We are happy to see the back of 2021 in so many ways!
It’s been a tough couple of years, trying to do business during Covid,
with shortages in staffing and materials in many vendor businesses, and also,
some people did a Jekyll/Hyde thang where the worst in them arose,
while others became more patient, even saintly!
Going into 2022, everyone’s New Year’s Resolution should
be to be more kind and patient than ever before,
because we are not out of the woods yet.
We are going to hibernate a lot this holiday…
unplug completely and be still and recharge our energy.
We will be back January 5th, rested and ready for a shift in a better New Year.
The historic cushions placed onto the newly upholstered frame, above.
Mitchell took notes on any changes he might want to make.
the pieced remnant of the torn showcover…
A pattern was created for the showcover…
An outer layer of cotton was simply too filthy…
Exposing the springs…
The inner cotton could be cleaned and reused
The springs were cleaned to reuse…
The historic tag left on!
Mitchell did a bit or reparation….
A new envelope was created…
And the conserved springs inserted…
The spring unit was secured to the covering…
A new layer of cotton wrapped the historic cushion…
The external cushion cover was sewn…
The cushion was stuffed and stitched into place.
We began with the inside back cushion.
The cushion was carefully excavated, and each layer was inspected and considered for reuse where possible. Those parts that were able to be reused were cleaned and/or carded.
A new ticking was created, and the new buildup of both historic and new materials executed into a new inside back cushion, ready for its showcover.
The same process was performed for the seat cushion, above, except that a new seat cushion was created to replace the old as the historic springs were quite worn.
In the last image above you can see the new cushion height compared to the old.
Once the cushions were rebuilt, the show cover was upholstered.
The showcover is a richly embroidered landscape of critter activities!
Mitchell cut the cushion upholstery to make sure that in each cushion,
all the critters and flowers were represented.
The boxings and small edging was made of the same leather that upholstered the frame, and the underside of the cushion was also leather, so the chair has the possibility of being seen in three ways, below.
The chair is now ready for
another 75 years of love!
Progress up to this post is shown below in a slide show.
In this case, when we talk upholstery we are speaking of upholstering the frame;
a bit later on we will upholster the cushions in the two showcovers,
leather and a fun fabric that George Mason would have enjoyed!
Because this piece is a creation from the American Depression Era,
we chose to use an upholstery form that we coined “traditional-modern” upholstery.
It is the combining and placement of traditional natural fiber stuffings and
lashing techniques, coupled with modern, machine-made, per-fabricated edgerolls.
The leather showcover on the seat was sewn and readied…
I love the pretty hemp cloth used in the center and wish we could get more
but it is discontinued. Beautiful under-cloths!
Horse hair is hand carded…..
Horse hair is hand carded…
Upholstery show cover is placed…
Hair on top of coir and stitched into place.
Cotton topper applied over coir…
Cotton topper applied over coir…
Second application of cotton topper applied…
Leather is tacked into place…
Note the lovely hemp cloth in the center.
Seat buildup using various hairs, organic cotton, coir, and finally the leather.
Inside back is webbed…
Jute topper and edgeroll…
First layer of horse hair…
Second layer of horse hair…
Cotton topper on inside back over horse hair and on edgeroll…
Final cotton topper.
The lovely leather showcover is tacked into place.
The inside back, above:
both the seat and the inside back will be covered by cushions.
The outside back before upholstery, showing the jute webbing.
A cotton dustcover is attached.
A layer of cotton is added…
And the outside fabric showcover is tacked into place.
Note we slipped trims around the outside back!
The outside back, above.
In the second image you can see both the dustcover
and also the outside back showcover fabric is tacked onto the top rail.
Note the leather trim that surrounds the outside back, and the leather strip used as
a trim with decorative nails spaced around the bottom to match the front of the chair,
which can also be seen below along the front edge..
Our dustcovers are special.
They have a hiding place for memories or valuables!
Final step, we flip the chair over and apply the dustcover.
Our dustcovers are special, with a hiding place for valuables or memories.
Next post, we will talk about restoration of the cushions.
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In hindsight, what we did to cope
during the early days of Covid.
We had to think of ways to reuse items that should be disposable… It was impossible, for instance, to get gloves. Most places made you register as a medical facility to purchase.
Mitchell washed disposable gloves in alcohol, so instead of tossing we set them in a bucket, added alcohol, swished them clean and set to dry. We had gloves all over a towel on the the floor in the reception area!
