foam or fabric?
I am currently obsessed with our Dusky fabric, which is plain velvet.
Traditionally, velvet has always creased and been a pain to work with. This new fabric makes it so much easier to upholster.
What is unique about the way we upholster their furniture designs?
Our sofas are made on a “one man, one job” basis. So only one person works on a piece of furniture at a time. It’s all made on one site too, which makes it easier to maintain quality control.
What’s your favourite piece in the Sofa Workshop collection to work on?
The Browning sofa. It’s one of our classics, and it’s the style that I have now perfected!