A long, short story
The chicken or the egg?
From small beginnings, Antonia Marino founded Mollies Make & Create. When their daughter was a young infant in the early 1990s, she began teaching herself how to upcycle furniture.
She learned by disassembling and reassembling furniture. She's still unsure which came first -- the upholstery or the furniture painting -- but the upholstery was the hardest to master.
Practice makes perfect
There were no YouTube or nearby classes back then, so Antonia had to spend hours poring through library books to learn the old ways.
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
Antonia got a taste of the then-male-dominated profession by visiting local upholsterers. She became even more obstinate and determined as a result of their reluctance to sell her basic upholstery supplies or provide her any assistance. When it came to identifying recyclable items and how to use alternatives, Antonia became an expert. At the time, Antonia rewashed horse hair in pillowcases and recovered antique buttons with cloth because she thought she was clever. Years later she realised that many of the methods she had picked up through trial and error were actually standard practise.
Antonia had plenty of time to paint furniture and polish her upholstery techniques despite working full-time in both the insurance and financial industries. Within a few years, she became quite proficient.
Mix and match
Three years later, there was still another revelation. With each armchair Antonia finished, she discovered similarities in the layers, materials, and construction methods. A Rosetta Stone appeared, revealing the perfect rebuilding recipe.
Ureka! Antonia found what she would later refer to as "Mix & Match techniques."
Typically, each chair was built up of 80% standard construction methods and 20% style-specific methods. When the components were separated, two chairs that seemed to be completely different, suddenly appeared to be the same. Upholstery was similar to a basic cake recipe for a baker - where you can make an entirely different dessert by substituting comparable ingredients.
For Antonia, this was a game-changer since it allowed her to step up to a more professional level.
Breaking the mould
Antonia eventually left the corporate grind in to pursue her career as a full-time artist, producing metal sculptures and oil paintings. She enjoyed creating art and was successful at doing so, but her up-cycling of furniture was shouting louder.
Antonia understood that in order to succeed in business, you must specialise in one thing and excel at it. She ultimately stopped selling paintings in favour of making bespoke furniture for private clients. She offered reupholstery and furniture spray finishing services.
After a short period of time Antonia asked her husband Lyall to join the business. Over the next 2 years, along with a small team of paint chemists, they developed an innovative furniture painting product line called "Voodoo Molly Vintage Paint", which would eventually be sold both wholesale and retail in NZ and AUS.
Breaking the camel's back
A medical occurrence forced Antonia to examine her job closely, and ultimately made a decision that would forever change the direction of her business. Surgery on her spine and both hands made it an easy decision to quit "the tools" and start teaching. This marked Mollies Make & Create's offical beginning.
At the start, Antonia spent hours during post-recovery designing prototypes and curriculums; and when she was strong enough she perfected her teaching technique and streamlined her lesson plan. The Beginners Upholstery Workshop was born and enabled thousands of students to experience the wonderful world of upholstery!
Antonia and Lyall had to relocate into an industrial workshop with separate spaces for teaching, manufacturing, retail, and despatch due to student demand. Within a few years, Lyall and Antonia made the decision to "poach" their daughter Stevie, inviting her to work for the family company as General Manager of Mollies.
Since that time, Mollies has expanded significantly, largely due to its e-commerce website. It now offers thousands of product lines in a variety of creative disciplines, and the selection is constantly growing.
Another turning point
Antonia retired from teaching in the middle of 2021 in order to focus on their retail and wholesale operations. The book "101 Upholstery Tips, Tricks & Trade Secrets," which Antonia recently published, is an essential compilation of the insights, questions, and conversations Antonia has had with her upholstery students over the course of her years of teaching.
And thats not all folks
Mollies Make & Create's guiding principles are innovation, creativity, and sharing.
They have an ever-evolving bucket list of objectives. As their objectives are realised and envisioned, the list keeps expanding and shrinking.
They believe greatness doesn't come from waiting for something to happen, or by copying the competition. It comes from carving your own way into the jungle.
And Antonia, Lyall and Stevie are doing exactly that.