Sunday, 18 September 2011

Interview with Kelly Swallow

How and when did you start upholstering furniture?

I’m from Ireland but now living just outside London. I’ve always made things, I started sewing as a child. I have a very distant memory of seeing a patchwork quilt made by my grandmother, so I guess that’s where the love of patchwork comes from!
I’ve always done some upholstery projects but about four years ago I realised that I was getting so many requests from people for my chairs that I had quite a waiting list so began to focus solely on chairs and sofas.

Where do you get you fabric? Is it mainly vintage?

I adore fabrics and get ridiculously excited when sourcing new fabrics for my collection. I love to mix new and vintage, and finding a piece of furniture which is the perfect match for a fabric theme is so satisfying!
I’m always on the lookout for great chairs and fabrics. I source furniture from local dealers or markets. I love fabrics from companies like Designers Guild and Zoffany mixed with vintage fabrics which I buy both locally and abroad. I source antique linen grain sacks and other linens from Hungary, Germany and France.

Can people provide their own chairs?

I’m more than happy for people to provide their own chairs. It is a real pleasure to give a new lease of life to a special family piece of furniture.

Do you design chairs based on your customers?

My bespoke pieces often include designs which reflect the client’s interests and lives. So embroidered initials, significant dates, treasured pieces of fabric so the chair can be an heirloom piece and a snapshot of their lives. They’re often special birthday presents, or surprise presents which is a real pleasure to work on !

How do you decide what fabric to use?

Sometimes the shape and personality of the chair will suggest a colour or theme for the fabrics, sometimes it works the other way around and I start with a piece of fabric which suggests a theme then I find the chair to fit that theme. In the case of bespoke chairs, I may have discussed style of chair and colour themes with the client and I then put together a collection of fabrics to fit the clients requirements.

I usually start from a couple of central colours and patterns and work out from there. The starting point can be on a colour theme, pattern theme, or a topic to fit with a clients brief or it can just depend on my mood, which is really fun!

Where are you based?

I’m based in Hertfordshire, where I have a workshop just by my house. It’s always very busy and we welcome people who are interested in seeing chairs and some of the process.

Which chair would you say was your favourite?

That’s such a difficult question! I love the process of work so much and the result is always so pleasing that my favourite is always whatever I’m working on at that particular time. Right now, I’ve got a fabulous commission nearing completion which has so many elements of the clients life threaded through the fabrics that it is very special. I’m also just starting on a chair which is a completely different range of colours which is very exciting because it’s so different from my usual work.

To get in touch with Kelly for any commissions you may have you can contact Kelly through her website.

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