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Meet the Makers: Getting to Know Our F&P Bespoke Team

22nd November 2021

With more and more people preferring to incorporate bespoke items into their interiors, we have seen a huge surge in customers choosing to use our made to measure services. Working together with our experienced design team to create personalised pieces that are unique to you and your home, we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce, and celebrate, the craftspeople who are working behind the scenes.

Cutting, stitching, shaping and transforming your ideas into beautiful realities, they all share a passion for designing and building high-quality, long lasting pieces that can be cherished for generations. Read on to meet Jane, Jessica and Gary, and discover more about their individual talents and what they love most about their crafts…

Bespoke Curtains, Blinds and Cushions by Jane

How long have you been making custom curtains & blinds?

I have now been making curtains and blinds for over 25 years and 22 of those years have been working with F&P Interiors!

What was it that first got you interested in sewing?

I trained as a graphic designer and worked in London for a few years, but after having a family I didn’t want to go back to it as it had all become very computerized.

I am a very pracical person and I like to work with my hands, so my Mother, Joy, who then had her own curtain business, asked if I’d come work with her and I have never looked back!

What is your favourite part of the process?

I really like it when I get to visit our customers homes to see their fabrics up in their final locations. I also enjoy working in the workshop and it is a great feeling when we are being so productive. We have been extra busy recently which has really meant that we have had to flex our teamwork skills to ensure orders are made in time, which I have really loved being a part of.

Does your own home have a particular interior style?

I’m a big fan of colour and pattern, and I would say my home has an eclectic feel to it. I’ve got a large Persian rug that I just love and I have a fondness for ikat fabrics. My go to colours are earthy autumnal tones like warm pink and burnt orange.

Having worked with us for over 20 years, what trends have you seen change or re-emerge over this time?

When I first started, curtains used to be very elaborate and I would often be making curtains with goblet headings, covered button detailing or swags and tails. Then the trend swung to the opposite end of the scale and plain understated curtains and eyelet headings were the main style. However, recently, we’ve seen a return back to more elaborate designs, in particular with customers adding trimmings such as bullion fringes and fan edges. I have to say I feel the balance at present is just right, trimmings are a great way to personalise your bespoke curtains and make them unique to your home.

What piece of advice would you offer someone who is interested in getting into the industry?

My number one piece of advise would to be to get as much practical experience as possible. You need to be able to work fast and efficiently and this can only be learnt from hands on experience! Practical courses are great but at the same time, they don’t teach you about the commercial side of running a business. So gather as much experience as possible.

Bespoke Lampshades by Jessica

How long have you been making bespoke lampshades?

I have been making bespoke lampshades for many years, I started selling them in 2014, but I first learned to make them in 2011. The pandemic meant that I couldn’t go out and see people, but fortunately the bespoke lampshades I make have become incredibly popular and have now become the main focus of my business.

What is your favourite part of the process?

I particularly enjoy seeing the fabrics when they are first stitched on to the shade, as it’s then I can really begin to see what the final shade will look like. Ultimately the best part is when the trimmings go on and the shade is finished, as I know what’s going out to the client.

Statement lampshades have grown in popularity over the last few years, what are your tops tips when choosing fabrics and shapes for lampshades to complement an interior scheme?

I have to say I love colour and pattern and lampshades can make a scheme. For too long cream shades have been the staple available in the shops and are a safe choice. They still have their place but there are lots of interesting finishes that can be made with a cream fabric – it doesn’t just have to be a flat laminated finish.

The thing to bear in mind is what look you are trying to create. If you want a sleek, minimal interior, then a plain linen would work well – but don’t just choose cream! For a matching look, then by all means use the same fabric as your other soft furnishings.

However, if you want an eclectic look, then choose fabrics in colours that compliment your scheme but aren’t matching. Every shade in a room doesn’t have to be the on the same fabric or the same shape. They simply need to compliment the base there are going to be featured on.

Do you have a favourite brand that you like to work with / make lampshades from their fabric?

I don’t have any favourite brands – that would be like having a favourite child! I do have preferences for types of fabrics though.

Light weight cottons and linens are great for gathered shades as they produce nice gathers and pleats. I like to use natural products wherever possible and I am partial to a silk ikat!

You have two lovely office dogs who keep you company at work. Do they help you at all with the creative process?

As I live and work on my own, Mabel and Gwen are great company. They are very good at making sure I don’t take anything too seriously, plus they make sure I take regular breaks as they need 3 walks a day!

Bespoke Interior Design

What advice would you offer someone who is interested in getting into the industry?

Firstly, decide on what your unique selling point is. I chose to make bespoke lampshades rather than make standard items for stock. But many lampshade makers go for a particular fabric or paper, or style of shade to make their products unique.

If you want to make bespoke lampshades, you need to have an engineering brain to work out how to make designs work. I get asked to design some quite complex frames, so you need to be able to visualise and work out how to translate customers ideas and drawings into a 3D piece.

You also need to be okay at maths as knowing how to work out a circumferences is a must! And finally, be prepared for lampshades and fabric to take over your life and your house, if you work from home like I do!

Bespoke Furniture by Gary

How long have you been making furniture?

I started when I was young, about 14 years old, working at a large upholsterers in Hove during school holidays and weekends. I started making the tea, sweeping up and cutting foam, you learn a lot by watching the guys working then gradually you progress in to small upholstery jobs. Then over the years you are just doing most things and you never stop learning in this trade.

What was it that first got you interested in upholstery?

I grew up knowing upholsterers and cabinet makers through my parents and it was so exciting going in to these workshops as a child with the smells and sounds. It was kind of inevitable what I would end up doing upholstery myself.

Do you have a particular period of furniture that gets you most excited to work with?

Not really we are lucky that we do everything from recovery to new furniture in all shapes and sizes so things are never the same twice, there is no fun in making the same thing day in day out, you have to enjoy what you do.

How many hours does it typically take to re-upholster a 2 seater sofa?

Approx 3 days to go through this, the worst part is the stripping back all the old fabric as the staples have to be taken out one at a time by hand this can be very laborious and painful on the hands .

You must have made hundreds of pieces of furniture over the years. has there been a particular project that stands out, something unique or particularly challenging to make?

So many different projects for pop stars and actors or for someone who might live down the road. Even a crazy three day period of hardly sleeping to quickly recover furniture for the Sultan of Brunei who was popping in to his London residence for one night. We got the job done in time but he changed his plans and did not fly in!

What piece of advice would you offer someone who is interested in getting into the industry?

That’s a tricky one, I was lucky to get taken on by a large company that I could go through to learn from, these size companies are not around anymore to train up the next generation. If you are wanting to get a taste there are some local firms that offer small courses in upholstery, it may wet your appetite for it, as it is unfortunately a dying trade so there will always be work out there.

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