Monday, 19 June 2017

Second Sitters exhibition at Geffrye Museum, London

I was asked to take part in an exhibition of contemporary upholstery at the Geffrye Museum in London by the ever-wonderful Second Sitters and what an altogether wonderful thing it was.

Anyone familiar with the Geffrye Museum in London's old furniture district of Shoreditch will know it's the perfect location for a show about upholstery - you walk through a long corridor of rooms displaying furniture throughout the ages until you reach the gallery space in which you'd expect to find a timeline of the history of upholstery with a great display of all the components of stuffed furniture and then a nice display of lovely contemporary upholstered chairs.

But it was nothing like that. Well the first bit was, the history of upholstery was excellently researched and the wonderful range of upholstery bits and pieces would be fascinating to anyone but as soon as you turned the corner to the 'contemporary upholstery' you were faced with the weirdest gathering of furniture made by the biggest bunch of nutters you'll ever see in your life.

This is where Second Sitters are so strong - they are utterly uncompromising. The show included: whoopee cushion chairs that make various noises when you sit down, a hanging burnt armchair, a chair upholstered with only flotsam and jetsam, a chair half upholstered in Hermes scarves, a chair about Hiroshima, a chair with horses' hooves for legs, a pair of stools somehow wired into the walls and an armchair emblazoned with the word RIOT. These are chairs that make a POINT.

Don't get me wrong, these are not unlovely chairs, they are all beautifully upholstered and perfectly appointed. But this is not a furniture showroom, it's a showroom of ideas. And these ideas are not for the faint hearted. The show wasn't called Evolution to Revolution for nothing.

For my own part, I included 15 framed photographs of my guerilla upholstery bus stop chairs and two of my 'conjoint chairs'.

The Beast with two Backs

and, wait for it...

The Beast with Three Backs

The 'point' of these chairs is not exactly obvious, I know. They're experimental and slightly daft which is exactly how I like things. Like the bus stop chairs they're saved from landfill and using waste materials, particularly the tapestry fabrics which I love and that everybody still hates (they're coming back, you mark my words) but the 'point' has something to do with joining things together and joining people together - that's as far as I'm letting on, you'll have to fill the rest in yourselves.

Apparently some choice comments were overheard from people looking at these - one lady was convinced that the Beast with Two Backs was "for a baby, it's for a baby, yes that's what it is, it's for a baby" before quickly moving on. I love that many visitors probably don't come across this type of thing in art galleries, etc and among them may have been some bemused visitors but it was quite clear that people were well able to take away the idea that as well as doing their jobs, upholsterers might have a point to make too.

My favourite comment came from upholsterer and chair caner extraordinaire, Rachael South who whilst stood looking at my chairs asked me "have you got access to my nightmares?"


Because Second Sitters are thorough in how they " promote independent UK and international upholsterers through publications, exhibitions, collaborative working and education days" there were also lots of upholstery demonstrations, workshops, discussions and other events held during the three weeks. The Geffrye Museum were also very supportive, promoting products made by exhibitors (including mine) free of charge. And a host of volunteers came forward to help with invigilation, etc, so  the whole thing was very well supported and visited (see the World Upholsterers Map at the show) by those in the upholstery business. By that I guess I mean the REupholstery business as I don't think anyone from DFS would have got out alive.

The exhibition is over now and the world has gone back to normal - most of the exhibitors are making beautiful but 'normal' chairs again. But it DID happen and who knows, it might happen again. Maybe some forward thinking art or craft gallery might come forward to take the show elsewhere or maybe there'll be another, similar thing in the future. I will certainly keep experimenting with slightly daft/slightly worrying chair experiments and the world will keep turning and the world of upholstery will move slowly but surely on. It just won't be quite the same as it used to be. 

Second Sitters we salute you.


Second Sitters are Jude Dennis and Hannah Stanton, contact via their website

Many thanks to Corrine of Frame & Cover whose photos I (and everyone else) nicked numerous times during the show  - her excellent review of the show with pics of all the chairs can be seen here
and you can check out her great upholstery fabrics here

Exhibitors were:

Jude Dennis
Hannah Stanton
Miss Pokeno
Polly Granville
Alex Law
Electra Read-Dagg
Rachael South

1990's armchair in Camira Fabrics wool

1990's armchair reupholstered in Camira Fabrics wool

Really love the colour of this, it's called 'beetroot' but it's not like any beetroot I've ever eaten. When you get close up with the camera it really changes hue.

Whatever colour it is it's going to look great in its new home - strong colour for single armchairs, that's the rule. No wimps among our customers I can tell you.

This was a commission

Long stool in William Morris print

Long piano stool reupholstered in William Morris Golden Lily print fabric

Designed by J.H. Dearle in 1899 and still in production today, the Golden Lily print is one of Morris & Co's greatest legacies. Here he is working it out with a pencil

Thanks John Henry, it looks alright on this stool doesn't it?

This was a commission

Milking stool in vintage Welshwool

Hand made oak milking stool from our 'Welsh Vernacular' range upholstered with real horse hair and handstitched to a piped edge.

