Upholstery Club: Ray Clarke Upholstery

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Have you heard about Upholstery Club? I’m not surprised if you haven’t because this is its’ grand debut,  right here, right now! See, I’ve been making friends with upholstery professionals and amateurs around the globe and I think it’s time you got to know some of these very talented folks.  Get in on the ground floor of Upholstery Club right here. Some have been at it for years, others are just dipping their toe in the water.  Upholstery is  a curious little  niche. When you start talking to someone who shares your interest,  you can go on and on about technique, padding materials, spring tying, problematic furniture design, etc. What instantly takes place is a connection between two people based on  design, technique, information and experience. It’s utterly delicious! Here’s my theory, for what it’s worth:  Upholstery is a combination of skill, talent, manual dexterity, creativity, perseverance, and problem solving. If  you’re lucky enough to come across a creative upholsterer, he or she is not just making a living at it, the creative artisan has that insatiable interest in materials  and how to work them. It’s not unlike painting, sculpting, metal work, or any other materials based artistic medium.  A fascination with how to use and manipulate materials for a desired outcome is what keeps us enthralled and engaged. If it was predictable every single time, we would have moved on long ago. It’s the challenge of every new piece, it’s unique set of problems, style, padding, fabric and finish techniques that keep us addicted to furniture rehab and restoration.  It  “Hurts So Good”, you might say.

To start things off, I’m going to introduce you to one extremely creative guy doing his upholstery thing over in London.  When you mix creativity with talent, this is what it looks like.


Ray’s work that really hooked me were these two emerald green bee chairs. The customer’s fabric is a printed velvet from a Scottish  Company called Timorous Beasties. As with every project an upholsterer does for a client, the fabric is sometimes NOT the best choice.  After finishing the chairs, Ray concluded that the fabric is  better suited for soft furnishings like pillows, cushions or drapes. I’m always interested in how the upholsterer made the decisions they did. I asked Ray how he approached the large pattern on these beauties.

However, in my enthusiasm to complete these, I made the choice between either having a one- directional print throughout the chair, which I knew would produce an inconsistent colour or ” shading” because of the direction of the pile and the design in and on the fabric. Or go for a consistent, deep, rich colour with a symmetrical pattern .

I went for the only option which I thought made any sense to me, the latter: keeping the overall colour continuity, while carefully considering the beautiful print detail on this lush velvet.

I think the way I positioned the print is well balanced, presenting a pleasing diamond shape through the chairs inside back and seat (The inside back and the arm rest positions would not experience as much wear as the seat in use)

As is often the case, an the craftsman is left agonizing over some decisions on fabric placement. It’ s a killer, but after years of experience, you feel confident in your expertise, and even better, you feel confident enough to sell the client or designer on your decision.


And the proof that Ray is a true artist, as well as skilled artisan, read what he says about the end result.

Also , (and if you will indulge my imagination for a moment) I love the way the honeybee at the base of the seat looks like its crawling up the seat, while being escorted by two bees (at each of the rear seat posts), to finally meet its mate crawling down the inside back towards the middle of the chair

In this way I like the sense of movement , narrative & purpose these Napoleon bees bring to the chair.

See what I mean.

Visit Ray on FB at:


and Like Upholstery Club right here.