Industry Insider – Nicola Thomas

copy-of-student-storiesOur own Saint Nic is here to give us the gift of her Upholstery wisdom, with a little help from Monica Bellucci and HRH the Queen.

Nicola Thomas teaches both the Accredited and Leisure students at SDR and when not in the classroom she upholsters our clients work in the workshop. She’s a Welsh girl turned Shoreditch local, is on first name terms with the bar staff of the best locals and isn’t ashamed to admit that she put up her Christmas grotto in November.

So we know you as an upholsterer and teacher, but tell us about what you were up to before.

In the years BC(before chairs), I was in lingerie. My best friend and I had our own label called Peachie Keen. We designed and made everything ourselves. It was long hours and really hard work, but also really rewarding. Our knickers adorned the bottoms of many c list celebs.

What led you to Upholstery – where did you train?

After the recession hit, the bottom fell out of the luxury lingerie market (pun intended), and we decided to call it a day. I made a list of all the things I loved about Peachie Keen – working with fabric, sewing, attention to detail, making an actual product. This (somehow) seemed to say upholstery.

I decided to train at Wendy Shorters’ and met Louise. Clearly fate!

You made some pretty epic journeys for your training and work in the early days when you where based in Bristol. You must have been serious about it?

Second careers are usually more serious right? When you know it’s something you really want to do.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II giving Nic's work the once over during her Golden Jubilee celebrations.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II giving Nic’s work the once over during her Jubilee celebrations.

What were your favourite, most rewarding projects?

Contributing towards the worlds most expensive bed and a restoration project for the Queens Diamond Jubilee.  Making a headboard for the Monica Bellucci scene in Spectre. Seeing chairs I worked on in Downton Abbey and more recently The Crown is always fun.





Monica Bellucci in Spectre enjoying her plush bed headboard in Spectre.

Monica Bellucci in Spectre enjoying her plush headboard in Spectre.

The worlds most expensive bed at £125,000, made whilst working for Chapmans.

The worlds most expensive bed at £125,000, made whilst working for Chapmans.

Game of Thrones, made at Farleys.

Chairs used in Game of Thrones, made at Farleys.


What’s your favourite chair you’ve worked on?

A Hans Wegner Papa Bear chair.


What do you think students get from the AMUSF courses that you don’t get in a workshop situation?

My first boss, Robbie Richardson, once said that he thought the skills I’d learnt on the course had taken him at least seven years to learn on the job.

Students get the time to learn the techniques thoroughly and the chance to practice and to make mistakes in a supportive environment.

Despite Louise’s apathy regarding the Archers, you’ve turned Claire into an avid listener, what other rock and roll habits make SDR a unique place to work and study?

It’s a really creative, fun environment to be in. We get just as much inspiration from our students as they get from us. There’s a pretty impressive tea and biscuit selection too!

Oh, and I used to be apathetic to The Archers once upon a time. It gets you in the end. Lou will have Barwick Green as her ringtone before you can say ‘Rob Titchener’s a wrong un’.

Nic’s Top Tips

Favourite fabric company – Kvadrat, Currently loving the Divina in particular. Great colours and great to work with.

Most iconic chair – Papa Bear – anything by Hans Wegner is awesome.

Best Local – The Royal Oak. A stones throw from SDR, cosy in the winter, a pretty beer garden in summer and great sausage rolls. What more do you need?


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