Not sure which mill the wool comes from but I'd say 1960's - if anyone knows please get in touch.

For sale - £75

Parker Knoll armchair in Melin Tregwynt wool fabric

A Parker Knoll 720 armchair reupholstered in Melin Tregwynt Vintage Rose Olive 100% wool fabric

If you look through the pages of this blog you'll see lots of these chairs dotted around, I've lost count of how many we've done and I have no idea how many of them Parker Knoll have sold over the years but they're still in production (they're called Penshurst now) and for good reason -they're very comfortable and they reupholster very well. Add some Welsh wool fabric to the equation and you have a real winner.

You can buy a new one for about £1800 or you can find an old one for less than £100 and bring it to your local upholsterer. If you bring it to us we can make it look like the above - what are you waiting for?

Here's a short film about how Lynplan (now out of business) would reupholster them. We do it similar to this but with rubberised hair, hessian and all closures hand-stitched because we like to do it that way. And why not eh?

"Bring out your 720s, bring out your 720s"

This was a commission

1930's armchair in Melin Tregwynt wool

A 1930's bentwood armchair reupholstered in Melin Tregwynt Nexus Ochre 100% wool fabric.

More terrific fabric from Melin Tregwynt that seems to suit everything we put it on - I love how it hugs the shape of this chair without distorting the pattern.

Quality like.

This was a commission

Laura Ashley armchair in Sanderson fabric

A 1990's Laura Ashley armchair reupholstered in Sanderson trilby fabric

Something of a reproduction Victorian button-back chair, we decided to shallow-button it because there really wasn't enough room for the pleats and according to the customer they had gone baggy very quickly. As the seat was constructed of a moulded-foam shape with no springs in the seat we had to modify it a great deal, but it worked out fine in the end.

And orange too. I know I live in wales but I'm a lifelong fan of Luton Town Foottbal Club so anything in orange is always in favour with me. Actually, given recent political events and the attempted 'coalition of chaos' with the DUP, that statement is no longer as simple as it was. But let's try to keep politics out of upholstery eh?

This was a commission.

Wingback armchair in Melin Tregwynt wool

1900's wingback armchair reupholstered in Melin Tregwynt Vintage Rose olive 100% wool fabric.

This is the first time we've used the lighter side of this doublecloth and I have to say it's pretty terrific as I'm sure you agree. It's perfect for this type of chair giving you a traditional look that's somehow also very contemporary - how do Melin Tregwynt keep managing that?

 The chair had been picked up at auction and was in poor repair so we stripped it right back to the frame and reinforced the wobbly arms, put right the various amendments to the shape that had been made over the years and reupholstered it in the traditional way. Sometimes reupholstery is like getting a haircut - the upholsterer might say 'who upholstered this last time? it's terrible' but unlike in the hairdresser's you don't have to suffer the shame of it because it has nothing to do with you. Here's the bottom of the chair with the springs removed

...that's a huge bit of foam prolapsing through the hessian and the front edge had a piece of bent ply nailed into it to keep the foam in place. I love a good bodge, particularly some of the Heath Robinson have-a-go-at-home jobs we come across but this had been done in a proper upholstery workshop - quite how some people operate beggars belief.

Anyway, the seat has been properly made now, here's the new springs after the tying and lashing stage - we don't do fancy tying or beautiful lashing, nor do we do perfectly measured and stitched horsehair pads, but we work quickly, we use the proper equipment in the right way and we make something that we hope will last for years to come. And if for any reason it doesn't last for years, we make it clear you must bring it back and we'll do it again.

It's my guess the last upholsterer doesn't offer that kinda guarantee.

This was a commission.

Parker Knoll 720 in Melin Tregwynt wool

A Parker Knoll 720 armchair reupholstered in Melin Tregwynt wool

Tidy Tidy Tidy.

1960's bentwood suite in Bute tweed

A 1960's bentwood suite reconditioned and reupholstered in bright orange Bute tweed.

As ever we made a new bench seat from foam and bespoke back feather cushions to better expose the woodwork.

Smart or what?

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Ercol Armchair in Welsh Wool

Ercol 203 armchair in dark finish reupholstered in Melin Tregwynt Vintage Rose Olive 100% wool fabric.

Once again we replaced the back cushion with a bespoke heavy-stuffed feather cushion to better display the spindles - surely what this chair is all about is those spindles...

The fabric is a new colourway for Melin Tregwynt and is already very popular with our customers - you'll see a whole host of chairs on this blog done in this fabric in the coming months. Again it's a doublecloth and the reverse side is very different to this. This combo looks great with the dark wood.

This chair is for sale at £600 directly from us. We also have another with accompanying ottoman, a two seater and a three seater daybed all in the same series - these can be done in any fabric of your choosing. If you're interested, get in touch.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Victorian Horsehoe-back Armchair

A fine Victorian horseshoe back chair with raised support reupholstered in Ramshead fabric by Bute

What a beauty this one is - the fabric, designed for Bute Fabrics by Timorous Beasties is 85% wool and 15% nylon which gives it a silky sheen and lustre somehow similar to velvet so it works terrifically on this era of furniture that is traditionally done in velvet or silk. It's somehow contemporary and traditional at the same time, don't ask me how they managed that.


