When a customer requests an unusual type of seating for a boat, it’s a fabrication opportunity to begin a comfortable dialogue with that client. Instead of hesitantly saying, “I will try to do my best,” turn your response into, “I am here to help you.”
That customer may have already heard a reluctant fabricator say, “That’s not possible,” or “That’s going to cost a lot of money.” The open-minded fabricator will thoughtfully listen and ask questions as the customer describes his or her vision. The goal is to cultivate a constructive dialogue that will help a customer understand the value of the fabricator’s time, effort and skills. What’s more, creating an especially challenging seating project may become an award-winner that ultimately showcases a fabricator’s considerable skill and experience.
Customers are often looking for a wow factor in their new marine cushions and seating. At the same time, they usually have budget constraints and want the work completed as soon as possible. To balance these demands, fabricators need to help clients understand the give-and-take of turning unusual requests into reality.
When an unusual project is requested, here are ideas for preparing for your first meeting with the client:
- Designate a day to review his or her request
- so you have sufficient time to explore solutions that will suit the project.
- Consider whether this project will take away
- or add to your core business.
- Review measurements and gather photos of similar projects.
- Develop sketches and rough drafts for the client.
- Research the type of materials required, including quantities, costs and availability.
- Compare the customer’s budget to your rough estimate for materials and labor.
- Designate your prototype fee in your estimate; this will be different from a quantity fee and re-orders on certain items.
Consider what new projects you have seen in the past year. I find it inspiring to view fellow fabricators’ projects that, to my knowledge, had not previously existed in the marine market but are now frequently seen on pleasure crafts around the world.
Adjustable reclining chaise seating has been in the furniture industry for years; however, only recently have a few fabricators sourced hardware and materials to transition this idea to the marine market. Now this comfortable solution is a reality for marine customers.
In the past, super yachts often incorporated flat cushions into a recessed area on the bow of the boat. Typically, these “day-bed” cushions have had elevated headrests integrated into the body of a cushion, providing only a few inches of elevation.
However, fabricators like David Elliott, owner of David’s Custom Trimmers in Australia, have recently utilized a 25 mm Kingboard as a custom base with a stainless ratchet-hinge. The hardware is available from Taco Marine. This fusion has provided a durable and comfortable solution for guests to sit side-by-side with one person relaxing in an upright position while another person reclines.
Since the completion and installation of this project, Elliott has been sourcing additional prototypes for alternate functional hardware that is enduring and functional when installed into a fiberglass hull. He, like so many other fabricators, continues to strive to propel a great concept to the next dimension. Tammy Hampton, owner of The Cover Girl, Buford, Ga., has been exploring gas spring hinge systems for future projects; she says these stainless hinges will work great for sundeck applications.
Every vessel, no matter how large or small, needs optimized storage space, which is always tight onboard. Crews and owners need most items to be securely stowed away, yet they want easy access to everything from hardware to controls for televisions and audio equipment.
Clever storage was recently created in the armrests of a custom-built sofa by Canvas Designers® Inc., Riviera Beach, Fla. In fact, this upholstery project was won an Award of Distinction in the MFA 2016 Fabrication Excellence Awards. It also was a winner in the International Achievement Awards. This custom sofa was for a 72-foot Merritt Sport Fish.
The two sofa arms of this handsome U-shaped sofa provide spacious custom storage via a hinge-access feature. The entire seat and back are on hydraulic hinges, which lift up for storage space. The project is a great example of why Pam Erickson, at Canvas Designers says the company slogan is, “If you can dream it, we can make it.”
The sofa is all leather with the back sections custom built with 2.25-inch horizontal channel pockets. The foam pockets were individually fabricated with a Stamoid back base for stability. The back has zipper access for stuffing the foam into the individual pockets. The size was specified by the client to match the leather boat blinds. This custom feature on the sofa back was exactly what the customer envisioned.
Just last week I received a customer request to include armrest storage for a new custom sofa with the seating areas accessible via hydraulic hinges for his family on a vessel that is in a full refit stage. The customer saw this feature on the Internet and at a boat show. This opportunity illustrates how important it is to keep up with design trends for seating and cushions through Marine Fabricator magazine, seminars and conventions.
Bill Marriott from Extreme Upholstery Designs, Charleston, S.C., is a talented fabricator who recently exceeded a customer’s expectations by creating climate-controlled mezzanine seating. He described the request as a “brain teaser, to say the least.” He puzzled through every step before preparing a prototype. Many times this type of process can take a fabricator days or weeks. I like to call it “chewing over a project.”
Bill’s client flew him to the boat site, so he could pattern the seat area on a new custom-made 62-foot Scarborough in North Carolina. The resulting seats are climate controlled with heat and air conditioning, so the owner can have a cool ride after a long hot fishing trip. Sunbrella® fabric was used. The one requirement the client had was, when standing on the dock or the back of the boat, he did not want to see into the open holes where the heat and air comes through the seat. Bill designed the seat so that only the fabric was visible when looking at the openings.
This was no easy task for a three-dimensional seat, which required access to insert the foam on form-fitting cushions. Talent, ingenuity and years of design skills were incorporated into this amazing creation.
Here are preparation tips that can guide you in creating a challenging project:
Do a conceptual “walk-through” for each stage of a unique project to ensure that your time and talent are adequately compensated.
- Confirm materials and hardware.
- Prepare a maquette, sample or pattern.
- Consider contours and alignment of all areas.
- Determine time factors for each stage.
- Determine what employee training may be required for the project.
- Determine installation logistics and storage-related issues.
Don’t be shy about calling on fellow fabricators for advice when you hit a roadblock. You will be surprised at how willingly they share resources related to suppliers, techniques and professional contacts. I recall reading about scrim foam in the Marine Fabricator magazine several years back, I did not know what this foam was or how it would be utilized, so I contacted the author. She was more than willing to explain the various types and usages and provide a list of vendors. Through reaching out to others, I am fortunate to have many friends in this unique industry.
Terri Madden owns Sand Sea & Air Interiors Inc. in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Consider joining the Marine Canvas & Upholstery Discussion Center on Facebook. This group was started and taken over from Tammy’s Professional group on LinkedIn. The group was started as a user-friendly way for fabricators to communicate about the trade. The group is not public, as we wish to keep it a “professional trade only” site.
Current users are requested to suggest others in the industry to add to the group. Please let me know that you are interested in networking with this invaluable group. I can be contacted at www.sandseaair.com.
It is a great venue to post your work and gather feedback on questions related to techniques and materials. Whether you are a one-person shop or have dozens of employees, this forum can help you stay current on what fabricators are doing around the world in real time.