It is with great honor this year that Draperies & Window Coverings adds the name Cheryl Strickland to our Industry Hall of Fame.
Indeed, it is so much more than a name we add; it is a person, a personality and a conviction that through shared knowledge everyone in this industry can learn to be better workrooms, better professionals and better respected for the work they do. Although we lost her to cancer earlier this year, Strickland’s memory and legacy will continue on. A well-known industry speaker and educator, she also was founder of the Professional Drapery Workroom School, later the Custom Home Furnishings School, in Swannanoa, NC.
Strickland changed the industry, especially where in comes to workrooms, and left it better off. Partially by the sheer force of her personality, she broke the mold of myriad individual workrooms, scattered across the country, working alone wondering if what they were doing was right and not knowing what they were really worth. Strickland’s goals were to get workrooms talking to one another, teach professional methods and standards and pass along ways to fabricate treatments better and faster. She also understood the necessity of operating a workroom as a business, and included business management fundamentals in her school.
We are proud that Strickland’s relationship with D&WC goes back, literally, decades. She became an instructor for our World of Window Coverings™ seminar program beginning in 1989 and, subsequently, was the subject of no fewer than three magazine cover stories. In her last D&WC cover story (September 2005), Strickland wanted to put the focus on the school’s 10-year anniversary and to acknowledge the work done by the growing faculty of industry experts she had gathered around her—many of whom have gone on to become well-known instructors in their own rights.
Throughout it all, there was an energy and joy that Strickland nearly always showed in public—much of it was faith-based, which she held very deeply. Affectionately known as the Queen Bee, Strickland was genuinely happy for those she could help. “It’s thrilling to be able to be a part of seeing these people who are wishing and hoping they can have their own businesses and work for themselves, then see it come true,” she said. “I really do enjoy the teaching. I’m honored to be involved in this whole process.”
We could go on about the influence Strickland had on the window coverings industry, but felt it better if some of those who knew her would share their memories and appreciation for her work. We never would be able to publish all of the tributes we could collect, but offer these:
HAVING THE WILL, THERE WAS ALWAYS A WAY
Who was this lady named Cheryl Strickland? She was many things to many people. A neighbor, friend, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin, grandma and boss. To others, she was an information station, or their tool for confidence and encouragement. To some, she was the lady that not only made uniforms for speed skating teams, but was also a trophy holder for competition herself! Many described her as being a person of honesty and kindness. One they could rely on and trust. She started from nothing and became something. She was eager to share how God had blessed her, and that if you put Him first in everything you do, then you’ll be forever successful.
Cheryl, in her early years, managed a car parts store. This must be where she learned to boss everyone around! Later in life, there were a few who knew her as their scuba diving partner for feeding the sharks! (What was she thinking?!) And at another point in her life, she achieved the title of being the first female president of the Swannanoa/Black Mountain Chamber of Commerce in North Carolina, but I’m not sure if this was before or after she went to clown school!
I know she kept her secret of having breast cancer from her industry family, so as not to upset them any more than she had to. There were days that she walked around her office, with a bald head, calling others that were struggling with cancer, to encourage them to fight and persevere, though she herself felt so sick. She didn’t take “No!” for an answer, and so having the will, there was always a way.
There actually were nights that she spent sleeping on the floor, in her office, so that she could work late finishing up her articles or making plans for the next conference, in anticipation of taking her grand kids to the beach for a week. Being who she was, she would forgive, and move forward by not saying a word, but by just forgiving and moving forward. She loved what she called her industry family so much, that she saved all of the hundreds of cards and e-mails that she received.
As you can see, she was many things to so very many people, but I must tell you that all these things that people say she was, doesn’t compare to what she was to me. For me, she was Mom. My angel. A person who molded my life as a child, making me into what I am today. She loved me unconditionally, picking me up every time I fell. Whether I was two, or thirty-two. No person could ever compare to her and, therefore, I strive every day to be a little more like her. Something that I feel we all could do.
I miss you, Mom, and you’ll always be No. 1 in my Hall of Fame!
Tara Boone, Black Mountain, NC
ENERGY, ENTHUSIASM NEVER STOPPED
I first met Cheryl Stricklnad in the early ’90s when my business was first taking off. She was teaching at the Draperies & Window Coverings’ World of Window Coverings conferences at that time. I had attended one of her first solo seminars in Los Angeles, CA. I was one of three attendees! How far she would come in the years to follow!
I bought her first book and with that stumbled along in this industry that offered relatively few formal educational opportunities. Cheryl was to change that with her Sew What? Magazine in the mid-’90s, before the Internet became commonplace. I remember that debut edition. How exciting to receive educational info in a newsletter! It became a must-have publication.
By 1996 more people were connected to the Internet and Web sites were just beginning to become standard operating procedure. DraperyPro, established in 1996, was the original forum dedicated to the soft treatment industry. I recall Amy Burton’s post about Cheryl’s first Workroom and Design Conference held at the Holiday Inn in 1997. The following year, many of us on DraperyPro banded together and attended the conference and this became the premier workroom conference to attend—a show devoted entirely to workrooms—how exciting for those of us who had been trying for years to learn on our own!
