Published on March 23rd, 2016 | by Francesca Baker1
Introduction to Upholstery @ The Goodlife Centre
If you’re anything like me, you often see worn pieces of furniture in the charity shop or loved but lagging items in your grandparents’ homes and think ‘Oooh, I could do something with that, make that really nice,’ your little eyes filled with images of a cottage industry creating your own perfect retreat – and then end up going to IKEA for cheap furniture because it’s only twenty quid and then a hell of a lot easier.
So why spend a Sunday learning how to upholster a chair? Well, why do anything at all except for enjoyment and enhancement. Crafting something yourself, even – perhaps especially – recrafting and honing something already existing and providing new life into it, is immensely satisfying.
The Goodlife Centre run practical courses in DIY, woodwork, upholstery and more. Owner and founder, Alison Winfield-Chislett, who is hands on throughout, popping in to the couple of workshops running that day, began by working in theatre, and runs her own prop making business. It all began as a child when she would renovate her doll’s house. She later (quite a bit later) began teaching carpentry to women in New York in the 1980s, before setting up a basic DIY skills course in London in 2009 and then founding the Goodlife Centre two years later.
The warehouse space in Bermondsey is light and bright, filled with pale wood and walls lined with old manuals and catalogues that both threaten to distract and reveal the quirky eye of the owner. Here it is about honing life skills with an element of sparkle, recognising that practical matters can be inspiring.
So, on this one day Introduction to Upholstery course, we began by stripping down. Ahem. Armed with pincers and lifters we broke down existing seats, removing all the old screws and decaying staples, ready for renovation. Once we had a clean slate, it was a case of building it back together again, layering up soft foam, calico lining and colourful fabric until a seat was created. It sounds simple, and indeed once the skills are in place I’m sure it is, but it’s also a time and love intensive labour – something that our tutor Rachel South knows.
From a family of upholsterers she started out pursuing different career paths, but came back to the vocation of her father and grandfather. The act of upholstering is about more than furniture for her; it’s about familiarity, continuing a story, memories and comfort. She tells us amusing anecdotes of the kinds of things she has found down the back of sofas (more exciting than the remote control) and has a warmth and passion to her activity.
Through Rachel’s patient teaching I’m thrilled to see my technique improve through the day, and by the end of it almost feel I could do an entire suite of chairs. We learn not only how, but why, and are coached through an understanding of the process and skillset required. We touch the fabric, feel the wood, and really give our all. Everyone leaves feeling accomplished, and ready to tackle challenges. And it’s nice to have something to show for it.
Later, in the pub, I notice how my stool is a little uncomfortable. ‘No worries,’ I say to my friend, and whip out my seat from my bag. ‘Here’s one I made earlier.’
For more information head to http://www.thegoodlifecentre.co.uk/upholstery-workshops-london/Share This Post