Friday, September 21, 2012

LoLa Art Crawl 2012

"Daddy Wuz A Pistol" upholstered chair with assemblage, $650
End of August, Miller Upholstering participated in Longfellow neighborhood's art crawl, LoLa 2012.  This is an Eastlake chair frame that guest Mosaic and Assemblage artist Glen Riddle and I worked on together.  This chair is available for show or sale by contacting me at the shop.  Glen and I would like to see it traveled around and enjoyed if not purchased outright, instead of sitting in storage!  

Glen brought some pretty incredible pieces to show and we sold a few...

"First of October" assemblage, SOLD $300

"Sonuvagun" mosaic, SOLD $375      


We had a lot of fun throughout the 2 day art crawl and met with many art enthusiasts and those from the neighborhood who saw our doors open, bright yellow Lola signs outside, and thought this was the opportunity to come in and see what Miller Upholstering was all about.   Some didn't even know we were having an event, and just came to look at fabric and see about getting their stuff reupholstered!  We had Sangria, Minted Lemonade, tapenade with pretzel sticks and pizza from our (new) favorite place -  Longfellow's own Parkway PizzaWhat a blast - we'll do it again next year.  Don't hesitate to contact the shop if you're further interested in Glen's work  - I'll track him down for you!

Monday, September 17, 2012

We Will Be Closed A Few Days...

Tuesday through Thursday of this week, in fact, as I travel down to southwest Missouri to mourn the passing and celebrate the life of a dear lady, my stepmother Wanda Jo Wickware
I'll see if there's time to snap some images to share of her life in textiles, craft, and homemaking, as she was highly influential in my choosing a handcraft as a career. 
In her 79 years she was masterful at many decorative and domestic arts and will be sorrowfully missed by the family, especially my dad, to whom she was devoted.  

Back to Minneapolis to open shop Friday the 21st of September at 10 a.m. sharp!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

If You Have A Rocker Like This

... And it's not been reupholstered since 1950, you can feel the springs because the padding's worn down and when you look underneath, you see "bar cone" springs like this...

You should stop sitting in it because you'll ruin the springs, which are darn near irreplaceable today for some measurements of frames.

See how the lowest point of cone spring winds down to secure in a hole punched into the metal band? Well, not every bar cone system is rigged like this, but on this one, they've shifted due to repeated sitting. This'll cause the springs to get so misshapen that they won't feel right after reupholstering.

Another reason to maintain your good furniture pieces when they need it, and not put it off, if you can help it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Miller Upholstering, E Lake St USA

Friday, April 27, 2012

The April 18th – 24th City Pages Best of the Twin Cities has named Miller Upholstering Best Furniture Repair of 2012!   While I'm honored to be called "the best", I will say this is a boon to all upholsterers in the twin towns, because it brings the choice of restoring a good older piece of furniture instead of buying a new, more cheaply made piece back to mind front-and-center.  It's been quite a buy-it-cheap-then-get-rid-of-it society, but that's changing as we all know. People are demanding higher quality from the get-go these days. Buying new is fun and you get that shiny new chair or sofa immediately, get to take it home instead of waiting weeks and weeks for the upholsterer to finish, but the quality is just not there. It won't look good or last 1/2 as long as a good old pre-1990 furniture frame. Never mind you usually have to remove the front door off it's hinges to get it in the house...To hand select a fabric based on your own aesthetics and durability needs, something completely different than what anyone else will have - to learn about the construction of the frame, the history of the piece and to know you're supporting the livlihood of another individual in your community, that is worth so much more than what the Big Box Furniture shop can offer!  Case in point:

Under the 1980's upholstered small print chintz on this chair was a muslin upholstered, curled hair and cotton padded handmade frame with 8-way handtied coil springs. Handwritten on the muslin was "1932". Charming! Instead of junking this chair, the owner chose a plush Robert Allen velvet, loosing the skirt to reveal nice legs. It's a modern and forward look for a common area of the house instead of leaving it ruffle-skirted and in the bedroom.

The last several years saw a decline in upholstery shops, many retiring or closing down and disappearing in their garage or basement workroom where I chose to emerge from and bring it back out front to the people in a commercial area storefront.  I think if the local citizenry pass a trendy and attractive upholstery shop every day on their way to work (E. Lake St. being a main thoroughfare), this service/craft will be more in the public consciousness.  If the display windows are showing this prominently, they'll more clearly see what their old sofa or chair can become again. 

In 12 years of business, 10 of those home-based, it was largely personal referral of word-of-mouth customers who helped me progress to this point. I thank all who were involved in the Best-Of decision and while I’ve been working double shifts since last post, I apologize that much has gone unreported here. Some interesting projects too – don’t worry, I have tons of pictures, I just have no idea when I’ll get to them! Please do check Miller Upholstering on facebook and twitter for the very latest update on what’s going on in the shop and workroom and now on Pinterest, as to what inspires me most.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Brighter Later

A real sense of history accompanies some pieces of furniture that come in to be reupholstered. Even ones without antiquity or an iconic designer's name attached - but good pieces that would be difficult to replace in today's market. While it's tempting to turn this post into commentary on what I think to be a degraded furniture market, hopeful signs of economic turnaround and return to quality, small-maker goods or demise of factory union labor and  deregulation - these chairs have completely captured my imagination because of the historical clues that remain - original fabric and furniture store labels. The afternoon will see them met with full renewal, but as in all takedown-and-reupholster projects, as you peel away the layers a sense of mort pervades. Upholstering is sometimes like being an undertaker - hense, the origin of the term upholsterer - to "uphold" to "undertake" the upholding of home or estate. Something like that - the Research Staff knows for sure and they're not  back from lunch yet... Maybe it's the combo sunny/sad sounds of Nick Drake's "Bryter Layter" as the workroom's soundtrack today. Have a listen to this musical interlude while you read this post and view the images...

