I was asked to make some 'head cushions' for a couple of recent commissions to add confort and protect the backs of the chairs from greasy headed visitors. Here's one of them:
And here's a particularly daft photo of them on the studio floor:
They have weighted straps as a counterbalance so they don't slip and are quite ingenious. I was asked to make them based on this one by Robin Day/Margaret Howell, so a very 'modern' influence:
So they're nice and compliment the furniture well.
But it got me thinking about the Victorian equivalent, the antimacassar:
There's something genuinely funny about these I think. It seems to me they're deliberately at odds with the chair fabric to resolutely draw attention to how dirty we are. Like a big sign saying "LOOK - I'VE GOT GREASY HAIR." or maybe "I'M SO DIRTY I CANT EVEN SIT IN MY ARMCHAIR WITHOUT RUINING IT."
And they're always ghastly - a quick image search throws some truly astonishing horrors:
They're called antimacassar in opposition to the Macassar Oil popular among Victorians due to its excellent unguence. Byron apparently called it 'thine incomparable oil' and I can well imagine Victorian grandmothers getting very uptight when he came round and sat on their sofa.
Presumably by the 1950's Brylcreem had taken over and I can well imagine my own grandmother switching to her second grade antimacassars when my dad came round. Maybe they were known as 'antibrylcreemers' at this point.
In recent times we have been far less oily with our hairstyles (the Wet-Look interlude notwithstanding) so have been able to dispense with these chair horrors. But what with the rise in 'artisan barbering' or whatever it's called and these bearded, manicured, moustachioed types
harking back to all things 19th Century, you never know.
If they do come back into fashion, please make sure you have smart, neat ones like the ones I have made above and I'll be very happy to make them for you. Ask for one in a contrasting fabric or different accent colour and, well, I'll kill you.