What is Black Sheep Mattress?
It’s just a different way of going about making mattresses and, I guess, delivering them. And it’s just harkening back to the old days with how things used to be.
My old man’s a contractor, so I’ve been on construction sites since I was 12. Environmental sciences, that’s what I studied in university. So all of these things kind of combined to doing a natural craft, and mattresses is kind of where I ended up.
Did you try anything else before mattresses?
Quite a few things, actually. I worked as an environmental consultant, in construction, I apprenticed under a timber framer, so a few different things.
Are mattresses environmentally harmful?
It’s like anything else. I mean, it’s just, why are we putting foams and glues and such in a product we sleep right next to? And it depends on where you stand on particulates and compounds and all that kind of stuff. My belief is: the less of it, the better. So, sure we need to put oil and gas in our cars, but not necessarily in our pillows.
Do customers come to you for the mattresses’ green properties, or comfort?
It’s kind of split, really. Some come to me and they’re hardcore. They want to see organic material, and I love that. And then others are saying, “We’re just kind of tired of dealing with the standard product that’s out there, so we just want a custom-made no-nonsense mattress.”
Any weird requests, like 20 feet wide?
Not yet. That would be quite the challenge. I would have to think about that one. I wouldn’t say any weird requests. Specialty requests, but nothing out of the ordinary yet.
What are they asking for then?
I kind of lay it out so it’s pretty simple. I give people a range and tell them what’s in it and usually what happens is they start at one point and add a few bits and pieces that sounds good to them and that they find comfortable, whether it’s organic cotton or a wool felt, or horse hair is an option, or it can be made out of coconut husks.
Does that consultation take a long time?
It depends. Usually we get off topic, which is great. We start talking about food and that sort of thing. But you know, 40 minutes, half an hour.
How long does it take to knock one out?
Probably the quickest I can do one is a day, but it usually goes into a second.
What’s the challenge?
A little bit of everything. Finding suppliers who focus on this niche market. Right now I source everything from North America, but I may have to go to England just to get certain products because they don’t make them here anymore. I think awareness is probably the biggest challenge. I want to get the word out there but at the same time I don’t know if it’s a mainstream product.
How many of you are there?
It’s myself and probably three part-timers.
What’s your dream mattress?
I sleep pretty good on the one I’ve made for myself. But there are some really interesting English companies out there that make a $40,000, $50,000 mattress, believe it or not.
What are they putting in it?
Some of the things I’ve mentioned, and some of the things I use, which is great. Horse hair and horse tail and everything hand-stitched. And I do a lot of that now, but I would like to carbon copy one and see what that is like. That’s kind of my goal next year, to make one of these outrageous mattresses, and we’ll see what it’s like. I’ve laid on them, I’ve tried them.
Do they really feel different?
They do in some ways. The whole idea of memory foam is trying to emulate what these natural materials used to do, this cradling effect. They do and they don’t. I think quite a bit of it is prestige. I don’t know anybody like this, but I guess there’s people out there who say, “Hey, check out my mattress.” And they have distinct branding around the fabric they use.
How did you figure out how to make mattresses?
Just met some people in the industry, and I stumbled into it like a lot of people do. It’s learn the basics and then improving on the process and figuring there’s still room here for something different, better, so that’s when I decided to go on my own.
There’s a mattress community?
Not really. It’s mostly big box and big factories. Some are even made in China and they bring’em in, or Mexico. Some are still made in Canada, there are some factories, but it’s all about volume. That’s why I mentioned the European model, and England especially. There’s still some guys who have small shops and are putting out some really nice products.
Would you branch into anything else?
Furniture. I think I’d get into making some beds. I’ve done a few. If somebody twists my arm I can do it. It’s very simple. It’s not my specialty, at least not yet. But I’ve always loved working with wood, so I think that’s something I would consider.