Austin Community College Revisited

Just this past weekend, the Sprucettes taught their last class of the season (stay tuned for Keegan’s next before and after blog for the photos). Since we moved our classes to our back workshop, we’ve had to take a hiatus from the end of May through September to avoid the sweltering heat. I’m not sure if you know, but we like to sweat it out during the summer in our un-airconditioned workshop.

We often are asked, “How did you learn to do this?” Although we spent most of a year painstakingly working out the details of our projects, our core training came from the upholstery instructors at Austin Community College, Mike Gutierrez and Paulette Defoe. In the Fall of 2007, Lizzie and I spent a considerable amount of time taking night classes with Mike and Paulette and three other students eager to get their feet wet in upholstery.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Mike for an upcoming article Lizzie and I wrote for the Upholstery Journal. Since 1983, Mike has been an instructor, or “destructor” as he puts it. When he began, the certified upholstery program was a thorough 1400 hours, covering everything from basic sewing to furniture and automotive upholstery. The classes were taught at the old skill center downtown, which also happened to be the first Austin HEB location.


Mike at our old shop

In 1997, the school threatened to discontinue the classes, but students rebelled and saved the program. Shortly after, the 1400 program was reduced to forty hour classes as part of the Continuing Education Program. When a flood in 1999 condemned the building, the classes were moved to the ACC Riverside location where they reside today. Although limited in space, Mike and Paulette reach nearly sixty students every year with their three-class course offered in the Spring, Summer and Fall. They strive to keep upholstery alive through their instruction. As Austinites, we are lucky to have this course available in our area. Many of the programs have lost funding and very few survive throughout the United States.

Here are some fun photos of our ACC projects.

To find out more about ACC upholstery class offerings, click HERE. If you plan on registering, be the early bird! These classes fill up very quickly! Summer classes are now full, but check back for Fall offerings.

If you would like to be notified of upcoming classes at Spruce, please email us at to be added to our notification list.