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Designing upholstery work for its transportation niche

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Some upholsterers involved in custom niche transportation projects find themselves immersed in the design elements of the work. When Dan Salinas, owner of Hot Rod Heaven in Nampa, Idaho, accepts a job, he thoroughly inspects the vehicle, researching the frame, body and paint to create a custom piece that will mesh with the overall look of the vehicle. Communicating with the customer is an important facet of his research. “I listen very closely to what the customer is looking for and use those ideas to incorporate them with my designs,” he says.

Liz Diaz, owner of North Beach Marine Canvas, San Francisco, Calif., also emphasizes the importance of listening to the customer. “I really work with the customer to dial in what kind of function they need their boat upholstery to do,” she says. Diaz turns to other local upholstery shops to fabricate pieces for her, but she never designs something she couldn’t produce on her own. “It’s nice to work with really good upholsterers who can appreciate my design,” she says. “It builds community and we all get better representation for our industry if we all do better work.”

Solely focusing on design has allowed Diaz to start learning how to use the Proliner CAD system, manufactured by Prodim USA, Vero Beach, Fla., so she can design yacht interiors for customers across the country. “I qualify myself as a yacht interior designer and fabricator now,” she says. “It’s like being an artist; you get to create something beautiful.”

Abbie Yarger is a freelance writer and editor based in Minnesota.

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