Meet the maker: TJ Brown, master mattress-maker, Savoir Beds

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Back in the early 1960s when I was growing up in Jamaica, I taught myself how to use my mum’s sewing machine. I sewed most of my own clothes and I also started designing and tailoring clothes for other people. After many years of dressmaking, I was living in London and I saw an advert for people with sewing skills at Savoir Beds. I applied – and the rest is history.

I’ve now been in the job for twenty years. I’m a master mattress-maker, working from the Savoir Bedworks in north-west London. During my time with the company I’ve seen it grow from seven employees to more than 80. But it still has a family atmosphere, which is one of my favourite things about working here.

When I started in 2000, I was responsible solely for crafting mattress springs. I soon moved on to creating bed bases and then to making our mattresses – widely regarded as the world’s finest – from start to finish.

Every Savoir bed is made to order and is completely unique to its owner. We have to ensure that every detail is perfect, but that’s okay – I like things neat and looking good. I’m all about precision. The mattresses I make have my name on them. I put so much heart and soul into them that I call them my children.

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We layer masses of hand-laid, long, loose horse tail, with cotton and wool, with a hand-tied pocket spring unit. Then, by hand, I slip the mattress closed with a fine curved needle and side-stitch it to ensure the spring unit and natural materials are secure. The final element is tufting the mattress, with a really long needle.

What my work does is give people the best night’s sleep ever. They wake up every morning feeling good, which in turn helps them to get through life. You don’t need all the research that’s out there to prove that if you sleep well, you feel well. That, to me, is luxury – your health is your wealth.

Clothes are still important to me, and I often wear a well-made suit to work. I like to think that my eye for fashion and textiles lets me approach bed-making like a tailor – what we’re doing here, after all, is creating a bed that has to be the perfect fit for its owner.

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