Meet The Maker: Take Cover Upholstery

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After four years of gainful employment, turning out a wide range of bespoke luxury goods; Hayley decided to go freelance - creating Take Cover. She embraces the beauty of old upholstery traditions in her newly moved to Bristol based workshop.

Hello Hayley, thank you so much for chatting with me. How are you? 

Hi there! I’m great, thanks. I’ve just got back from a friend’s wedding in Glasgow which is an absolutely brilliant city. So vibrant and inspiring. 

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Tell us a little bit about your background? 

I grew up in Bournemouth and went to uni in Cornwall, then moved to London for a while before it became Too Much so I left again. I moved to Canada for a year in 2012 which is where I decided to become an upholsterer. I don’t think that had anything to do with being in Canada, I just decided that I should probably get some sort of career instead of just moving to cities I wanted to live in and seeing what happened. That’s a great lifestyle for a while but I figured I’d like to try and earn more than minimum wage at some point in my life, ya know? 

What made you realise upholstery was the career path for you? 

It just sort of made sense to me. It’s creative but not too creative, there’s still a shape and structure to work with instead of creating something from nothing. It’s a practical skill which you can learn which doesn’t require a natural talent. Also, I have a lot of super creative artist friends and I wanted to collaborate with them and upholstery seemed a good way to do that. 

As well as that, I think people are starting to realise now that we live on a finite planet and throw-away culture can’t go on forever. I wanted to be part of the movement to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ in some small way. 

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Was it a skill that took a long time to learn? 

When I got back from Canada, I joined an upholstery hobbyist class. I was about 30 years younger than anyone else there and everyone would bring homemade cake for tea time and natter about their grandkids. I did that a couple of times a week for about a year and a half while applying for trainee upholstery jobs. A marine upholstery firm eventually took me on and I trained there for about 2 years before deciding to relocate to Bristol. 

It doesn’t take that long to learn the basics of upholstery, it just takes some time to get confident dealing with all the different styles of furniture. I’m definitely still learning. 

What was the transition of turning freelance like? 

TERRIFYING! I still can’t quite get my head round it. There’s a lot of good things about being freelance but I still have The Fear that one day it’s all going to fall apart. People assure me that The Fear will go away soon and I’m looking forward to that day. 

Where and what do you use as a workshop? 

I have my own little workshop at 14 Colston Yard which I adore. I just moved in about 4 months ago so I’m still personalising it but I love having my own space. It’s just near the top of the Christmas steps and there’s a brilliant community of businesses that are all so supportive. 

What’s been your most interesting commission to date? 

When I was still working on marine upholstery, the man who owns James Bond’s yacht commissioned us to do a full refurb so I made a set of saloon seats for that. It’s the sexy wooden yacht that’s apparently featured in Casino Royale (but full disclosure, I’ve never seen a James Bond film). 

I’ve also done a retro sofa seat for a netflix show which hasn’t come out yet (but I assume the sofa will be the star of the show so I will soon be very famous) 

How do you find artists to collaborate with? 

People I’ve collaborated with have either been friends or people who’ve become friends. Bristol has such a huge number of creatives that you meet lovely people all the time once you take the leap and get involved. 

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Do you have a favourite fabric to work with and if needed, where do you find inspiration? 

I love Linwood fabrics; their velvets feel luxurious, their patterns are bold and exciting and as a company, they’re super supportive of me as a small business. 

I love indie cinema and find a lot of inspiration there. 

What does your typical working day look like? 

For me, one of the absolute best things about being freelance is not having to get up early in the morning. I’ve never been good at that and now I don’t have to! Magic. 

I usually walk to work which takes me through the centre of town where I like to say good morning to the cormorants that hang out there (today there were SIX which means it’s going to be a great day). 

After I’ve had some tea and dealt with any emails, it really depends what projects I’m working on at the time. It could be anything from stripping down chairs, re-webbing and springing, shaping foam, sewing horsehair or hanging out with my sewing machine. I love large scale sewing projects because I recently invested in a new industrial machine and it’s an absolute joy to use. 

After that, I usually go and hang out at The Cube where I volunteer. 

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Do you have any top tips for people wanting to get into the art of upholstery? 

I would definitely advise getting a employed trainee role for at least a year or two before trying to go freelance. Training courses are great but it’s very hard to learn the speed, confidence and quality you’ll need to go it alone without having the support of an established company who know what they’re doing. Tragically, you will have you get up at a set time in the morning. I know, I know, no one ever said the path was an easy one. 

Lastly, do you have any exciting projects coming up for the new year? 

I’ve got a lovely early Victorian sofa coming in soon to be completely stripped back and recovered which will be stunning when it’s finished. 

I’m also working on getting my line of cushions into a bunch of indie shops and really just getting my name out there a bit more. The hardest part of being a new business is just getting the word out! 

Oh, and I’ve just finished working at the Bristol Bazaar for the first time which full of Bristol’s most amazing, talented artists and I’m so looking forward to doing it again in December.

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You can find her work and browse her products at ‘’ and follow her on ‘’

Pollyanna ShawComment