Innovation and design website Humans Invent recently published an interesting article titled “Crafting the world’s best car interiors”. The article is about Bentley and the meticulous detail it infuses into every step of the design process. While that’s interesting, it’s not the best part of the article. What is – is how Peter Cullum-Kenyon, Bentley’s color and trim manager, describes the craft of auto upholstery.
“Personally I think a car’s interior is the most complicated product you can design. If you think of it in terms of a house or something like that, you’ve got a TV, stereo, seating, table, you’ve got all those elements in a car but they all have to tie in, it’s not like you can just get things to kind of work, they absolutely have to slot together. Timing and making everything work for a car is just so complicated.
“It’s multi discipline, you’ve got elements of architecture, illustration, graphic design, product design, furniture design, all of those things, and for me that’s the interesting part about it. It doesn’t just stop at one discipline, it crosses many. It’s great, but it can be a burden sometimes, with one foot in design and one in engineering. But I think creative people love a challenge and that’s why we do it.” [more]
We want to hear from you: Do you agree with Cullum-Kenyon that auto upholstery is a multidisciplinary craft or would you describe it differently? Are there any disciplines, other than what he noted, that you believe are an essential part of our trade?
Naseem Muaddi says
Auto upholstery is certianly a multi discipline trade. Nowadays with seats having heaters, airbags, lumbar, cooling, and all kinds of electric functions, being able to operate a sewing machine just doesn’t cut it. My father, who taught me the trade, always said you have to be a mechanic to be a trimmer and that is so true.
Readers left the following comments about this article on our Facebook page and another upholstery forum:
kodydog: Lets see, an upholstery shop owner needs to know…
How different fabrics work
How different foam densities feel and work
A little about different finishes
How different springs work and how to attach them
All the different aspects of sewing and machine repair
Maintaining all your tools
All the aspects of running a business. Salesmanship, bookkeeping, taxes, payroll, etc
Building maintenance. Plumbing, electrical, carpentry. Even if you rent you still do a lot of it
Grounds maintenance. I don’t hire a landscaper.
This is just a small list for furniture, throw in car and boat upholstery and it could be endless.
The list could go on and on but besides doing all that stuff now I have to actually go do a little upholstery work.
Everardo Leal: If you do a lot of leather work, knowledge of the leather industry is a must. From prices to textures and even production process.
David Sellers: Of course, it takes more than sewing skills. You got to know how to do a little bit of everything in the auto trim trade.
Recovery Room Interiors: You have to have a lot of skills, To do well
CreativeCanvas: Ya you gotta wear a lotta hats being in any business for yourself. But ya learn as ya go. Don’t trade it for anything.
Not sure a car interior is the ‘most complicated product you can design’. Pales in comparison to say, the artificial heart. But if he says so …
I have a very simple list of design requirements for my vehicle(s):
1) Should run decently and not burn, or leak, too much oil and/or gas
2) Doors and windows should fully open & close
3) No more than one bald tire at any given time
4) Holes in floor large enough to accept a cigarette butt but not so big a beer bottle could pass through …
Driving used to be what one did to get from point A to B. Nowadays thanks to marketing it’s known as a driving ‘experience’? An ‘event’ I suppose they’d call it. Dunno bout y’all but I’d prefer my driving experience to be uneventful?
But I digress …
jose mendoza says
I will like to atent to the next seminal
Douglas Ellzey says
I need a dash made for 98 chevy silverado k1500
I need to install a swing out car seat for our car or modify the existing to help my wife get into the car more easily
I use to have 1973 monte Carlo with swing out seat back in college
We would really appreciate if we can get any lead how to do this.
By the way the car she just purchased is a Mercedes c-300
Jack Davis says
I have been trimming since 1945 I started at the age of 13 years old taught by my dad.
Dad taught me design he had one that I could never duplicate no mater how hard I tried.Years ago we did the diamond design now its back I do it however It’s not my choice of design.
I do believe in designs can add to a job sometimes two tone interiors, I still like doing pleated interiors ,older cars using mohair or special fabrics leather ,vinyl I like doing hand stuffed barrels (pleats).
Pleats can be off balanced if at the end of the insert you end up with a smaller pleat it’s better to make the last one wider it looks more balanced. Sometimes I will make up some sample stitching to be sure on my work I don’t mean a sample of the full job a smaller price works.
Sometimes a welt looks better then a top stitch or French seam sometimes 3/16 welt in insert 1/8 on facings.
Some older vehicles with stitched headliners look good with a welt in the listing seam.
I’ don’t trim full time anymore and don’t have shop any longer semi retired do some sub contracting also teaching an apprentice the trade.