Fellow Frenchic stockist Alan Payne is one of those rare beings, a master upholsterer with over 40 years’ experience. The fact that he is a fantastic teacher keen to share his knowledge is the icing on the cake. Over the past two days, I’ve spent time with six other upholstery newbies, plus a lady who goes on all his courses, and watched and learned and forgotten what I’ve learned, as one does, then been shown again and, over the 12-hour course, picked up quite a bit of knowledge.
I’ve measured and cut, tacked and painted, and somehow, have created a footstool that I’m extremely proud of. Looking around the room and hearing the comments, I’m not the only one. The standard is very high and we’re all exhausted but happy; with our stools covered in various fabrics and painted in luscious Frenchic colours. This is the first experience of Frenchic for the others and they all love the paint's coverage and the waxiness of the Lazy Range when it's buffed up.
In my experience what makes a great teacher is one who combines extensive knowledge, complete passion, endless patience and a sense of humour and Alan has all these qualities in spades. He’s also very good at showing you how to do things, over and over, until you start to see the light. But he doesn’t do it for you. You might get the odd tack hammered in, but generally he leaves you to get on with it and with the feeling that you can do it, just go for it. And he’s right. We might all be muttering in despair at various times, but the line of foot stools you see were all 99.9% made by us. Aren’t they great?
Then there’s the way the course is run, with regular tea breaks and tasty homemade soup made by Alan’s wife Wendy for lunch. Her sweet potato and butternut squash is especially delicious. With cakes and biscuits on tap, with fruit for the more health-conscious, there’s something for everyone. This all adds to the general sense of camaraderie and wellbeing that develops over the two days within the group, so that by the time I leave, I'm thinking it would be great to do another course with this gang.
If you're interested in taking one of Alan's Make, Paint and Upholster courses, the next one is the weekend of May 26th/27th at his workshop in Wimborne. You can also buy a footstool kit for £72 through his Facebook page.
Meanwhile if you're coming from far away, I can thoroughly recommend the Riversdale Guest House to stay overnight. £45 a night gets you a modern room with great shower, an excellent continental breakfast and use of microwave/crockery the night before so you can make your own dinner if you don't fancy going out. The caretaker Christine is very friendly and helpful too.