Is it just me or has this year just seemed to fly by?- Now we’re in Mid October 2019 and It’s been an incredible year. With social media it feels so quick and easy to post pics and keep followers updated on my most recent projects. However I must include this beauty here.
A rare opportunity to refurbish and recover a modern design classic : The “Baby Elephant “ sofa, Designed by Richard Stump for Sir Terrence Conran.
It was a tricky one because the wings, or elephant “ears” were designed and built with speakers fitted into the wings and there is a space directly under the seat designed for a suitably sized amplifier or sub-woofer. Reupholstery involved carefully partially dismantling the sound units to ensure the fitted cover , a plain wool/polyamide/lycra mix called “Front 2” by @ludvigsvensson, chosen for its weight, durability and (hopefully), sound-allowing qualities . My many thanks to Anna F @irreverentsideshows for giving me a hand and to the owners , a lovely and patient couple from Bermondsey, south London, for giving me the opportunity to work with them on such a rare beast!
I fully re-upholstered the first of these two J.C & M.P Smith Ltd Winged Mid-late 20th century armchairs for an award-winning interior designer Nicola Holden Interiors,
Covered in one of my favourite textile designers, Josef Frank, who designed “Teheran” in the mid-1940’s, however, it’s first print run came in 1991, Available exclusively from Svenskt Tenn
In my perhaps over eagerness to provide the most optimum suspension it had to return to the workshop so I could change the webbing back from Pirelli to jumbo elastic I guess that chair was so pleased to return, it brought its twin with it!
I totally stripped it back to the frame, and like the first, made sure I fitted the appropriate barrier cloth so the chair met all the UK health, safety and Fire Regs. Finally covering it in another earlier design, circa 1928 called “Aralia”
Re-staining and polishing the show wood , the abundance of colour and the overall finish with nice personal touches from me, like the multicoloured top-stitching on both seat cushions and velvet buttoning in complimentary colours served to deepen my appreciation for this inspirational designers work and gratitude to my client for giving me the opportunity to produce such statement pieces.
My heartfelt thanks also go out to Anna F for assisting me in this process.
This Cocktail Chair, a family heirloom from Bavaria, arrived in my studio workshop (via Erith), at the recommendation of the owner’s partner, a mutual friend who had been following and appreciating my work since we both used to be members of an east London housing co-operative.
Moth-eaten and in need of some love and care, After a fabric and design consultation my client agreed to go with a Herringbone weave from Harlequin, called “Parquet” in colour “Bramble”
Keeping in constant contact with the client during the process of reupholstery was a joy which resulted in some lovely touches, which I feel enhanced the overall new look, including details like the decorative close-nailing in “French Natural” nails and the dark chocolate leather piping detail which gave the chair an air of contemporary though classic elegance.
This wingback chair was originally donated to me by my good friend, super talented artist and fellow meditator Raksha Patel, which was found discarded on the site of Raksha’s old studio many years ago, at a time when she and a group of her fellow artist friends had to leave a block of studios they used in west London which were being converted into luxury apartments.
For a while there it took pride of place in my living room, giving me a place to sit after many long hours at the workbench. Although it arrived grubby and unloved, I knew If I held onto it long enough , eventually I would find the time to reupholster it.
Thanks to (repeated) episodes of Money for Nothing, a fan of the BBC show got in touch, requesting a wingback chair to be recovered in my Monkey print, which they had seen on the show. I had other donor chairs but the shapes were not suitable so in the end I offered them the chair. Although I was alittle sad to see it go, I couldnt miss this perfect opportunity to transform the piece and, in my own fabric design.
The ” Rip down” process revealed a really shoddy build quality and a shocking use of really low grade upholstery materials, ripping out cardboard and plastic webbing , which I had ripped out and replaced with Strong elastic webbing , 120z hessian and rubberised hair behind, and to bolster the existing foams used to create the arm shapes. I went on to protect the existing foams in the back and seat suspensions, though the additional use of 12oz Hessian and Polyester Skin wadding, which was completely missing in the original chairs manufacture.
Refurbished and transformed, the old chair did take a little longer to complete than I had originally hoped. However it was finally looking resplendant in my own signature Monkey print on moleskin Velvet, trimmed with Zoffany Velvet and complimented with Sanderson Brianza . With the new Beech wood Queen anne legs , customised in my own spirit-based grey woodstain.
My Many thanks go out to Stacey Lewis, a fellow upholsterer, who came in to assist me in getting this ready, as well as helping me work through many projects in my workshop (reducing my backlog). I also want to say a special thank you to Anna Frisch for her assistance , Heritage Upholstery Supplies for helping me source the new legs. I also wish to thank Anyvan.com for the swift, safe and affordable courier delivery up to Dunstable. My Customer had originally commisioned the piece for her sister, who upon seeing it, said
“It was better than she thought, loves the fabric used and was over the moon!”
Producing work for the show @MonForNothing has been a privilege and a pleasure. As well as the exposure, you never truly know who’s watching.
