If custom drapery and upholstery workrooms are the cottage industry of the 21st century, then the Sixth Annual Custom Home Furnishings Industry Educational Conference & Trade Show has just moved it to the downtown business district. Formerly the Workroom Educational Conference, this year’s event was held August 15 to 19 at the Palmetto Expo Center, Greenville, SC, a short distance, but a long way, from where it all started.
Cheryl Strickland began the conference in her Professional Drapery
Workroom School in Swannanoa, NC, six years ago. By the time the
conference was three years in the making, it had outgrown Strickland’s
facility and in its fourth year was moved to a larger conference
center outside Asheville, NC (see D&WC, November 2000, page
78). Even then a new location was being scouted as the conference
was nearly doubling every year.
When the conference opened this summer in the Palmetto Expo Center,
with all the exhibitors set-up along aisles on one large show floor,
it had the look and feel of the important industry event it has
Even though the conference concentrates on workrooms, it has become
as large (or larger) than some regional, industry-wide trade events
of the last few years. More than 700 attendees registered for the
four-day-plus conference along with nearly 80 supplier vendors exhibiting
on the trade show floor and 79 instructional seminars held at the
Clearly, it is the seminar program that draws the attendance. From
late Thursday afternoon to mid-day Monday, classes and attendee
social gatherings (including a Get Acquainted Party and a Spouse’s
Mixer) dominated the schedule, leaving the vendor display area open
from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday only. Workroom owners
and operators come to learn from the conference’s faculty of
32 instructors who covered a wide range of subjects. To get that
many workrooms to close up shop to attend four days of seminars
is quite an accomplishment.
As in the past, the seminars were video taped and made available
for purchase. The cameras served another purpose, however. Video
monitors on either side of the large classrooms made sure everyone
could see, up close, what the instructors were working on.
All of the seminars were held on the ground floor of the Palmetto
Center, with the exhibit hall one flight up. This year there was
a decided emphasis on upholstering—for many, a logical extension
of a custom workroom’s services. Eighteen classes covered upholstering
in one way or another from slipcovers to upholstered walls. Seminar
topics included “Should I Add Upholstery?” “Leather
Upholstery Techniques,” “Building a Chair” and “Upholstery
Tools and Tricks.” On the trade show floor were continuous
live upholstering demonstrations.
Also new on the show floor was an actual, operating workroom complete
with worktables, sewing machines, steam irons—the works. This
area provided attendees with a working template of how an efficient,
highly productive workroom can be set up. It provided a life-size
model of how to build and equip a workroom and a hands-on opportunity
for many examining tools from nailing guns to steam irons.
A series of free vendor demonstrations were scheduled during the
exhibit hall hours. These workshops provided time and space for
exhibitors to bring attendees into concentrated workshops to further
demonstrate how their products can make their lives easier without
them having to leave the exhibit show floor.
Again this year, D&WC magazine hosted a reception for exhibitors
and instructors at the Phoenix Inn, the show’s main hotel.
Just more than 300 attended. Nearly 100 members of the Window Coverings
Association of America (WCAA) attended an association dinner also
held during the conference.
Next year, the Seventh Annual Custom Home Furnishings Industry Educational
Conference & Trade Show is scheduled to return to Greenville’s
Palmetto Expo Center September 19 to 22.