Cheryl was quite the Energizer Bunny. Her energy and enthusiasm never stopped, not even on the dance floor during a D&WC conference in Atlanta, in 1997. She had on a red outfit and danced her heart out!
As the years progressed the show grew and the attendees enjoyed so many opportunities to learn. Vendors were thrilled to have such a passionate, captive audience ready to buy, buy, buy!
Her drapery school was the only one of its kind and this allowed not only attendees to benefit from refining their skills, but this became an opportunity for so many talented workroom owners to become speakers. I enjoyed the opportunity of being one of those teachers.
Cheryl was certainly instrumental in bringing us together to strengthen our industry. We all benefited, from the workroom attendees to the seminar teacher to the vendor who provided products to the workroom. Cheryl’s contribution is undeniable and she certainly opened up the avenues for so many to succeed in this business that we are all so passionate about.
She will be missed but never forgotten.
Designs by Dian, DraperyPro , Mission Viejo, CA
Everyone always saw Cheryl as a leader and a very strong person, but I saw another side of Cheryl every day working side-by-side with her.
One example of her other side happened when she was going through this horrible fight with cancer. One day, as I was working in my office, I was standing at the fax machine. There was a window between my office and Cheryl’s office, and I was working away and just happened to look up and saw Cheryl sitting in her chair, weeping. Not just crying, but weeping. She looked at me and motioned for me to come in, I ran into her office. When I went in she put her arms out and I just held her as she wept. No words were said.
Cheryl was a very strong person, but everyone has those moments, including Cheryl, that all they need is someone that cares and that is there. I will always remember this moment when I think of Cheryl. I surely do miss her!
Peggy K. Brewer, Student Administrator
Custom Home Furnishings Academy, Charlotte, NC
NEVER GREW WEARY OF HELPING OTHERS
Four years ago now I answered an ad for managing editor of a magazine. I was called in for an interview by Cheryl Strickland. On the day of the interview I arrived on time only to find that the office was a little chaotic due to the fact that several people were training on the operation of a brand new copier.
The interview was unlike any other I had ever had. Three of Cheryl’s grandchildren were there because their mother was attending the training. The kids popped in and out of the interview. The trainer was in and out asking Cheryl questions. The phone was constantly ringing with questions for Cheryl. I just knew that I had not made any kind of an impression about my skills in managing a magazine. And, to top it off, I knew nothing about sewing. I had never owned a workroom. I confessed to Cheryl that I could not even sew on a button that would stay on for more than a few days. This did not matter to Cheryl in the least. She was looking for someone to manage the magazine, and she felt like I could do that as I got a call a few days later from Cheryl offering me the job.
My tenure as managing editor of the SewWHAT? Magazine was truly an experience I will never forget. Although Cheryl and I often disagreed about colors that would look good in the magazine for a particular month, we always managed to finally agree on a solution that suited us both. She even managed to teach me a few things about the custom home furnishings industry, like the difference between a jabot and a swag. She never tired talking about the industry and was always up for a trip to a show, High Point Furniture Mart, even Heimtextil in Germany.
In 2005 we made the trip to Germany. What an experience sharing this trip with someone who knew so much about fabrics, trends and the area. Cheryl had a feeling that this might be her last chance to attend Heimtextil and wanted to visit some places she had never gotten around to doing during her many trips to the show. She asked me if I thought it would be OK if we did that one day instead of attending the show. So off we went to Weisbaden, the Guttenberg Museum, and the many old churches she had always wanted to see. It was truly a memorable time for her last trip to Germany.
Cheryl never grew weary of helping others in the industry. She always wanted to make the conferences, the school, and the magazine the best for everyone who participated. She was always willing to give of her time and her expertise to answer questions and could always be found on the vendor floor during conferences making sure that everyone—vendors and attendees—were happy and learning. Many times I heard Cheryl say that education in this industry was absolutely a necessity.
It was a privilege and an honor to serve as managing editor of the SewWHAT? Magazine for the two years before she decided to retire. I will never forget the experiences I had nor the friendship and respect of Cheryl Strickland.
Patricia Sprinkle, Executive Editor
Southwest Publishing Group LLC
Director of Communications, Workroom Association of America
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN
If a picture can say a thousand words, picture this: Cheryl Strickland presiding over one of her conferences wearing a crown and tennis shoes. That says it all.
Affectionately referred to as the Queen Bee, Cheryl was indeed the queen of her domain. A true leader in the sense of making things happen that had never happened before. She moved on. She led. People followed.
Moving in the direction of sharing when no one would, she paved the way for others. Look around you at the schools, instructors, instructional DVDs and books, classes, online forums and more. Cheryl was the mother of them all. As hard working a queen bee as ever was, with miles and miles on those tennis shoes. She left some big tennis shoes to fill. Well done, my sister curtainlady!
Mary Ann Plumlee, Plumlee Place LLC
Workroom Association of America LLC, Waco, TX