Before I completely forget the details of my London trip, I need to share one of the most fun days I had in the UK. By my 3rd day in jolly old London Town, I was feeling pretty comfortable. Friday would be my last day before riding the rails to Wales. Before my trip, I scheduled a meet-up with author Hannah Stanton, and another meetup later that afternoon with upholsterer, Ray Clarke.
I first heard about Hannah when her publishing firm contacted me about using some of my photos in Hannah’s first book released as –Style, Stitch, Staple in the US, and Contemporary Upholstery in the UK.
Of course I signed the release form keeping my fingers crossed I’d get a copy of her book if they used my photos.
Let me just admit that I am still mortified that I arrived more than 30 minutes late to meet Hannah. The subway schedule way underestimated how long the trip would take.
At her suggestion we met at The Geffrye Museum in London. We had a delightful ‘get to know each other’ stroll through the museum, then tea and scones. (Still not a fan of tea!)
Hannah and I chatted about the art chair show she had recently co-curated in London called Second Sitters. The show featured a creative handful of fellow alums from the upholstery program at the CASS, who set out to design outstanding pieces of upholstered art. Covered by several London publications, the popular redonline.co.uk summarized the show as follows:
Tackling the boundaries separating craft and art, the new Second Sitters exhibition looks at the intricate thought process behind the finished product – highlighting the emerging trend of upholsterers as artists.
Showcasing the creative works by the Upholstery alumni of The CASS, the unique takes on a home staple truly redefines the trade as we know it. From a gothic, iron back chair influenced by Alexander McQueen to a luxe boudoir chair there’s no mistaking these pieces for functional art as opposed to merely serving a purpose.
For more information, visit Secondsitters.com
Using chairs as their ‘canvas’, each designer created signature pieces of art upholstery. Hannah’s piece, The Show Pony was one of my favorites. She completely re-thought and re-designed a Victorian iron back chair. Instead of a traditional covering ov the iron frame with upholstery, she chose to let the frame stay exposed and become a show stopping design element. Instead of the dark iron back, original to the frame, Hannah opted to refabricate the metal back using a bold, shiny, modern brass, complete with functional design-y brass screws. She continued to push the upholstery envelope again by upholstering the seat INSIDE its’ lovely time worn wood frame which ends up up exposing and celebrating all of the chair’s Days-Gone-By glory. Well done, I say!
By this time, I was a fan of Hannah’s work and extremely excited and inspired by the emerging art and design branch of traditional upholstery. Old timey upholsterers are unlikely to accept experimental art upholstery, but IT IS HAPPENING. If you think about it, in order to use upholstery as a medium, not only do you have to be an artist or designer, but you also have to become quite proficient at upholstering, which is no easy skill to just pick up, mind you.
Hannah and I walked and talked, checking out thrift stores, art studios and popped into the wild and wooly new retail space for House of Hackney..
We also came across a gem of a little thrift shop which, if it was local, I would have been in big trouble.
I looked at my watch and it was going on 2:00 pm. I had to find Ray Clarke’s studio by 2:00! Hannah agreed to come along and meet Ray. We found his shop in the most unlikely setting you could imagine.
Visit Hannah here.
And if you’re ready to finally learn correct upholstery techniques—