Next week I will be loading up my little van and heading to the Australian National University’s School of Fine Arts for a week or so.
I’ve been invited to play in the furniture workshop there. I’ll have access to a wealth of tools and equipment, but I’m most looking forward to being in a studio full of makers and furniture and nerds just like me. And the textile department is right next door too!
I’m also looking forward to some dedicated head and hand space to explore some ideas that have become more and more niggling since I started the Maria Project.
I started sketching upholstery designs for the re-upholstery of my baroque style ginormous couch last month, to showcase the hundred and one decisions we make every day as upholsterers. We’re not just putting fabric over a furniture maker’s piece, we are part of the furniture making process.
Upholsterers were traditionally known as Upholders, and that’s the base of our craft – creating the structure and comfort which holds you off the floor.
Beyond the structural, there are the styles and techniques that create each era’s aesthetic. Being a maker I’m particularly drawn to the more tactile and sculptural qualities of this aspect. Traditionally I’m talking about the diamond button “tufting”, or square buttoned “bunning”, but also some formations from mass produced furniture in the 50s – 70s – channels, flutes and pipes.
I want to know how far these techniques can be pushed. Those designs I mention above are all continuous lines and repetitive patterns. What are their limits? how far, deep and narrow can they go?
What happens when designs call for a change of direction? I’m zeroing in on these more unusual transformations – one form to another, one direction to another.
Deep between each of those sketch lines in the Maria Project sketches are ‘Anchors” – buttons, flies or stitches which secure the fabric to the base level upholstery. What that anchor looks like will be different for each new design demand, and how it reaches each subsequent anchor is an unknown conversion process. It’s a fold, a pleat, a sewn seam, a cord or another anchor. Perhaps even a combination of these things.
A “conversion” then is a technique that facilitates fabric flow from A to B to C with grace and intent.
It might seem like poetic language, but right now I’m describing things that are unknown to me. The residency will start to nut out new conversion processes, and potentially develop a new series of contemporary sculptural upholstery techniques.
As I work through it all there’ll be a bunch of new Maria sketches coming, as I conduct my thoughts from my brain to screen. I’ll be prototyping while at ANU, and will either be posting prolifically or too busy to do so, but it will all make it on here one way or another at some stage.