Upholstery is enjoying a renaissance in recent times, fuelled by the trend for upcycling, and prime time TV programmes such as The Great British Interior Design Challenge and Sarah Moore's BBC1 programme Money For Nothing, in which she rescues chairs destined for the tip and then takes them to an upholsterer in the area and gets them to breathe new life into them, showing what can be done with a little imagination. An upholsterer colleague of mine Ray of Ray Clarke Upholstery and Design in London created this fabulous set of dining chairs for the programme, including designing the fabric himself!
I myself learnt to reupholster 16 years ago on a residential upholstery course in wales run by The Traditional Upholstery Workshop which is based in near Cardigan in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Having read an article about the course, I did a taster week, and I fell in love with upholstery straight away. It then took me 4 years to complete their diploma course because I had to do it in my work holidays, but you can do it in a much shorter space of time than that, they say 3 to 12 months on average. I absolutely loved the area, and it was like a little holiday each time I went. This is one of my early pieces:
There is an upholstery course taking Manchester by storm at the moment! The Ministry of Upholstery in Manchester are teaching anyone that is curious to learn how to transform their first piece of furniture.
At their Manchester workshop they offer a huge range of courses, from a weekend footstool making course, which combines both upholstery and Annie Sloan techniques, to an eight week business start-up upholstery course. The course founder Anthony Devine produces some amazing unique and creative upholstery pieces for the programme Money For Nothing. I particularly loved these chairs that he created featuring a graffitied Mona Lisa:
A vintage loving friend of mine Alison Hefferman has produced some stunning reupholstered vintage cocktail chairs for her and her partner Alex's business Snygg which specialises in bold colourful retro fabric and lampshades as well as mid century studio pottery. She learned to upholster with the Ministry of Upholstery in Manchester. This one is my particular favourite reupholstered with an amazing vintage Scandinavian fabric called Lagos by Boras:
There are upholstery courses springing up all over the country, so just google it and you will be sure to find one near you. In the Leeds area there is Emily Farncombe Upholstery running courses, in London there is London Metropolitan University and near London Associate of the Guild of Master Upholsterers Wendy Shorter, in Shropshire there is J.A.Milton, and in Dorset Vicky Grubb of Something Fine who has also published a great book showing you how to complete some simple basic upholstery projects.
It takes a long time to get to the stage where you can earn a living out of it, it took me 10 years before I could give up the day job! But it is incredibly satisfying to make your own creations in your own style, and you can then try to sell them at craft fairs or just keep them for yourself.