Next week (from May 3rd - 7th, 2017) is London Craft Week. Now in its third year, this annual event is all about celebrating creativity and craftsmanship, with 230 events happening over the space of the week in the city.
Last week I attended one of these events, the launch party for Heal's Modern Craft Market, and instantly navigated towards the stand hosted by Shoreditch Design Rooms. Based in East London, Shoreditch Design Rooms are successful upholsterers who offer training classes to the public ranging from leisure classes (where you can work on your own piece of furniture), to accredited courses for a diploma qualification in upholstery.
Upholstery has always appealed to me. It always seemed such a chic craft, rooted in traditional British manufacturing. I'm not talking about a quick recover job on a old chair with some fabric and a staple gun (the furthest I've actually ever delved into 'upholstery'). I'm talking properly making a chair - creating the the layers, doing the sewing, adding in the springs. I often see the most beautiful chair frames on my frequent visits to furniture recycle warehouses and during my skip diving exploits, yet I have no idea how to bring that chair back from the brink of extinction. It would be so great to be able to be skilled in this craft; so to celebrate London Craft Week 2017 I accepted Shoreditch Design Rooms kind invitation to their Hoxton studios to see just what they are all about.
With its small classes and personal style, Shoreditch Design Rooms offer a really relaxed, artistic approach to their upholstery courses. The students all become mates with the other students as well as the teachers. You can take classes in the evening and the daytime for leisure, or you can study to be an accredited upholster with AMUSF (Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishings). What I learnt from my visit to Shoreditch Design Rooms was that upholstery isn't really a craft so much as a trade. Upholstery is in the same bracket as being a hairdresser or a plumber - you HAVE to train for it. It's not something you can just pick up from watching a couple of You Tube videos, or with a bit of blase confidence (what I usually rely on!)
The Design Rooms are owned by Louise Boyland, young and completely enthusiastic about her craft and her business. She started her career in finance/IT, with a sideline in textile design. After realising that the textile fashion industry wasn't for her, she started upholstery classes with the intention to make furniture with her textile art. What happened was that upholstery started to overtake the textile design, so after a stint learning the trade in community centres and then teaching upholstery in a prison, she found the Scawfell Street building and opened Shoreditch Design Rooms. She lives next door to the Design Rooms with her beautiful dog Linda, who hangs out at all the classes in her dog bed.
As well as running the classes, Shoreditch Design Rooms work with shops, hotels, interior designers, architects, fabric companies and private clients. Their work can be seen in the Modern Pantry restaurant on Finsbury Square, where they completed 30 metres of curved leather banquets. They also carry out regular upholstery work for the Conran Boundary Hotel, and turn around a large amount of high quality upholstery for Two Columbia Road’s selection of designer mid-century furniture.
If you are interested in the classes but are not sure that it's for you, then take advantage of Shoreditch Design Rooms special upholstery taster weekend on Saturday the 3rd and Sunday the 4th of June. On this weekend you will be talked through all the main upholstery processes, both modern and traditional, and you'll be shown the many different things you could undertake were you to sign up to a class.
Shoreditch Design Rooms pop-up in Heals will be there for all of London Craft Week, until the 7th May, so go see the team for a chat if you are around Tottenham Court Road!
Are you eager to try upholstery? What craft would you choose to learn? Let me know in the comments section below...