Friday, 7 December 2012

Would you pay £80 for this sofa?

Begging your indulgence as I flog the upholstery theme a touch longer.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought an old sofa bed from Emmaus for £80.  It had loose covers in a very dirty white.  This was how I planned for it to look:

And this is how it turned out:

Hurray for Dylon.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Top tips on how to upholster an old chair from someone who knows absolutely nothing about it

My mother bought this chair in 1961 for 5 shillings.  It was neither a bargain nor a rip off.  This is what it used to look like, so you can see why I liked it.  Trouble was, the velvet was worn to sheer, and a cloud of ancient dust flew up each time you touched it.

I asked three upholsterers about doing the job.  Two said it would cost £1000; one said it would cost £500 plus materials and talked rather a lot about gluing on braid; one refused the job altogether.  In the end, I decided to do it myself.  How hard could it be?

These are my top ten tips:

1.  Choose fabric that makes you weep for its beauty.

2.  Pick a day when you want a distraction – planning permission’s been refused; your parents are splitting up; your daughter’s boyfriend has got a job in Bali and she’s decided to give up her university place to follow him there.

3.  Be brave, be very brave.  
4.  Use the old pieces as a pattern but don’t be surprised if they bear no relation to what will actually fit.

5.  Think of it not as a chair but as a character out of Beauty and the Beast.

6.  Under whose moral code are wrinkles in velvet wrong?

7.  Hold the tacks in place with your fingernails.  It’s what they’re for.

8.  If anyone comments say “it’s meant to be like that”.

9.  If they persist, hand them a pair of scissors and a hammer and say “I’d like to see you do a better job”

10. Be jolly pleased with yourself and get started on another.

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Definition of a Queer Plunger: (as overflow from my regular twitter spot - word of the day)

A queer plunger was a form of 18th century confidence trickster, defined by Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue like this:

"Cheats who throw themselves into the water in order that they may be taken up by their accomplices, who carry them to one of the houses appointed by the Humane Society for the recovery of drowned persons, where they are rewarded by the Society with a guinea each; and the supposed drowned person, pretending he was driven to that extremity by great necessity, is also frequently sent away with a contribution in his pocket."

Good trick, but can you imagine the paperwork?

With many thanks to Peter Bowler and his "Superior Person's Little Book of Words" for this, and many other excellent pieces of information.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Lucky 7: seven lines from new writing

Voula Grand (@voulagrand) tagged me on her Lucky 7 displacement activity.  It was a surprise, partly because I've been so absent on twitter lately, but more perhaps because I've kind of given up on the writing, for now anyway, put the fruits of my back breaking labours under the bed, giving myself a holiday from chasing the ephemeral.  Frankly, you see, writing is about 2% wonderful fun and 98% mental breakdown and being foul to the family.
But I'm glad to bring the old thing out, dust it off, and find page 7.  And line 7 is this bit  - the narrator is about to walk out on her family and this young man is NOT the love interest, but one of those angels who play a tiny part but move mountains:
I am exhausted.  There are no seats, so I crouch onto the paving step by the town hall and lean uncomfortably against the low metal rail.  And there I stay, watching the world.  The world that knows what it’s doing and why it’s here.   My attention narrows to a young man, not much more than a boy, holding a clipboard.  He’s standing in the middle of the market square inviting people to take part in his survey.  He has an orb of yellow hair and as people drift towards him, he leans after them slightly, following for a step or two.  Definitely a sunflower.  After a bit, he notices me watching him, lopes over and sits down beside me on the slab, folding his long legs under him like a foal.

The instructions for Lucky 7 are:
  • · Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  • · Go to line 7
  • · Post on your blog the next 7 lines, or sentences, as they are – no cheating
  • · Tag 7 other authors to do the same

The 7 writers I have chosen are these - I haven't asked them first, I'm afraid, they don't have to do it if they don't want to:
Liz Fenwick  @liz_fenwick
Liz Harris @lizharrisauthor
Keris Stainton   @Keris
Kate Lord Brown  @katelordbrown
Sive Nicoll  @SiveNicoll
Sarah Addyman  @SarahAddyman
Debbie White  @Bluestockingmum
I hope you enjoy reading 7 lines from their new works as much as I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, 5 March 2012

No one here but us cushions

Here is one I made for a friend of mine.  She thinks her work's cut out bringing up five kids, she should try making them out of felt.  

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Modigliani Cushion Forgery

I had this brilliant idea to remake some famous paintings in felt and turn them into cushions.  It's a bit Post Modern, and also rather lovely.  So, here is my first one, almost there. 

Only when I checked the painting's title, I discovered it was a fake, in the style of Modigliani, by someone called Dehory.  Which probably makes it even more interesting, in a Post Modern kind of way.  I think I'll stuff the cushion with rocks.   

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Paying the Price for Post-Modernism

I went to see the Post-Modernism exhibition at the V&A yesterday.  It was great.  So much fun to be had with a teapot, and David Byrne’s actual big suit.  Post Modernism is one of those terms I’ve never quite felt comfortable using, like abstruse, and existential, and neo-platonic, so I thought the exhibition would help. 

I was a bit vexed about the charging.  It’s reasonable to pay for special exhibitions, especially when the rest of the museum is free.  And £11 for a full ticket is not cheap – a bit more than a peak time movie ticket with extra 3D specs, or a latte for yourself and 3.23 of your friends -  but there are concessions available if you happen to be a student, or young, or old or disabled (though not, sadly, if you're just broke, which most of us are at the moment). 

But they don’t ask you for £11, they ask you for £12.50, recovering the tax relief on the extra as a donation.  V&A will have done the sums.  More people will be inclined to pay a small extra donation on a hefty ticket price, than a hefty donation on a lower ticket price, so that’s what they’ve plumped for.  But I thought it was a bit of a cheek, especially as you can’t get a sandwich there for much under a fiver.
I absolutely love that many of our museums and art galleries are free. It means that these amazing places are crowded out with kids (this is half term) which is brilliant for our cultural education.  It also means you can pop in and have a look at a small part, without feeling you have to traipse right round to get your money's worth.  Everyone can.
This isn't possible in Paris, where hardly anything is free.  Nor in Rome, which is also expensive.  Nor in New York.  Except at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This place has a good system.  They ask you for a voluntary contribution of $25.  They make it sound like a fixed price but the truth is you can get in for anything, so long as it's money. 
I chose not to pay the full amount to the Met, partly because I thought $25 was a bit stiff, partly because I intended to make several visits, and partly because we invite Americans to pop into Tate Britian, Tate Modern, the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the V&A, the Science Museum, the National History Museum, and hundreds more for absolutely nothing. 

This would be a good system for our museums.  Instead of a limp notice suggesting a donation of £3 with a perspex box full of foreign bank notes underneath, why not get everyone to pay something, a penny or a hundred quid, each reaching into their conscience, no judgement attached, tax relief on the whole lot if appropriate?

I'm not going to say how much I paid to the Met, just suffice to say it was my reverse Boston Tea party, let’s call it the 82nd Street Coffee Break.  But does it count as post-modern?