We almost ran out of alcohol, which we use in many things, so took to saving it in glass jars.
We FINALLY got gloves and alcohol for the biz… without either there would be no shellacking!
Hard to explain to the dozen clients we had in line!
We use small and large
canning jars in our business — both for mixing shellac and paints. Jars became impossible to find except on Amazon, and they price gouged at $40-70 for a dozen, as opposed to $14-25… Crazy.
Why the shortage? Lack of people to make jars? We had to go back to charge clients for jars (a first), which made many grumpy!
This was so on many products.
The second issue was having to find products. We like to purchase from small vendors, but many did not have product. Having to find items shortened my work day by several hours… Three hours several times a week equaled shortened billable hours for our clients!
We are happy to be catching up and finally making schedules that we hope to keep! *Shhhh, don’t tempt the scheduling gods*
I am starting to write regular posts and hope that we never see another year like last year!
It was exhausting.
And I gave thanks for having work, and our health.
It goes without saying that clients should be treated with respect and decency.
We strive for that, and also try to keep on top of updates even though few clients ask for them, because progress on pieces is usually interesting to owners and curators.
Be polite… and be generous and calm in your emotional responses. We expect what we give… Consider that the we are doing the very best we can do and there are conditions out of our control that may have caused your distress.
When we ask for information (like your address) don’t refuse to give us your information. If you have an issue we can discuss it. Assume that a business has a reason for their protocol, i.e., we ask for full contact information before engaging our time in estimates and other time consuming dialogues. If you ask we are happy to tell you why. We ask for full name, address, phone number, email, if the person contacting us is the owner, and best time to call. Perhaps you live on the other side of the country and we might recommend another conservator.
Beside pickup and delivery (and estimating these items, we also keep a copy of the estimate form with each item, and that form has all pertinent contact info. If info is missing, then in the event that something happens to us, you may get an item back when our executor has the time to chase you down. These protocols were made critical when Covid hit. We do not sell/share client information.
Ask a business if they prefer text messages before sending it… for our purposes we do not unless we are coordinating an imminent delivery. We prefer emails because they can easily become part of a client file and we can see images better and track changes much better than doing business on a credit card sized screen. This has become more important as now there are two dozen ways to contact a person and if I have to chase a client then I am going to charge for the extra effort.
Read emails thoroughly and answer ALL questions, which keeps us from having to delay a proper response because we’ve had to ask for the same info several times… We know everyone is not operating at full capacity as the pandemic stresses everyone, so it is important to slow down and read important communications. We never send spam so if we write you, it is important to read and answer!
Finally, work with the delays, understanding that delays usually mean in businesses such as ours that we can’t do better than we are doing and that we are also not getting paid if the projects are not completed, meaning we have a vested interest in completion!
We begin the buildup by installing new webbing and springs
to create the Spring Deck
after the finish is fully cured and scuffed to the proper patina.
New webbing was placed on the bottom of the frame.
Detail of the corner.
The woven webbing creates the deck.
The original spring topper gives us an understanding of the original spring pattern.
The springs at the corners present an issue to be resolved by experience, discussed in detail below.
Using the pattern from the spring topper, we add the springs in the historic pattern.
The spring tie is completed, above.
Mitchell discusses the challenges in the way
the springs were originally laid out
on the small spring deck, and how to work
around the corner blocks, above and below.
Details of the spring ties, below.
Various details of the finished tie…
Mitchell discusses the finished spring deck, above.
New spring deck…
… Springs stitched into place.
The spring deck is covered with the burlap topper;
the springs are secured to the topper.
Original edgeroll, repaired.
Attaching the original restored edgeroll, 1
Attaching the original restored edgeroll, 2
The spring deck completed with edgeroll; details follow.
Mitchell repaired the original edgeroll, and covered it in
fresh burlap before stitching to the deck, above:
details of decisions about the way the edgeroll interacted with the frame
were partly made by the original upholsterers.
The completed Spring Deck, above.
The back buildup and upholstery occur after the seat deck upholstery.
It is always wonderful to find the original tags to verify the origination of the piece.
It was made by the Mason Mfg. Co. of Los Angeles, California
finished March 1 1935… Style #8/83, Serial #2390…
the cover was #603B, and they said it was 80% cotton (50/50)
and 20% a sisal fiber pad… They do not mention the hair, of which there was plenty!