The frames need some reglueing but that's nothing. The wood boards or slip-seat bases are perfectly good - only 1 reupholstery job over the years. The old picture is from Minnesota History Center's photo data base - I feel lucky in finding them.  Often the search for images of manufacturers or retailers turns up nothing.  But this is R N Cardozo &  Bro's, Inc.  furniture store going up in downtown St. Paul MN circa 1931.

Here's what the corner of E. 7th and Minnesota St. looks like today ... or after

...this was before

The face of the original fabric, a kind of abstract cut velvet made me wish we were upholstering with my current favorite Brunschwig & Fils, “Arboretum Figured Velvet”. How gorgeous would this be? But it really wouldn’t be as nice in the customer’s home as the one they’ve chosen, Osborne & Little’s Papilio Plain, a very hearty fabric perfect for another long life around the table.

Just look at the style of these from a picture taken 1931 of the store's stock. It's so much fun to see in an old image, practically the same chair being made new again today, 80 years on!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Black and White Inspiration

Every upholsterer has a stash of frames with "good bones" to restore and sell on or have in shop as examples of their work. The offers to take pieces come from every where, not to mention purchasing directly a good antique or two from market or dealer. This 1940's sofa was something I couldn't turn down, as it has great curvy shape which is fun to dress, extra long (a good place to nap) and had been very well taken care of over the years.

I neglected to take a good "before" picture - but suffice to say it was just a plain off-white 70s or 80s chenille with green nylon velvet welt cord trim. It sat in shop for the longest time while I thought about what to recover it with AND I didn't relish the idea of 60 some-odd handtied coil springs in seat and in inside-back to retie.

It took-down easily because of the hand-tacking of previous upholstery. Springs were quite sound, and only required reinforcing with new ties and same story with inside-back. The last upholsterer also had changed it from a spring-edge to a hard-edge, so that saved me some time as well. All the padding on this beauty is dense curled hair hardly even dusty - this attests to the draft-free tightness of the house where it resided for years and it's former occupant's good housekeeping!

I've been on a black and white jag for about 3 or 4 years now in textiles and have always loved art done with pen-and-ink and 19th century engravings. I wanted to see something checkie, criss-crossy. Thought about swirly organic shapes, but lean towards geometric and thought it'd be interesting to try that on the curvy sofa - shapes with hard edges. Here are a few inspirations I kept coming back to:

The picture of Twiggy in Bill Gibb designed dress, 1971

An illustration by Aubrey Beardsley, 1890s

Welsh woven patterns...

See where I was going with this? Then we saw artist Frank Gaard's show at CoExhibitions last summer and that clinched the deal for me. I loved the black and white patterning in his Art Police comics of the 70s punctuated with great bursts of color on painted canvas. The gallery was also showing some of his wife Pamela Gaard's portraits and I was just bowled over by the color combo's with b&w.

Art Police zine cover, 1979

One of Pamela's gorgeous portraits

More Art Police sketches

I got my hands on a thin cotton print by Timeless Treasures and was in comic illustration heaven looking at this fabric as I upholstered. The optical tricks didn't bother me at all , in fact I like it's shifting nature, tho plenty have commented they can't look at it. And in true irreverent Art Police fashion, the sofa begins to not take itself so seriously, revels in caricature and shows it's curves straining against ever-expanding checks, the printed lines can't contain it's bossomy nature

Before sewing the covers for 3 cushions that I ordered super-soft 30/70 feather down inserts to replace the old foam, I thought about mixing b&w fabrics...and I gotta say, I love this mix - I'm still thinking about it

We visited Pam and Frank at home and I was further inspired by the mix of color/texture in their home/studios and garden

My boyfriend had his portrait painted and Pam mixed textiles with oil pastels for her likeness of Jeff

Here's Jeff at Frank's Walker show with his portrait...

I loved an interwoven chevrony pattern that was appearing in a lot of Pamela's work which gave her paintings a further fabric-of-life feeling.

Being friends with her on facebook gave me opportunity to see her frequent visual status reports of new work - she is prolific! and we soon struck up a deal to feature her in the neighborhood art crawl here in Longfellow, at Miller Upholstering. I asked her to upload some of her fantastic patterns and drawings to Spoonflower so I could order yardage and make some accents for what I was now calling the Gaard Sofa. You can go to her page on spoonflower via that link and purchase some for yourself...or come here and buy these! I feel it's a short matter of time before hot florescent colors hit the interior scene. You can say you got there first with a Pam Gaard original!

From Start To Finish

Here's a post from a while back that had lost it's image links.  Someone was asking about Cogswell chairs just yesterday, so...