Keri Ames is the sole owner and fabricator of Yachtsman’s Canvas in North Wales, Pa. She’s been a marine fabricator for eight years and works with powerboats and sailboats on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay (Md.), southeastern areas of Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. She began sailing the waters of the Chesapeake Bay with her husband in the late 1990s and opened her own marine fabrication shop in 2013.
What drew you into the marine fabrication industry?
My husband and I wanted a new sail cover for our sailboat and he told me he was confident I could make one. I didn’t know how to sew and I didn’t own a sewing machine. Up for the challenge, I went out and bought a Brother sewing machine and the book Sewing for Dummies. Through this process, I found a passion for the trade and set a five-year plan to transition from my corporate job. I spent vacations working on my sewing skills, attending fabrication schools and, oh, I bought a better a sewing machine too.
What are your areas of expertise?
I fabricate exterior canvas for both power and sailboats, mainly 30-foot and bigger. Having sailed the Chesapeake Bay for the past 20 years, I have a thorough understanding and appreciation of the importance for the right canvas.
How do you keep up with innovations in textiles, equipment and other materials?
Staying connected both with printed publications such as Marine Fabricator and Specialty Fabrics Review as well as being active on several industry-specific social media groups. I also find it equally important to build relationships with my suppliers and attend industry trade conferences and seminars.
My top three biggest challenges are time, time and time—a direct result of my desire to stay small and hands-on. As a one-person shop, it is tricky to balance management of the business, complete and deliver projects and, most important, have some personal time. I try to focus on the projects that will produce the best results with the highest profitability. Keeping a fluid schedule is key to making the most of my time.
Why are you an MFA member?
Becoming an MFA member has opened many doors for me to establish peer relationships, which I find to be a vital component of success. I have gained valuable knowledge of both products and fabrication techniques through MFA publications and attending the national and regional conventions.
Prior to transitioning into marine canvas fabrication, Keri Ames was a problem analyst manager focusing on software root cause analysis as well as a release manager focusing on new software releases for an enhanced 911 cellular network system. She says her customer service skills and attention to detail have carried over into her canvas work.
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