Do you enjoy restoring furniture? Are you interested in making useful items with leather? Read on to learn more about becoming a leatherworker or upholsterer.
Leatherworkers use a variety of tools to cut, sew and rivet pieces of leather to make products, such as shoes or wallets. Upholstery workers fit and secure materials on furniture and car seats. Both jobs usually include repair work, so knowledge of fabrics and restoration methods is necessary. You need good dexterity and to be comfortable using your hands if you want to work as a leatherworker or upholsterer.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of leatherworkers was expected to decline by 14%, and upholsterers were projected to experience a seven percent increase in employment between 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov). In May 2010, leatherworkers made a median annual income of $23,000, and upholsterers made $29,960, according to the BLS. You can eventually become a manager for an upholstery or leatherworking business with enough experience. If you have an understanding of business practices, you can possibly even open up your own business.
These occupations do not require extensive education, and not all leatherworkers and upholsterers have completed high school. Although postsecondary education is not required, it can give you more employment opportunities or allow you to work in supervisory positions. You usually learn your leatherworking skills from an experienced leatherworker, and training can last up to two years. Upholstery workers also learn from experienced workers, and you may need up to three years to complete training. You might also train through an apprenticeship for either occupation.
If you are looking for formal training, classes and certificate programs are available for both professions. You can take career training programs in saddle making and boot making if you want to become a leatherworker. If you would prefer to make items like purses, belts and other clothing accessories, you can take courses in leather materials, leather manipulation techniques and decorative leather.
You can earn a certificate in auto or household upholstery. These programs cover basic techniques for installing upholstery, as well as the methods for the specific area of upholstery installation you hope to work in. Some upholstery certificate programs cover both auto and household upholstery. A sample of possible courses you can take in a certificate program includes furniture restoration, decorator accessories and designer fabrics. After enough training and experience, you can work on designing upholstery for custom projects.