Of course we also know it had Spring-filled cushions
but perhaps these were not important for import/export/shipping.
These will be preserved in the envelope crated under the seat.
Next post, we will talk about the back buildup and upholstery of the frame.
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This continues several posts on the preservation of a lovely
Old Wood Mason Monterey Club chair from our client’s family. To see the excavation, go here.
The original Old Wood finish is deteriorated.
If the finish were in good condition and simply distressed,
we would not have tried to preserve it with a topcoat but left it as is;
however, it was crackled (which we like) and flaking large pieces
around the arm tops and front legs. It would continue to do so in a
more exacerbated fashion now that it is going to be used again.
We added a slightly pigmented top coat to seal and preserve the original finish.
We cleaned the original finish using a mild soap and water.
The entire finish is
gently scuffed to loosen
bits of oil paint that are already lifted and to
provide a slightly rough texture over which to paint.
We have test boards
from earlier projects, and paint to match is created
from our formulas.
We want a thin glaze to
just seal and protect the original deteriorating finish.
I prefer a larger fine arts brush, in this case 1-inch. I can access cracks without drips
and in the long run it moves faster than clean up from a big brush.
The inappropriately placed decorative nails and the overreaching second generation upholstery left tattered holes where some previously ripped out, and clean holes
from our excavation of tacks and decorative nails, all needing to be filled.
We used a bit of thick paint to fill on top of the topcoat.
Above, the topcoat in comparison to the original deteriorating finish
before it was fully cured to be scuffed (so slightly shinier than we want it!)
10 days allowed the
oil paint to cure before
we could slightly
dull the finish.
After curing, the entire
chair was scuffed to match
the original patina. This had the added benefit of allowing us to test the adhesion
of the topcoat in holding
original finish in place.
Along the side splats the original finish was quite
shiny, and so we left it as it was in the before images.
Next post, we will talk about
the buildup on the frame.
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This begins several pages on the preservation of a lovely
Old Wood Mason Monterey Club chair that has been in our client’s family.
It has been reupholstered once with elk hides, but the original cushions are intact.
As we uncover the frame, we found the history of the fabrics and covering intact.
Our chair shown 360-degrees, above.
When we start excavation
we also formally assess
the chair again as we are removing the upholstery, stuffings and buildup.
For instance, there was tacking outside the
upholstery margin, above;
we do not know why.
Webbing and springs
were missing from the seat deck, shown right.
Mitchell removed the outside back fabric, below, and
began the excavation with
the front of the back frame.
Outside back showcover removed.
We excavate the back first, beginning with the elk hide.
This layer of cotton batting is newer.
Two differing layers off hair, showing the possibility of new added to original.
We see the original back, and someone used a bit of original fabric as part of an undercover. There is also an odd lumbar support discussed below.
Time to turn the chair on its back.
As we excavate the back frame, we find both original and newer additions,
and Mitchell can tell which is which. In the fifth image and below right you see a lumbar support, which was an upholsterer’s attempt to shape the lumbar inappropriately.
Detail of the original burlap corner.
Original fabric and the additional inappropriate lumbar support.
A bit of the original fabric was used as a barrier.
Later you will see they also modified the frame to tilt the lumbar.
(Mitchell will repair the modification and return it to the proper original intent.).
The chair is turned on its back.
The burlap and webbing are removed.
The showcover of elk hide and seat decking folded into itself.
Cotton batting lifted and the original label is seen.
The original label and seat deck.
The burlap spring topper… however springs and webbing were long gone.
The seat is excavated, saving parts to assist with patterns.
Much of the original material is intact under the newer elk hide.
We will save and reuse or save as part of the history of the chair…
and sew the label back into place!
The frame is exposed.
The frame is laid bare,
and final assessments are made.
In the second through seventh images above you can see that the lower back lumbar support was twisted and nailed in a manner that is not original.
This change was created by someone wanting to make the lumbar more
comfortable who did not know how to upholster correctly,
and will be returned to the original position and upholstered correctly.
The Old Wood finish is deteriorating. If the finish were in good condition and simply distressed, we would not have tried to preserve it with a topcoat, however, it was flaking and would continue to do so in a more exacerbated fashion now that it is going to be used again, so we will top coat the finish to seal and preserve it, next post.
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publish the next installments.