Katherine of W.A. Brown Arts is a professional upholsterer living and working in Minneapolis. She specializes in the careful restoration of heirlooms and antiques using traditional materials and techniques.
Where did she learn how to do that???
Let’s ask Katherine, shall we?
“I lived in Belgium for 12 yrs. and first trained in a Traditional Upholstery course for a year at the Nijverheid School (like a Technical College) in Antwerp Belgium. Then I did an entire program at Tresithick Upholstery Training in Cornwall, England, which is accredited through the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers or AMUSF. We had a time limit on each of our projects to complete along with a research paper on 20th Century Furnishings. In the end all of our work was evaluated by Royal Upholsterers and you pass or fail. I passed. After that I did a series of woodworking classes in Turnhout, Netherlands (the border was just down the road from our house in Belgium)”
How/where did we first meet?
After returning to the U.S., Katherine sought out modern upholstery education, something she had not studied. While her very first love really and truly is traditional, she wanted to understand modern material and techniques as well, since most furniture in Minnesota is relatively young, and clients would undoubtedly be asking for modern services.
So I first met her as a “student’ at Blue Sky Galleries, and had the most wonderful time comparing notes, about her experience overseas in a very different upholstery culture, where antiques and restoration are more common and appreciated, where traditional programs are still firmly in place, and good quality natural materials are far easier to source.
What I adore about Katherine.
She is an absolute artist, a perfectionist . . . Watching her work on an antique bench gave me newfound appreciation for the traditional branch of our craft, for all the beautiful and tedious techniques that are on the precarious edge of disappearing. I could have watched her stitch padding all day.
But she is also gracious and appreciative of the modern side of professional upholstery – which is why conversations were so refreshing and enjoyable. Traditional and modern upholsterers sometimes stand on the opposite side of a professional trench. “You’re a snob!!!” “Well YOU aren’t a real upholsterer!!!!”
We teased Katherine that we are like her naughty upholstery friends, hanging out behind a dumpster, peer pressuring her into using a staple gun: “Come on, everybody is doing it!!!!!! What are you afraid of???”
Ha ha ha!!!! But really . . . .
I’m unlikely to ever cross into traditional upholstery, I prefer the “newer” stuff. And I am confident that Katherine is firm in her passion for older furniture.
But I’m ever so glad that we can be professional friends 🙂
What she’ll be teaching in June:
An introduction to traditional materials and basic padding techniques. This is a tiny taster, mostly demonstration with a smattering of hands-on. She’ll be padding up the seat to coil sprung chair in coir, burlap and cotton. If that doesn’t quite make sense yet, trust me: It’s a gorgeous process, and she’s great at explaining it, step by careful step. She’ll even answer questions, provide handouts, and let us all do a little practice on her demonstration piece.
Who should sign up?
Professionals and hobbyists who are curious about traditional materials and techniques. Maybe you’ve run into curled hair on occasion, and wonder if you can/should attempt to reuse it. Maybe you want to explore the very different medium that is stitched hair for creative/artistic reasons. Maybe you just really want to understand the difference between traditional and modern so you can be an informed resource for your clients. There are so many great reasons to attend this workshop.
WHY should you sign up??
Traditional upholstery education is extremely hard to come by in the U.S., especially with someone of Katherine’s expansive training. She’s the real deal, folks. I’m tickled pink that she’s willing to share a little of her knowledge, her time, her deep love of traditional upholstery, with our curious community.
You are going to be so very inspired.
Where can you sign up?
See you in St. Paul!