The business of making a chair over is a serendipitous one. In some cases, such as Lola and Marv from the Mahjong Set, I find the chairs first, then plan for the fabric. In the case of Lola and Marv, I was thinking a rusty red, perhaps a golden pumpkin, something to dilute the blue green streak pervading my loungeroom at the moment.
You can see how well that plan worked out. A bedspread presented itself to me in a local market, all shades of turqouise and peacock, yet it reminded me so much of a patterned bedspread my Beppe kept on the bed in the spare room, (incidentally that blanket was rust red and yellow) that I could not pass it by. Enough for one, the old couple was reborn when I found matching teal upholstery fabric in my favourite warehouse.
And so it is that fabric has a way of finding me. I have several main haunts, which I can barely be said to frequent, I have been so busy this new year. I have my favourite stall owner, selling off her collection of fabrics. I have bought a lot of pieces from her over the past year, all of which add silently to the weight and worth of my fabric towers, just waiting for their time to come. Each peice is part of a whole yet to be collected and paired, tantalising morsels of fabric too scanty to stand alone.
A few weeks past, at my favourite market stall, full of coffee, ricotta cake and half an Ian Rankin novel (I didn’t devour that last one in the literal sense), I pounced upon a large length of fabric just begging to be my next chair.
The texture appeals to me, the weight and dated colours and patterns are beautifully preserved, not a thread out of place. As I cradled my treasure under one arm and wandered through the remaining stalls, it occurred to me I have run out of hot pink silk. It started with a tie from an op shop for the Beppe Chair, and continued in the mahjong set with a bishops mantle, and now I have a habit for hot pink silk. I considered a $30 chong sam jacket which, deconstructed, might provide some useful patches for appropriation, but as I wandered toward a grammaphone horn, I spied a piece of silk. Not just any silk, but Sillk from the Yih Sing Zang Silk Factory in Shanghai, with the selvedge woven to prove it.
According to the seller, the piece is from the 1930s, and is shown here with it’s original box. Given the box is from Hong Kong, I remain unconvinced. Pedigree is not important… it’s all about that shiny text and the yellow commie star, so far as I’m concerned.
So there I was, new fabric ready and raring to cover something, with not a chair nor a niche to hide one in. I am considering putting rafters in my loungeroom to suspend them from just so i can buy another, and begin the process over.
Friday past, on the bus to Newtown, I eyeballed my favourite second hand furniture shop for any new goodies, and saw a beautiful brown sixties chair so gorgeous it practically had a halo. “THAT’S IT! Stop the BUS!! That’s my chair!” but friends and apathy and a ‘closed’ sign won out, and we continued on our merry way. 7:30AM Monday morning: my brown chair, with it’s beautiful atomic chrome spindly legs and ugly brown terry cloth finish, it’s unbottoned diamond back and all its glory is dimmed by the presence of a SOLD sticker. And not sold to me. I am crushed, devastated, betrayed by my favourite shop (Junktique). Tantilised and teased by images of these chairs. It is like so many chairs from the 60s, including these Giovanni Zoncada chairs, below, and yet it was much much more. More elegant, more stylish, more rounded, more personal…