When 17-year-old Derek Friesen was hired to install auto glass at a local repair shop, he couldn’t have imagined that it would lead to a successful career in auto upholstery.
Nearly 30 years later, Derek is the proud owner and operator of Custom Creations, one of Canada’s premier hot rod upholstery shops.
Derek has garnered praise throughout the industry not only for his precise trimming but his unique set of fabrications skills. In fact, he’s just as talented with sewing as he is with welding, fiberglass and woodwork. Putting each of these skills to use on his clients’ cars, Derek creates high-quality interiors that regularly drop jaws and win awards.
We recently spoke with Derek about how he got his start, his thoughts on the craft and much more. Let’s meet the trimmer…
Name: Derek Friesen
Business: Custom Creations
Location: Chilliwack, B.C. Canada
Equipment: Pfaff 1245 x 2, Pfaff 1296, Juki 1508 and Consew DSC-S4 Skiver
How long have you been trimming? 29 years
How did you learn auto upholstery?
I first learned about upholstery when I was working as a teenager at Apple Auto Glass. After seeing the seats that one of my coworkers, Rick Clark, had made for a 1955 Chevy, I fell in love with upholstery and wanted to learn more.
I was hired to do auto glass, but would take any opportunity to tinker around on the sewing machine in the shop (even if it meant after hours). Without any formal training, I basically just taught myself and learned from my mistakes. My first project was to reupholster my 1985 Honda Civic SI, which took 3 or 4 times before I was happy with the outcome.
As I picked up the trade, the shop asked me to start doing some of their upholstery jobs; convertible tops, vinyl roofs, seat repairs, etc. It was in these years that I developed a passion for cars, upholstery and stereos.
After six years with Apple Auto Glass, at the young age of 23, I decided that I would venture out on my own and start building custom car interiors.
What’s your favorite aspect of the craft?
I love that the upholstery trade is always changing. Gone are the days where it was just using a sewing machine. The trade has escalated to a much higher level and requires a much more diversified skill set.
The trade has become very expansive and I am not just a trimmer anymore, but also a fabricator. I get to work with many different mediums (metals, fiberglass, wood, polycarbonates, etc) and many different pieces of equipment (C&C cutters, welders, pattern and design tools, computer-based programs just to name a few).
But for me, it all still starts with a pencil and a piece of paper.
What’s your upholstery pet peeve?
There is nothing more annoying than a client who seems to know more about what you do and then assumes that the job is so simple and can be done in minutes. Many customers have no idea the effort and hours of work that it takes to make their vision come to fruition.
What’s the best part of being a trimmer?
The best part about being a trimmer is the fact that I get to work with my hands and create beautiful pieces. When the job is done and I stand back and look at my work and see the details and how everything has come together, I am often amazed that I was able to build something like that.
I love that I get to build and create one-off pieces and that I am always pushing myself and learning new ways and methods to get an even better result.
Getting paid to do something I love is pretty awesome too.
What concerns you most about the industry?
The biggest concern in this industry is the lack of people who are willing to learn the craft. Unfortunately, it seems that upholstery is a dying trade.
This really saddens me, as there are a lot of great opportunities in this industry and chances for trimmers to show off their creativity. Almost every upholstery shop I know is in need of good trimmers or someone who is passionate about learning the trade.
Find out how to be featured in our “Meet the Trimmer” series by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a proud owner of some of the beautiful upholstery creations that Derek has done. He is a highly skilled artist with a vision of what can be accomplished to compliment any vehicle.or project. Derek is also a great guy and always willing to listen and work with clients to fulfill their dreams. Thank you Derek. You are the best.
Once upon a time I did embroidery work for Derek. Great guy to for/with and his work is incredible. Can’t go wrong using his services.
Vance Ford says
Derick is by far one of the best interior builders in the industry . Derick will not accept second best, he always does his best. His personally is great and will help anyone with anything from welding to advice on where to get part . I’ve watched his shop grow to a great shop. If You need an interior for your ride you won’t go wrong with Derick’s work
Derek is without a doubt one of the best in the industry!! Super meticulous great vision of what the customer wants and every little detail done to perfection. Have a truck he did and couldn’t be happier.
Richard Friesen says
The comments you get must make you feel sooo good. But the work you do and how you do is even. No one can match. It must feel so great to know you are the very BEST,
wally friesen says
what a great talent and skill we are so proud of your success in business but also your great family your uncle wally.
wow blown away. great talent and skill
we in south Africa and we have Trim shops through out south Africa. I just love this website.
Tracy Weaver says
Nice looking work
Props my friend
Kevin Mindel says
I’m so lucky to have have Derek and his team working on my dream car as we speak. His talents so far have already blown me away with what they have done creating the bass structure of my interior dream. Derek first starts with listening to my vision and then he puts his creative style while combining function to work. His design suggestions continue to impress me but even more he is very open to my continued crazy ideas and OCD eye. Derek is not only a true craftsman but an excellent listener and an honest business man, a very rare thing these days to find all that in one place. Thank You Derek for your contribution with my dream car
“The Mindel Coupe”. being debut at this years British Columbia Classic & Custom Car Show coming April 17-20th, 2020. This is an indoor car show at the Abbotsford Tradex. Come down to check out Derek’s latest masterpiece. So excited to see the finished job!!!!