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Victorian Spoon-back Nursing Chair

Last year I started to learn traditional upholstery – a craft that flys under the radar, swept aside by the convenience of foam. I’ve fallen in love. There is so much beauty in the construction – each layer has a purpose that adds to the durability and comfort. I love to work with natural materials – wood, hemp, jute, metal springs, coconut fibre (coir), horse and hog hair, feathers, linen, cotton, and wool. All of them are happy to be reused or put right back into the earth. It’s only since the mid twentieth century that we have come to expect uniform soft surfaces and don’t think about what is going to happen to them after they’ve served us… that they will crumble into dust that poisons even the deepest trenches of the ocean.

I’ve always wanted to create heirlooms. Objects that people treasure and inherit. Being able to construct a traditionally upholstered seat feels like magic – through touch and manipulation I can transform a pile of fibres into a physical manifestation of support and comfort that will outlast myself… I feel like I’ve found fluency in a language to express my artisanship. I want to make thrones for everyone who has been denied them and to teach others this skill.

[image description: 1. A stripped frame in the middle of a busy workshop. 2. Spraying a new finish. 3. Linen scrim to be sewn to hessian for outside edge of backrest. 4. Linen scrim marked up with teased coir coming out from underneath. 5. Outside edge getting tacked down. 6. Layout for deep buttoning. 7. Two lines of stitching to create a firm wall around the edge of the backrest. 8. Measuring up for backrest. 9. Horse&hog hair added on top of coir, with holes left for the deep buttoning. 10. Calico skewered in place to be slip stitched to roll edge. 11. Hessian base for arms. 12. cotton wadding and calico on arms. 13. Deep buttoning top fabric. 14. Top fabric skewered into place on the backrest with folds arranged. 15. Top fabric gets tacked off on back and arms. 16. Webbing fixed to bottom of seat, springs arranged. 17. Lashed springs securing the seat. 18. Stuffing coir under the bridal ties, on the hessian covered springs with spring ties visible. 19. Stuffing ties to hold the centre of the seat in place. 20. Building up corners. 21. Sack tacked off, with regulator holes visible on the right side. 22. Creation of the seat wall with a roll edge – two rows of top stitching above one row of blind stitch. 23. Finished first stuffing of coir. 24. Second stuffing of horse&hog hair. 25-6. Calico slip stitched over second stuffing. 27. Top fabric and skin wadding over seat. 28. Fixing top fabric behind seat and under arms. 29. Tacking off around the front of seat. 30. Hessian laid over back. 31. Slip stitch detail where back comes around arms and meets seat. 32. completely covered with top fabric. 33. Gimp pins holding ends of double piping in place. 34. View of webbing under chair. 35. Platform cloth to close up bottom. 36. Finished chair.]