Shane Legano and James Draine, experienced paper hangers with H.J. Holtz & Son, are already implementing strategies they saw at the Wallcovering Installers Association annual convention last month.
Draine, who has been with the company for more than 15 years, says that within three days of his return to Richmond, he used an idea from the convention: scoring the back side of commercial wallpaper – thicker than most papers used in homes – so it more easily and crisply wraps around an outside corner. (An outside corner is where two walls meet and form an external angle, creating an edge to walk around).
“The knowledge I get [at this meeting] is great,” Draine says. “The tips and tricks we see there really come in handy.”
Legano agrees. “The different techniques other people have come up with make wallpaper jobs go smoother,” he says. “We learn so much every time we go.”
Legano, who has also been with H.J. Holtz & Son more than 15 years, says the easy atmosphere of the convention fosters support among participants, who share project stories without reservation. “Everybody’s open, nobody’s competing with each other,” he says, adding that participants develop working relationships that continue well beyond the convention.
“We reach out to each other through the year,” he says. “It’s a family-type organization. We like catching up [with friends]; we always look forward to it.”
Draine says he thinks the camaraderie at the convention is possible because the national pool of wallhanging professionals is relatively small. “You don’t have a lot of people in each state who do the work that we do,” he says. “Paper-hangers aren’t a dime a dozen; that brings us closer.”
Both craftsmen agree that attendance at the annual meeting has ripple effects, noting that the support of company president Rick Holtz is much appreciated. “Rick doesn’t have to send us, but the knowledge we bring back helps us and the company in the long run,” Legano says. Draine notes that for most other companies, it’s the owner who attends, not the paper hangers themselves. “[The instruction] saves us so much time and money,” he says, “and it makes our jobs look better, which is what really matters.”
It’s essential to keep skills sharp, they agree, because wallpaper and other coverings are more popular than ever. Customers can choose from a wide variety of materials and patterns – everything from fabrics to wood veneers to thick, patterned paper. “It’s instant gratification,” Legano says. “You can wrap anything. Just last week, James wrapped a trash can.”