This came in as a pre-stripped frame that had been taken apart and put back together by local cabinet maker Jonathan Garrard who I would heartily recommend - the woodwork is exceptional.

So this was upholstered using traditional methods with coir and horsehair although I was spared stitching a rolled edge to the seat as it came fitted with a curved wooden support with a leather stitched edge - I'm not sure that was original but it gave a lovely crisp finish.

Unlike most chairs of this type, this is not simply ornamental - my very happy customer sits on this all the time so she was delighted to get it back after its long arduous transformation. And she has it back in time for her birthday, I know this because she told me she's double-delighted with the Ram's heads because she was born under the constellation of Aries.


This was a commission.

Welsh Vernacular bench in two-tone tweed by Bute

A bespoke bench from our Welsh Vernacular range in Bute tweed.

This is a whopping 140 x 40 x 40 cm bench in oak made to order in our workshop using solid oak planks (joined and reinforced) with spoke shaved 'wedged' legs in the traditional style of Welsh vernacular or farm furniture.

The upholstery is entirely hand stitched to a piped edge, a traditional but largely forgotten method.

We can make these to your specified dimensions and upholster in any wool fabric of your choosing.

Lucky you eh?

Bus Stop Chair at Llansawel

This chair now available to bus travellers on the B4337 at Llansawel, Carmarthenshire.

But the amazing thing is that they'll find an acrylic painting OF THE BUS SHELTER actually ON THE BACK OF THE CHAIR

And the view from the bus shelter on the seat of the chair. Paintings courtesy of the terrific and wonderful Julie Ann Sheridan to whom I am also married.

Imagine finding this, would that make you happy or what?

Pair of wingback armchairs in Bute tweed

A pair of 1950's wingback armchairs reupholstered in Bute tweed

I love these. Dark brown is such a classy colour, particularly this tweed by Bute with its two-colour threads and odd flecks.

And once again it's those wingback chairs that reupholster so well. Try to find anything like this in the shops and you'll fail, well you might find cheap versions in badly matched 'check' fabric but you won't get anything like these. You'll get them at an auction though...

What are you waiting for? Go and see you local upholsterer now.

This was a commission

Wingback Armchair in Welsh Wool

A 1990's wingback armchair reupholstered in Melin Tregwynt Elements Smoke 100% wool fabric.

Despite its dainty legs, there's definitely something elephantine about this don't you think? It's those Edwardian style wings isn't it? Indian elephant ears - or Ganesha even.

Great new fabric from Melin Tregwynt, first time I've used it and it works really well on this, I'll be getting more commissions in this I'm sure.

Very smart don't you think?

This was a commission.

Green armchair with Melin Tregwynt cushion

A green vinyl armchair with a new seat cushion in Melin Tregwynt wool

This chair came in for a new seat cushion and to mend a tear on the right arm. We tried to insert an invisible patch but the vinyl was too old and hard so it looked like a big angry scar and certainly wouldn't do. I decided I'd have a go at using the vinyl from the existing cushion to reupholster the arm. As the vinyl was pretty hard I only just managed it, and getting the upholstery nails back in the same holes in both the vinyl and the frame took AGES. But it worked in the end - very satisfying.

The cushion is a great addition too eh? Something about the Welsh wool works very well with old leather/vinyl.

This was a commission.

Side chair in Camira wool fabric

A 19th Century oak side chair reupholstered in Frenzy by Camira

It ain't easy to line up skinny stripes, particularly when the fabric is so thin - I'd call this 95% successful...

People often say 'you must be a perfectionist' and I take this as a compliment because they really mean 'your work is neat', but I'm not a perfectionist at all. I think things you make with your hands should be as perfect as you can get them without letting the process of getting things right annoy you, so '95% straight' sometimes has to be good enough.

And this chair is definitely good enough. But that white stripe on the corner? It ain't straight.

This was a commission.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Parker Knoll Armchair in Camira wool fabric

A Parker Knoll 1071 armchair reupholstered in a teal wool mix fabric by Camira (of Yorkshire).

Super-stylish but with proper back support, you'll look cool in this from your twenties right through to your nineties and your chiropractor will approve.

Look at that sculptural back and imagine what it's doing for your back. No scoliosis, spondylosis or stenosis for you, no way sis.

So sit up straight and don't be no slouch,
And move aside that slumping old couch,
Buy this chair for which I can vouch,
That when you get old you won't have to crouch,
And become a stooping and grumpy old grouch,
Forever emitting that familiar 'ouch',
From the contorted strain on your stricken cheek pouch,
Caused by your vertebrae rubbing together because you didn't look after your posture when you had the chance like.

Stylish preventative medicine for just £400 all in.

Can't say fairer than that.

This chair is for sale.