Crown Chair, Ca 1955, Los Angeles

The chair was made in
Los Angeles, California,
by the father of our client.
He was an  upholsterer
at the Crown Company
in downtown lalaland.

All the innards were
cleaned and restored exactly
as they were originally.
The new showcover
is reminiscent of the
original fabric from 1955.

The original fabric was intact; MPFC salvaged some from the outside back of it to make pillows for our client, allowing a bit of the history to be played out in the conservation.

 ©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use,
Feel free to share but please refer to our blog.

Posted in antiques, chair, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, preservation, restoration techniques, textiles, upholstery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Folding Journal of an MPFC Project

Guest post from Kate’s Art Blog, dkatiepowellart.

I don’t enter many competitions, but the Sketching Work competition
for the Centre for Transformative Work Design out of Perth AU was easy for me
as I sketch our lives and work quite a lot, and was thrilled
to create a pen + ink + watercolor folded journal.

I kind of didn’t want to send it; the images were sweet.
I have never had an entry returned, but thankfully, when I lost,
they did the honorable thing and returned it!

The winning entries are lovely!

The point of the competition was to tell the story of a workplace,
what it did and what made it a joyful place to work… Instead of assuming I knew,
I took Mitchell seriously as a subject and interviewed him.

The interview was sent separately, and is below:

Mitchell and I work together in our conservation firm,
MPF Conservation. 
Mitchell bought his brother-in-law’s upholstery shop at 23. Fascinated with traditional forms (unlike his brother-
in-law), he hired skilled European traditional journeymen to amend his training. Several men trained him to become the conservator of museum antiquities he is today. 
It was really fun interviewing Mitchell; some of the answers surprised me!

“I love uncovering ingenious historical fiber filled structural forms (sofas + chairs). I enjoy taking soft materials (hair, cotton, coir) and turning them into structural elements with proper flex, comfort, and decorative beauty. A bit like making a cake!”

“I love that each project is completely different; unusual objects walk in the door all the time! I work on a mid-century modern piece one month and a 200-year-old piece the next, tassels and fringe one week and a leather bellow the next.”

“Sometimes I wish I occasionally worked with other talented upholsterers for the camaraderie and swapping skills. It can be lonely working every day by oneself. Having the shop cats, good friends, keeps my heart happy. It is a perk of owning the business. They can’t always be in the studio — they are banned when we have  museum projects, or if a client is allergic or if the show-cover is silk, though they have their nails trimmed weekly.”

* We are often in different rooms, and they are well-trained. *

“While projects last from 3-8 weeks, in each phase I’m doing something different. Woodworking, tailoring, hand-stitching, upholstering, and traditional finishes. The job is physically demanding, standing long hours, pulling heavy threads, hand-stitching, moving furniture, so as I get older, it can be taxing, but it also keeps me in shape!”

“Throwaway furniture has changed the demand for our skills, which means we must be competitive to obtain projects. “Average” folks don’t know that today’s “expensive” furniture is still shortly destined for the landfill. They don’t realize a lovely restored old sofa is less expensive than many they will buy & toss out within 2 decades! Our throwaway society has also made it difficult to obtain proper supplies in the USA; items are bought from France, Germany & England.”

“My most memorable project was conserving the Flemish Sofa that resides in the Hearst Castle Library. The most challenging was the first time I conserved an original mid-century Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen ca. 1960… An engineering feat!”

(Flemish Sofa and Egg Chair!  Guess I better sketch them soon!)

I am sending you to my page of the competition but warning you that unfortunately
the scanning process for my competition entry was incorrect.
If you look at other’s work know that this may be so for them as well!
The colors on this page are accurate.

I love my entry; I  wish I’d won.  Our journal now lives on in the reception area!

By the way, Kate is available
for hire as an artist! 

Do you have an event or
keepsake or place you want sketched?

To hear about classes, follow me on Facebook
or check out my new, improved dkatiepowellart.com

Posted in antiques, chair, conservation techniques, French Furniture, preservation, process, restoration techniques, tools, traditional varnishes, upholstery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thursday Throwback: A Family of Lawsons Graces the Farm


This is our continuing Throwback series where we post items
that were in our studio before we had the blog.

Grandpa’s Lawsons are born again for an orchard in Southern Oregon;
Grandpa was on hand for delivery day, and even had the first sit!

From dilapidated to stunning.  Excavated to the frames; frames refitted as necessary.
All interior buildup was conserved.  Coil-Spring backs and seat decks, and spring core cushion — which by the way, are the most comfortable cushions ever built!
Traditional upholsterers and conservators restore and preserve the interior buildup,
which is a much better “sit.”  Most upholsterers do not know how to do this work:
they remove the original buildup and re-stuff seats and backs with foam.
This causes early breakdown of internals and is not nearly as comfy!

BTW, the ottoman both have fitted washable coverlets on them —
this is a working farm, and dirty boots are not uncommon!

The original fabric was intact, though if you sat on them you felt as if you would
hit the floor!  The grown-up kids wanted to freshen the look entirely.

 ©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use,
Feel free to share but please refer to our blog.

Posted in antiques, chair, conservation techniques, preservation, restoration techniques, textiles, upholstery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ode to the Upholsterer, Reprise

W00 HOOKERS COUCHHe’s stuffed a chair on every street,
or hassocks on which to put your feet.
A fainting couch for Ms Récamier,
looking Grecian but really fey.

