Specialty Fabrics Review December 2019 - 45

QUALITY AND
KNOWLEDGE
ARE KEY

Patricia Wallace of Bear Paw Custom Design, Portsmouth, N.H., has been sewing since
she was 12 years old. So while her business started with boat canvas, antique upholstery
and "a little bit of everything" soon followed. Photo: Bear Paw Custom Design.

the sewing machine," she explains. "The
dockmaster saw me and said, 'So-and-so
needs boat work' and then 'Another
so-and-so needs work,' and it just kind
of evolved."
When she started, Wallace says, "I
did a little bit of everything, because I did
everything before I did marine canvas-
the only difference was that marine canvas
was just bigger. I've always had the basic
principles of sewing; it was just a matter
of applying it to different situations."
Like Cruikshank, Wallace says her work
expanded into new areas based on requests
from customers. "I'd get asked to do drapes
for a boat, and then drapes for a patio
sliding door," she says. "'No problem,' I'd
say, but then think, 'Oh, what did I just
do?' But I'd figure it out."
It worked, she says, because she had
developed a reputation for quality work.
"I have clients who say, 'I don't care how
long it takes, how long you're scheduled
out ... I want you to do it.'
"The biggest issue I ever had," adds
Wallace, "was learning how to bend
stainless steel. The first time it took me

four hours, I was so afraid I was going to
screw it up. But after a while, I could do
it in 10 or 15 minutes."
Fabricators thinking of expanding into
new lines of business need to make sure
they know all the basics, says Wallace. "Go
to canvas school or whatever you need to
do. If you know the basics, you can learn
the finesse as you go along."
CONSTANTLY SEEK
NEW OPPORTUNITIES
When Stephan Kåmark's work as a general
contractor slowed down during the last
recession, he decided it was time for a
change. Since he'd grown up around boats,
in 2014 Kåmark purchased Advanced Canvas
and Upholstery Services, an existing marine
fabrication business in Oxnard, Calif.
From the beginning, Kåmark thought
there were plenty of opportunities to
expand beyond the previous owner's
work: "There's a lot of work fabricated by
sewing out there," he says. "It's not just
recreational boat work."
Even if it leads him to challenging
projects, "My motto is if we can fit it

abricators who want to
expand into new lines
of business can benefit
from a wide-ranging skill set, but
ultimately, it's the quality of their
work that engages customers in
that expansion.
"I have a pretty diverse background," says Chris Shuman,
who owns Custom Canvas and
Cushions Inc. in Riviera Beach,
Fla. "I was an auto mechanic for
a while, I've done upholstery, I've
done electrical work and wiring.
"As the conductor of the
orchestra, you need to know a
little bit about everything that
you're trying to expand into," he
says. "You need skilled workers
and the right crew doing the work,
but if you're in charge, you need a
little bit of knowledge or you could
be left with all the responsibility
and not have the answers."
Getting the job done right also
requires quality materials, and
that's what keeps customers
coming back-as well as trusting
a fabricator for different kinds
of jobs.
"You have to stay on top of the
industry," says Gary Cruikshank,
owner of Custom Upholstery and
Awning Center LLC, in Brainerd,
Minn. "I like to try to be more
well-versed than anyone else,
especially when it comes to
knowing the right product for
the right project."

www.SpecialtyFabricsReview.com 45


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Specialty Fabrics Review December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Specialty Fabrics Review December 2019

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Specialty Fabrics Review December 2019 - 1
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