Interview with Nicola Parkes
23rd March 2018
Nicola, we are so pleased with the mid century chairs you recovered for our Pilgrimage collection, truly beautiful work with stunning detailing. We would love to learn more about your passion for furniture……..
Have you always been an upholsterer?
I started my upholstery training coming up on 11 years ago now. I took redundancy after have my first child and was running a small admin business from home, feeling far from fulfilled.
What first drew you to upholstery?
I’d always made things from a young age; as a young girl my gran taught me to crochet, at secondary school I loved needlework. Then as an adult I was always trying my hand at different projects, blinds, cushions, lampshades, recovering dining chairs and I made a small coffee table. My husband saved me, and himself, from tampering with things when he read an article in a Sunday magazine about an upholsterer. He passed it to me to read and I never looked back. Within a week I was stood in my first ever upholstery workshop and managed to talk Anna into taking me on.
Did you undergo any formal training?
I studied the AMUSF in Traditional Upholstery in Hereford under Giles Bray, an amazing upholsterer himself. During this course, which was roughly one week per month over 18 months, I worked as an apprentice. Firstly I worked for a year for a fantastic lady who ran her own business, 2 to 3 days a week whilst still running my admin business. I then went on to work 3 days a week for two traditional upholsterers for 18 months. Both apprenticeships were unpaid but offered amazing training and experience. I am still in touch will all 3 individuals, which is so important in a trade like this as you are always learning. I was fortunate enough to be taken on after the 18 months apprenticeship by the upholsterers and worked for them for a year before going it alone.
Are there traditional techniques that lead to a more pleasing finished item?
I love working with hair; the process of stitching a shape from hessian and hair is very pleasing, and to know you have sculptured that shape through age old techniques as opposed to a manufactured piece of foam is amazing. I would never knock foam though, it does have its place in the modern world.
Do you have a favourite item of furniture to work on?
I love chairs, good job too. I love mid-century pieces, it’s the curves. Older furniture was made beautifully, the craftsmanship in a piece is so much better than most modern day pieces.
What has been your most challenging job?
Last year I worked on a 1930’s suite, absolutely gorgeous. It was a complete strip back and rebuild. All three pieces had an individual sprung edge, hair seats, arms and back. It was one of the first jobs I worked on after relocating to Northern Ireland, so after 6 months of being out of the workshop it was a complex piece which left my arms aching.
Are there brands you particularly enjoy working with?
I love good quality and great colour, such as wools from Bute Fabrics. I adore bold prints, brands such as Timorous Beasties and House of Hackney that create striking prints. I discovered your brand a year ago and fell in love with the Upperlands Collection, so to have worked on the new Pilgrimage collection has been a joy, I’ve also been lucky for clients to have requested your range on their furniture.
Dream item to work on?
This is a hard one to answer. I just love chairs. I will look on eBay, Pinterest, wonder around shops, look on Instagram, and a chair I have never seen will jump out at me. I will just fall in love with the shape and that will be my dream item, until the next one comes along.
We’re looking forward to more projects with Nicola….
If you would like to contact or see more of Nicola’s work;