A long, short story
The chicken or the egg?
Mollies Make & Create was established by Antonia Marino from humble beginnings. She started teaching herself furniture up-cycling in the early 90's when their daughter was just a baby.
Back then she learnt by stripping furniture down and putting it back together. She's still unsure which came first -- the upholstery or the furniture painting -- but the upholstery was the hardest to master.
Practice makes perfect
Antonia spent hours scouring through library books to learn traditional techniques -- there was no YouTube or local classes available back then!
Deconstructing and reverse engineering weren't just fancy words, they were how Antonia managed to keep her sanity. With every chair she stripped Ant matched the individual techniques with chapters in books, marking the pages with scraps of the fabric.
Her first project was a wingback chair. Silly silly girl.
Never say never
Visiting local upholsterers gave Antonia a taste of the male-dominated industry as it was back then. Their refusal to sell her basic upholstery supplies or offer snippets of advice just fueled her stubborn, determined nature. Antonia became an expert in recognising which of the materials were recyclable and how to substitute others. Thinking she was clever, at the time Antonia rewashed horse hair in pillowcases and recovered old buttons with fabric. It wasn't until years later she discovered that many techniques she learnt through trial and error were actually commonplace.
Despite working full time in both the finance and the insurance industry, Antonia found plenty of time to paint furniture and perfect her upholstery techniques, and within a few years she became rather good.
Mix and match
Another revelation came about 3 years later. With every armchair she completed Antonia noticed patterns and similarities between the layers, materials and techniques. A rosetta stone emerged showing a golden recipe of construction.
Ureka! Antonia discovered what she'd later coin "Mix and Match techniques".
In most cases, common construction techniques made up 80% of each chair, with 20% being specific to the style. Two chairs that appeared completely different to Antonia suddenly started looking the same when the elements were separated. Upholstery was like a baker's basic cake formula where like-for-like ingredients are substituted to create a completely different treat. This was a game changer for Antonia and allowed her to step it up to a more professional level.
Breaking the mould
Deciding to turn her furniture hobby into a business was bittersweet. In 2005 Antonia quit the corporate rat race to become a full time artist creating oil paintings and metal sculptures. She loved producing art and made a successful living out it, but her furniture up-cycling was yelling louder.
Antonia knew that to be successful in business you need to do one thing and do it well. So she wound down her art business in favour of custom bespoke furniture for private clients. She provided reupholstery services but the majority of her business involved furniture spray painting which was her main love.
Breaking the camel's back
A few years ago Antonia made a decision that would change the face of her business forever. Immediately after surgery to her spine and both hands she decided to stop creating and start teaching. This was the start of Mollies Make & Create. She spent hours during her recovery designing prototypes and curriculums; and when she was strong enough she perfected her teaching technique and streamlined her lesson plan.
Her “Beginners Upholstery Workshop” was born and quickly became a much loved, quick-fire upholstery training workshop.
Starting in 2016 Ant has started to train other "Mollie Tutors" around NZ to teach the Beginners Upholstery Workshop. This enables more students to experience the wonderful world of upholstery!
In 2020 Antonia published a book called "101 Upholstery Tips, Tricks & Trade Secrets" which is an essential collection of insights, questions and conversations that Antonia has had with her upholstery students over her years of teaching.
With effect mid-2021 Antonia has finally decided to retire from teaching her beloved upholstery workshops. Although this came with regret, Antonia is eternally grateful to all her students young and old, who have shared their passion and enthusiasm with Antonia over the years.
And thats not all folks
The philosophy of Mollies Make & Create is innovation, creativity and sharing.
They have a bucket list of goals that is dynamic and fluid. The list keeps reducing and increasing as their goals are achieved and imagined.
Greatness doesn't come from waiting for something to happen or copying the competition. It comes from carving your way into the jungle.
And that's exactly what Antonia and her team are doing.