W02 EGG AFTER 5 MPFCA modern Egg for Madmen there,
Took ten thousand hand stitches to be fair;
An Eastlake love seat whose threads were bare
Was given new life, it’s only fair!

W13 EASTLAKE SOFABED AFT 1MPFC

Mattresses made of coir and hair
His long needle made them square,
And before he bought his trusted Pfaff,
He had to keep a larger staff.

W13 EASTLAKE SOFABED AFT 4MPFCYou take for granted what you see,
But behind the saddle, the sofa, the seat,
Is a person who understands upholstery,
Who has a flair for passementerie!

W05H MPFC 2

Tassels thrill him with delight,
and not the ones that twirl in the night,
An unusual man I’ve got as my mate
Because he talks of gimp when on a date!

Real upholsterers still spit tacks
And use hide glue to mend frame’s cracks
He knows that biscuits make tufted backs,
His best friend’s are puppies and cats!

Upholstery conservators are a dying breed
The old skills falling out of fashion
But when you’ve sent new sofas to the dump
And you’ve paid a yen for the uncomfortable lump,
The foam’s collapsed, and left a lump,
And your family’s in a frump.
His trade will again be a needed deed,
And he’ll come racing on his white steed
Or you’ll be stuck in your cheap contraption.

For those of you who dare think twice
Who doubt his worth
Who’ll send them into dearth
It’s your buns who’ll pay the price!

~ by Kate and Mitchell Powell

American Antebellum Sofa

American Antebellum Sofa

©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use ONLY,
not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, chair, conservation techniques, funny funny, process, restoration techniques, tailor, upholstery | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Fu Dogs Treatment


Our client brought his small carved wooden guardian dogs to us for treatment.

Pairs of Chinese guardian lion statues are decorative, symbolic elements at the entrances to structures in many Asian countries.  Each is different, and should come in. pairs,
one sitting on each side of an entrance.  Simplistically, the male leans his paw
upon a ball representing power or supremacy over the worldly manifestations, while
the female often has her paw on a cub representing nurture.  They are yang to yin.

The term “Fu” may be a transliteration to 佛, pinyin: fó or 福, pinyin: fú, which means Buddha or prosperity.  In Asia they are seldom referred to as “dogs”, but are considered Lion statues, as lions are protectors of Dharma, or the sacred teachings. Having owned Chow-chows, and wondering about lions in China, I always assumed they depicted Chows dogs, who are fierce protectors of their families and were used as warrior dogs.

The small statues were quit dirty, having never been cleaned to his knowledge.
Kate began cleaning all the tiny crevices with cotton swabs.  Dust, followed by embedded grime probably from normal household environments, was loosened and removed.

We then coated the wooden statues with a blend of warmed waxes and resins.

Between each coat they were allowed to thoroughly dry under warm lights.

Each statues lovely carvings and personality brightened.
The original finish was enhanced and protected, not refinished.

©MPF Conservation
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, art, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, shellac, traditional varnishes, waxes, wooden objects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Modern Textile Art is Often Not Created for Conservation


One of the biggest challenges in conservation is when the artists were not thinking about their pieces being loved and collected, and eventually, cleaned and conserved,
and work in mediums that are experimental (as in the case of early acrylics).
Most artists are simply creating, and so in our studio and in modern art museums around the world,  conservators are working on pieces that are fragile to treatment.

This is especially true of textile art, which is often exhibited unprotected from the elements — And part of the beauty is leaving it uncovered so that one can get close and see
and even feel (with clean hands) the lovely texture of the piece.

W14 2 10 ELLISFAM AFTER 66

Revisiting our conservation of Ken Ellis’ the Shore Family.
When I saw the images emailed to me they were interesting;
when I saw them in person I was bowled over.
Ellis hand painted his canvases, then embroidered and embellished…
Details in expression were simply lovely, like the eyes on the man above.
Painted canvas and embroidery created subtle expressions and nuances.

I am a huge believer in having artwork where you can love it daily…
BUT do it in an area that is the safest!
My advice is to think about where you put your textile…
away from the kitchen steams and greases, away from wood smoke,
and out of direct light is a good idea, but not always practical.

Our treatment was to clean as best we could a combination of wood smoke,
airborne grease, and steam without damaging the textile.
The Shore family was next to the kitchen for many years,
being loved over meals and coffee and daily activity.
Unfortunately, the addition of grease and steam changed
our ability to completely clean the piece;
we tested each area prior to cleaning to see if the painted dyes moved in that area,
and were able to effect quite a lot of removal of embedded dirt.

On the backside, we trimmed the straggling greasy stuffing prior to cleaning,
making it easier, but also removing grease that
when wetted might seep back into the front of the textile.

Finally, we performed minor thread repairs… the easiest and least important part
of the treatment plan as the stitching was in excellent condition.

 ©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use ONLY,
not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, art, CAUTIONS, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, painted objects, preservation, reparation, restoration techniques, textiles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steelcase Redeaux


Throwback Thursday, my all time favorite showcover
on a vintage Steelcase Executive Chair.
Internals conserved properly.
Showcover total fun!

 ©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url +copyright is used as reference.

Posted in antiques, chair, conservation techniques, preservation, restoration techniques, upholstery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment