Workroom Tech: Keeping Tryon in stitches

Published 1:48 pm Monday, October 16, 2017

TRYON – The only place in the country to learn how to make professional window treatments and soft furnishings is right here in Tryon. Susan Woodcock and her husband, Roger Walker, just started a custom workroom technical center called Workroom Tech behind the Shops of Tryon.

Woodcock said Tryon is the perfect place to start such a school. “It’s such a nice, safe place for people to visit,” she said.

Woodcock and Walker explained that they moved here two years ago because they wanted to live in an art focused area. “We like the mountains and the slower pace,” said Woodcock who grew up in Virginia and lived in Richmond for years.

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“Tryon is a small town with a large percentage of artists, writers and musicians,” said Walker who was a firefighter in Virginia and now volunteers for the Tryon Fire Department.

Roger Walker gives Trish Whitton of Florida an explanation about staple guns and air compressors at Workroom Tech, a custom drapery design school in Tryon. (photo submitted by Susan Woodcock)

Woodcock has been in the business of creating custom draperies, slipcovers, upholstery, bedding and pillows for 30 years. She has been teaching professionally since 2003 and is the author of “Singer Sewing Custom Curtains,” “Shades and Top Treatments: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Making and Installing Window Décor,” Quarto Pub Group USA, 2016.

She and her husband also run the annual Custom Workroom Conference and Marketplace where designers, and those who create the fabrics and designs, come together.

“People at the conference were saying the industry needs a school,” said Woodcock who explained there hasn’t been a school in the U.S. since 2013.  “Tryon is the perfect place to establish one.”

According to Woodcock, her students who come from all over the world, love visiting Tryon. The students enjoy having lunch in the downtown restaurants and strolling through the local shops.

“The last group of students ate every meal in downtown,” Walker said. “They raved over the restaurants  and tried as many as they could while they were here.”

The classes usually last two to three days and cost from $200 to $250 a day. In order to participate students must have some basic sewing knowledge and skills. The classes are small, usually no more than six students at a time. Woodcock draws on 12 different instructors who fly in from all parts of the country to help her teach.

Woodcock said while Tryon has the only school, there are some people around the country who will travel and teach custom drapery design at other businesses, and some businesses accept apprentices. However, Workroom Tech is the only school where students can come together for classes and gain experience working with professional tools and equipment.

While Woodcock does the teaching and marketing, Walker takes care of running the business. “I handle everything from logistics, to housekeeping and finance,” he said, while Woodcock added she couldn’t maintain the business without his work. The couple work together to put on the conference every year.

Woodcock said they get a lot of requests for custom designed products, but explained that they are not set up to sell any work. “The students just make scale samples that they take home,” she said.

Since the school just opened in August, Woodcock and Walker do not have currently any bigger plans beyond the 2018 conference next October. They are also being careful not to schedule classes during big events in the area such as the World Equestrian Games next year.