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- >Upholstery Diamonds December 2021
Brenda Willet of B & K Upholstery (Bon Aqua, TN)
What does being an upholsterer mean to you?
Being an upholsterer means being blessed with the ability to make an honest, decent living. I love meeting all types of people!
How did you get started in upholstery?
My dad was an upholstery and my brother still is upholstering. I grew up in our cabinet/upholstery shop. My dad had me sewing at the age of 10. He had me start out cutting material and I sewed MILES and MILES of welt!! I was 13 years old when I did my first set of bucket seats. Then I cut my teeth on commercial work.
My father and I had a custom built, triple axle, 40-foot 5th Wheel trailer. It had living quarters in the front and an upholstery shop in the back. We traveled all over the U.S. working. In the summer time we would stay on the easy coast and in the winter we would stay out west! I used to go out on the road with him on weekends, holidays, and during school breaks.
Two weeks after starting 10th grade, at 15 years old, I quit school and went on the road working with him full time. We would pull up to truck stops, restaurants, farm implement businesses, casinos... we even did upholstery work in the brothels in Nevada! Any place they might need upholstery done, we did it. We did a lot of the Union 76 and TTT Truck Stops in Tucson, AZ, as well as Golden Corrals, Pizza Huts, and all of the Nickerson Farms Restaurants.
While we were working, some people would even ask us to do personal upholstery jobs for them. Road life was great! I wouldn't trade a minute of my life lessons and experience for anything!
What types of upholstery do you do?
ALL! Automotive, commercial, residential, marine, AND aviation!
How long have you been upholstering?
Over 40 years and I'm still learning every single day! The day that I stop learning is the day that my doors will close for good!
What is your biggest consumer demand?
What is your favorite upholstery project you've done?
Honestly, I would have to say my favorite projects would be the jobs that I have done for free! I really love to help people. Making them happy makes me the happiest!
What is the strangest item you've found in a restoration?
I found a picture of a deceased person lying in a coffin in an antique sofa that I was recovering for a funeral home. It was found with a stack of other pictures, pills, and some tissues.
Have you noticed any up and coming trends?
The only thing that I have noticed is that more people need to learn this dying trade! I'm too overwhelmed with work to notice any trends myself.
What changes would benefit the upholstery industry?
An alarm that lets you know when you are about to run out of bobbin!
Have you ever been featured on television, online, or in another publication?
Some answers have been edited for clarity.