Jac Smith writes….As a writer and lover of stories I always seek to uncover the narrative in art, so I was particularly drawn to the top floor in the current exhibition at the Lemon Street Gallery. Here you will find a collection of exquisitely upholstered pieces of furniture, each with a history and, thanks to Alison Havers, a future as well.
Entitled Making Good, the exhibition should have been called Making Gorgeous. Alison is a master upholsterer who has pushed her craft to the level of fine art, but not in a way that says ‘Please do not touch’. Her pieces have been silent but comforting witnesses to people’s lives, keepers of secrets and places of refuge, all attributes that Alison has painstakingly but lovingly enhanced.
Foraging, waiting and creating
Captivated by the bare bones of a chair or chaise longue, Alison restores and rebuilds using traditional upholstery techniques and then waits. She waits until the right fabric or the perfect trimming has been sourced, foraged for or spotted.
“I’ll know when I find it,” Alison says. “It can take a long time, but it has to speak to me, or rather to the piece I’m working on.” The exhibition reveals how worthwhile that waiting has been, I coveted every piece and imagined myself reclining, holding a glass of something refreshing, mulling over creative but thoroughly worthwhile thoughts.
Working with sumptuous fabrics is, Alison says, like the icing on the cake. Although requiring great skill, patience and delicacy, it is the underlying work that is the hidden star of the piece. So captivating is the process that Alison says she forgets to breath when she’s working, only drawing breath when the piece is finished.
Her father was a ceramicist, a skill-set that resonates closely with Alison. “I often think of him when I’m working, What I do can be very physical as I have to mould, shape and sometimes cajole pieces to fulfil the promise they hold.”
It is also the part of the creation that reveals the most secrets of past lives. “Most old pieces of furniture were signed and dated by their makers, like the Gilt Grey Sofa in the exhibition. It has been dated 1886 and signed by John Wayman. It is also where I will find old hair clips, buttons, notes and newspapers, all of which help to build up a picture of where the item has been.”
I urge you to get down to Lemon Street Gallery this week to see for yourself how beautifully tactile and eminently sit-able-on Alison’s pieces are. You can also catch a boutique sample of the sculptures that feature in the gallery’s Withiel Sculpture Garden and the fabulous Susanna Bauer exhibition, In Leaf.
Making Good‘s creator, Alison Havers can be contacted for private commissions at email@example.com and her work can also be seen in Plumbline Gallery, St Ives.