I want you to think about a special senior citizen in your life. Maybe it’s a grandparent or other relative. Maybe it’s someone you’ve admired in show biz like Betty White or a philanthropist like Jane Goodall. Maybe it’s the man who you see walking their dog in the morning or gal with the long grey hair that you hope will be yours one day. The elders in our lives are sometimes overlooked for their value, purpose and beauty. Their experience and intellect disregarded as outdated in our fast-paced world. Their wrinkles and false teeth symbols of age and decay, rather than wisdom and grit.
I have had the honour of knowing well some pretty impressive seniors. Those who have endured things like poverty, abuse and heartache. Those who have offered kindness and sympathy. Those who have taught me lessons about honesty, integrity and gratitude. I owe a great deal of my youthful happiness to the examples set and shared by those in their golden years.
I don’t want them to be forgotten.
I don’t want them to be unnoticed.
In 2018, I reupholstered a chair from the 1920s. An “antique”. “A true antique is an item perceived as having value because of its aesthetic or historical significance, and often defined as any object that is old. An antique is usually an item that is collected or desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, utility, personal emotional connection, and/or other unique features. It is an object that represents a previous era or time period in human history.” Simply put – antiques are magic. My chair was originally covered in white, stained fabric that had endured cat scratches and exasperated bottoms. The chair was old and worn, yet mystical and curious. It reminded me of some of those seniors in my life that deserved to be seen in their truest form. In their glory, glamour and grit. I had never reupholstered so much as a pin cushion but set out to revitalize this beautiful, old darling.
I photographed one of my paintings and using an online design program, created my first fabric print. The fabric is milled in Montreal and is a soft, plush velveteen that is totally worthy of face rubs and finger-tip tapping on its smooth surface. The chair was discovered on kijiji and came complete with more than a hundred upholstery pins to remove, more than a dozen buttons to cover and complicated piping as accent. I loved it and didn’t care that the project was well beyond my abilities.
A woman in Bedford was offering upholstery workshops and I eagerly signed up. I was required to completely strip the chair of its tattered fabric, bent pins and scratched legs. I ripped off the white dress, shaved the scarred legs and loaded my naked and full of potential chair into my car.
To say the workshop was hard would be an understatement. Like melting an iceberg with a matchstick. It was HARD. I came home with bleeding hands and sore upper body. Pulling the fabric, stapling the fabric pattern in perfect unison and adding those special touches required a great deal of physical and emotional labour. I have a new appreciation for those who work in this creative art. It’s expensive to hire someone to do this for a reason. It takes hours of thought, precision and brut.
But my chair turned out perfectly stunning. She is true version of herself: elegant, interesting and old.
I’ve had a lot of compliments on and conversations about, my chair. I could never sell her. I don’t even let people sit in her. If you’ve been following along with my social media the past year, you might have read that the only person who has ever sat in my chair was the man who installed our heat pump. His greasy coveralls making contact with her pink and purple velvet. A violation of sorts. My heart and patience a desperate, drowning cry in my body. Of all the chairs in the room – the floor even – he chose the one place that was strictly forbidden. The chair now remains in my bedroom where she is safe to be admired and caressed.
Reflecting on both the joy of transformation that this art project provided and the inspiring elders in this world, I opted to embrace the challenge of this creative adventure and bring to you a new series. A collection of reupholstered, revitalized, antique chairs. Completely outfitted with custom designed fabrics made by moi! I have selected some of my favourite paintings, taken high-resolution photos and created my own fabrics. I have (and will continue to) selected some special antique pieces that with the help of my family, have stripped down to the bare nothings and offered these otherwise forgotten pieces a new life. Each piece is dedicated to a senior in my life and a story will be written and shared for each chair. The chairs will be named after that special someone who I have encountered and design reflective of this cherished personality. I see it as a way to honour these souls and bring legacy to their contribution. I also see it as a way to upcycle an item that way otherwise be discarded or disregarded. Items (and people) just need a little love and affection to remain beautiful and vibrant.
My first chair will be launched shortly. I will attempt to bring you new stories and pieces as often as I can but recognize the time investment is great! All of these items will be for sale and will come with their own written background. I am not in a position to reupholster YOUR antique chairs, but rather prefer to hand select and design my own based on creative insight and inspiration. I hope you understand!
This project is very special to me. I hope you can feel the intentions and love behind these pieces.