Monday, December 2, 2013

"Creating Something Out of Nothing": A Hobby Q&A with Amanda Brown

As 2013 dwindles to mere weeks and we contemplate the year to come, were wondering: if theres one thing you could learn to do for fun in 2014, one hobby you could acquire, what would it be? Something you’ve never attempted but always longed to try? An old favorite pastime you’ve been meaning to rediscover?

When Amanda Brown first set out to learn the art of furniture upholstery through classes at a community college, she probably didn’t imagine that someday shed not only be the owner of Spruce, a successful upholstery and design shop in Austin, Texas, but the author of  Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design, and an inspiration to a growing world of DIY upholsterers hungry for expert guidance. 

Today, on the heels of an eleven-city book tour, Amanda takes some time out from her busy schedule to share her own hobby first-loves, a new obsession with crepe paper flowers, and sage advice for the beginner.

Photo © Mel Cole

What comes to mind when you hear the word “hobby”?
A hobby is anything one chooses to do for fun. I usually think of tasks that aren’t related to my day-to-day, nine-to-fiver, but there’s no reason why a hobby can’t also double as a source of income and support.

Did you have hobbies when you were growing up? What was it about those hobbies that captured your attention?
I loved to draw when I was younger, and through college, I collected and refinished old furniture and made handbags. All of these tasks were about creating something out of nothing, or transformation, which definitely led to my interest in furniture upholstery. There’s also something very therapeutic about creating things with my hands. It’s mindful and engaging in a way that other handless hobbies aren’t to me. (Sadly, reading is the only handless hobby that comes to mind — eek! Though I hate to admit that I’m not much of a reader!).

Do any of those hobbies play a role in what you do now, either professionally or personally?
Absolutely. Furniture collecting and refinishing are obviously related, and purse-making involves sewing and construction, which are both major parts of upholstery.

How did you get started pursuing your interests — did someone in your life teach you? Did you teach yourself?
I attended classes at the local community college for upholstery. However, the course offerings for upholstery were pretty limited so I spent another few years working through projects the hard way, mistake by mistake. One thing about upholstery I really enjoy is how different every project is. It keeps your brain nimble as you try to find creative ways to reconstruct each piece of furniture.

What does having a hobby or hobbies mean to you?
Hobbies provide a positive escape from the routine tasks of everyday life. It also gives free time purpose and goals, which I think is so important in feeling good at the end of the day.

What are your hobbies now — any new ones?
I feel pretty fulfilled after a full day at Spruce; however, I recently bought Paper to Petal, by Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell, and am obsessed with their beautiful crepe paper flowers. In fact, I have a huge box of supplies waiting to become flowers this weekend!

What’s one piece of advice you’d offer someone who’s interested in pursuing their hobby but hasn’t found a way to get started?
Don’t get bogged down with the setup. Just do it! It’s so easy to delay the creative process because you’re hunting and gathering all of the perfect supplies and materials or setting up the space. Dive right in. Even with a big project, like upholstering a chair, for instance, all you really need to get started is the chair, a pair of pliers, and a staple remover. Next thing you know, you’ve stripped your piece to the frame and are ready to put it back together again. Sometimes you just need to get past the initial hump to find the inspiration to go full steam ahead.

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Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design is our Fresh Picks Flash Sale title! Ebook enthusiasts can get the entire Spruce ebook for $2.99 today through December 4. Visit our Fresh Picks page to get the Spruce ebook today!

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