Slipcovers and Community

2013_Blog_KarenErickson_ChairI snapped this picture of “raw edge” upholstery in an unlikely place — an art gallery. It fits right in, don’t you think? Very recently I had a long talk with its creator Karen Erickson at her studio. The owners of 3231 Creatives in Everett, Washington, Iris and her husband, have created not just a gallery, but a cafe, artist studios and a shop to sell re-fashioned clothing in an otherwise vacant space. There’s more to this 25,000 square foot space, but I couldn’t fit it into one sentence so here’s the list: pottery studio, silk screen printing room, and music stage. Karen is teaching upholstery and basic sewing classes from the lower level and has lots of room to spread out. Several machines are in great condition, surrounded by fabrics and work tables. A serger is the latest addition. She teaches the skills a home decorating business owner needs, including sales and marketing. What a great opportunity for those who want to sew for themselves and for others.

Karen, like myself, loves to network. She’s traveled with many of the home sewing “greats” over the years, and I’m so glad to add her to my network. She wants people to take risks to promote their skills, and she says this doesn’t need to be costly or high-tech. Your church or other affiliations, exchanging for meals, child care or other services might work depending on your community.

We both lamented that fabric stores no longer promote local businesses — many don’t even have areas to post a business card. To make up for that gap, Karen is active in the Washington Professional Workroom Meetup group. (Anyone can join or start a Meetup.com group.)

Are there some ideas here for you? If you’re not in business, seek out these communities near you for a great place to see art, enjoy coffee and support local. If you’re in business, how can you grow it? Is there a vacant space with an owner who’d rather be bringing in some income? Could a large room be set up as a local art gallery? Think of what that room needs, and how sprucing it up will get locals to work: Sprucing up, painting, cleaning, and lighting. Every gallery room needs a piece of furniture from which to contemplate the art, and needs upholstery or table dressing skills. Know an existing gallery? Offer to make the pillows or slipcovers. Can you see that I was inspired by 3231 Creatives?

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