So it was a massive suprise when a television celebrity whom I used to watch on Saturday evening TV shows like “Strike it lucky” and “Family Fortunes” as a kid, calls me up to tell me how much he enjoyed the show and that he would like me to transform an old 2- seater sofa that needed a little love and attention, going into his fantastic newly refurbished and redecorated west London apartment.
It was a great pleasure to complete the works for this customer who has been very kind, gracious, patient and supportive of my work. His wonderful home has been a great resource of artitic inspiration and it is an
honour to have my work among his great collection of art & furniture.
My Heartfelt thanks to Rowena Murphy and Anna F for their assistance in helping me re-create a lovely piece.
Even though I explained that the cost of repair, refurbishment and recovery was comparable to Buying a completely brand new sofa my customer definitely wanted to have this Mid/late 20th Century modern Parker Knoll sofa restored to better than its former glory, as she loved the shape and size and practicality of it; with its fold down arms and fold away back allowing it to provide a great place to rest for her guests.
After getting it into the studio, the rip-down revealed the extent of the complete seat failure. So I replaced all the broken serpentine springs, lashing them together with the still in good condition steel rods and clips (which took a little time and were a bugger to remove and replace!)
This time I also fitted and lashed hessian to the springs (something that wasn’t done originally), before fitting new wrapped seat foams. Refurbishing the arms with rubberised hair and foams and wrapping them in polyester before cutting, stitching and fitting the new covers (backed with F/R barrier cloth to make the piece compliant) in a lovely pink velvet called “Peony” from Harlequin
My biggest challenge came with refitting the drop-arm mechanisms: Just when I needed to look at some old photos on my phone with just hours left before delivery, I managed to loose a number of photo’s on my phone! Which were supposed to remind me of how to replace the drop-arm mechanisms in the arms. On that (very early) morning start I contacted some fellow upholsterers online. Shortly after a coffee I quietly and calmly thought the process through. By the time I did get some great responses back from the forum I had already worked out how to replace them! (Many thanks to those ladies and gentlemen for your input in any case) Nothing beats being able to figure things out for yourself !
Before taking on this project I promised myself I wouldn’t ever work with “Shiny” or metallic Velvets (They are usually not to my taste) ..However this velvet grew on me as I used it, the colour was lush and deep and for me had just the right level of lustre and by the end result It not only brightened up my studio, but brightened up my customers face and livened up her living room!
Ps: A big Thank you to my mate JJ for helping me deliver it: You’re a diamond!
In spite of the many upholstery projects I have undertaken over the years I still feel relatively inexperienced and still enjoy the challenge taking on projects which teach me something new. Earlier this year I took on the task of recovering a Chesterfield-style sofa bed using my customers own fabric, a hard wearing velvet of unknown description which had to be backed with an flame retardant barrier cloth, in order for the piece to comply with the relevant UK Health, Safety and Fire Regs.
Although I have completed many deep-buttoned upholstery projects in the past, they mainly involved tackling the buttoning process on a “flat” shape. Even though this was a “modern” piece It still took me a while (and a good day with many thanks from Louise Boyland from Shoreditch Design Rooms )to help me build the confidence to button this shape and get to grips with Van dyking (a method of joining pieces of fabric or leather so that the joins wouldn’t be seen when buttoned).
Yes this project did take slightly longer than my estimated time, however it was my first piece of this type and certainly was worth doing, if not just for the experience but also being the first piece I was able to deliver using the New Nissan e-NV200 all-electric van which I loved using during a 2- day test drive.
My customer was so pleased to eventually have it finished and delivered(the picture below was the only time I could get a half-decent shot of the piece still partially finished with the decorative nails “) She thanked me with an extra £50 tip.
The first of these pair of G-Plan E-Gomme chairs arrived in my studio last year from a lovely couple near Blackheath/Lewisham area, who in my past many years ago had been great employers and have grown to become good friends and loyal supporters of my work, having seen my previous projects online and personally knowing what its like to run a business they were more empathic and sympathetic to the (daily) challenges faced being a self employed artisan/craftsperson
These pieces were a challenge because there not only had to be a fair few changes to the design; having prepared the show wood with the intention of developing one of these pieces to showcase a fabric textile print I had designed, using the whole process to finally bring to market some of my previous skills in textile design into my current creative manifestation. Even roping in some fantastic help from a talented illustrator (Thanks Sarah McCarthy, your efforts will not be in vain!x)I couldn’t bring the design to market as I couldn’t bring together enough resources (I was attempting produce a specific fabric in time and so my customers had little choice but to choose fabrics they had sourced.
Luckily for me these customers had great taste (as well as tremendous patience), choosing 2 fabrics from Osbourne & Little: Soumak , from their Tabriz Collection of weaves and “Dovetail” from their Abacus collection, making their use in these pieces compliant through the use of a flame retardant barrier cloth. Complimenting these fabrics, I put together a custom wood stains for each. finishing the wood with layers of shellac and rubbing beeswax to create the right lustre. My heartfelt thanks to Katy Chaytor-Hill and Anna Frisch for their assistance.
Atelier Ray Clarke Ltd T/A Ray Clarke Upholstery & Design Company registration number :12018355
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