Business of the Month: Bea Furnishings
So tell us about your background? How did this all begin?
I am from the 805. I grew up in Solvang, and got my AA here at SBCC in interior design. Then I transferred to San Francisco State University and graduated with a BS in Interior Design. After, I explored trades, interior design wasn’t for me. I found it to be a lot of purchase orders and busy work. That was a time where you would turn on TV and there were designers painting walls and chopping wood: things that really don’t exist as an interior designer. I believe I pursued interior design to create uniqueness, and for the actual production of it all. ID was good in the sense that it made me able to do renderings and I those detailed assignments, it was also good for me to learn the architectural background of it all and start to be familiar with measurements.
SO after college I explored trades and I did some metal sculpture work and some wood work. I loved it all but I found it not to be my calling either. Then I moved back to Santa Barbara with hope that SOMETHING was going to come and workout but I didn’t know what that was. I got a job off of Craiglists, because with these trade jobs, there’s no LinkedIn or proper way of finding the jobs - other than to roam. So on Craiglist I found a job - Todd Gutshall the number one upholstery shop here in Santa Barbara was looking for an upholsterer, but I responded to the ad asking if I could be an apprentice. To start, he had me doing tear downs which is essentially the bottom position of an upholstery shop. All you’re doing all day long is removing staples. It’s not exciting to say least, but I had fallen in love!- I was STOKED. My mind just went off!
In order for me to learn all the proper things in this trade I was either going to work for somebody else, who had say or control over how much or how fast I learned. In this day and age you hold on to those lower laborers who can shut up and do their job and do it fast. I needed for myself to have control of my learning curve. And so, I moved to High Point, North Carolina the once furniture capital of the world. I went out the as they had a local technical community college- which is a rare thing- they had a certificate program to get a degree. It was a DIY person’s dream. There was infinite amount of scrap, everyone had their own sewing machines, and you could make anything and everything you wanted. We had bare frames, and there was someone there to answer every question you had, to show you what you should be looking for, the ideal teaching situation really.
In North Carolina I got a job with Stickley which is a very renowned furniture maker. They are the creme de la creme of American Made furniture. I was this Jewish California girl with tattoos just TOTAL opposite of the south, so at first it was a little bit rough. I made the most of it! After that experience I moved to Brooklyn New York because I wanted to experience living the dream in New York, then I escaped New York for Colorado, and I was there for about three and a half years working for some guys who did custom work so I could learn about producing custom frames, and how to make a skeleton of a frame come to life based on a picture or design. Then I worked at a place that does old antique style furniture which was kind of like my master degree program, that was literally a year ago.
Now I feel like I am ready to learn the business aspect of it. I think I did about 6 or 7 years of learning this trade and I still have a lot to learn. I am proud of the work I do now and it speaks for itself. I have nothing to show but the work that I do.
This trade consists of predominantly men - and they have been typically doing upholstery since before I was even alive. A lot of these guys I met, didn’t want to initially become upholsterers, they fell back on the trade. For the most part who I was and what I was doing was a turn off to most people I’ve worked with. I was an educated woman, who was passionate and excited about something majority saw as labor with little to know enthusiasm in the work.
You obviously do upholstery, but you also do fabric curation and design furniture. Can you tell me a little more about about that?
So right now it exists mainly as re-upholstery, because I don’t have a wood shop of my own or a carpenter quite yet. How we exist now is just a step towards what I hope it will become.
Right now at the typical upholstery shop it’s “okay what do you want, okay here’s what it costs.” You’re in you’re out. I would like to think Bea is a place that you can create character, I love what I do. I want my shop to be inviting. I want people to get into each piece, and have imagination.
I hope in time I can be able to make some custom pieces I have been dreaming about since I first started working in this trade. I think furniture is way more important than what we make it out to be. Everybody has furniture whether you’re wealthy or you’re sharing a flat with a bunch of people. Everybody has a sofa and everybody sits on that thing. We have all these priorities like car we’re driving…having an appreciation for what furniture we have will slow people down more and make them appreciate their living room more. Right now we have our eyes in our screens but we should pull it in more.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Ooo, definitely other artists, I like to think I am going into this world of design with an expertise. I know that my game is upholstery and to see people work their trade whether it be metal or wood it’s amazing. When I see how well they can do- and how I could maybe put a cherry on top with a tufted cushion in the back. Thats exciting to me. I do hope to have custom furniture very shortly. But I want to make sure that I collaborate. Kind of how we’re working together- you’re taking the time with me I want to take the time with you. It’s a win win. I want to be a team with everybody.
How does it work if someone wants to work with you?
I want people when they think of me that maybe they have a chair that needs to be redone of course and they want “cool” I want them to think of me as innovative. I want them to think “Grandpa is turning 70 and he loves boats. Lets make him a boat inspired sofa.”
I want people to challenge me. It’s hard to do those things but I love it. I love the learning process. Anybody and everybody can go to my website which I have made super convenient. They can go to that inquiry form and can submit their photo with their ideas and I can get back to them. For now since it’s just me myself and I. I try to do innovative upholstery and challenging projects. There’s infinite possibilities.
I would ideally like to tailor myself to designers and people with more daring and flamboyant taste. With plans to create my own designs someday, the more I can work with people who are like minded in style, the more I can showcase my work.