Traditional Upholstery and Craftsmanship. From humble beginnings to modern workshops.

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Wills Furniture takes great pride in producing hand built, hand crafted furniture, using time honoured skills and methodologies. All Wills Furniture is built, upholstered and finished in our modern Hawthorn Workshop and Studio – by hand. The methods, techniques and crafts have been passed down through generations of artisan tradesmen and women at Wills – Upholsterers, seamstresses, frame builders and finishers. It’s a team effort. But there is an interesting and intriguing history attached to the craft of furniture making.

‘Upholders’ become ‘Upholsterers’

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Upholsterers used to be called ‘Upholders’. In the 18th Century it referred more to those who repaired furniture rather than the artisans who created new pieces.

‘Upholders’ often doubled as interior decorators, taking full responsibility for the overall look and feel of a room, providing the aspect/s desired by the home owner and householder. Such craftsmen were members of the ‘Worshipful Company of Upholders’. Originally these artisans provided upholstery, textiles and fittings for funerals (perhaps this may provide insight into some of the sombre interiors of the times).

As it was, generally a cabinet maker would pair or partner an ‘upholder’ to provide the service that came to be known as ‘Traditional Upholstery’.

Traditional Upholstery

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Over the centuries, traditional upholstery evolved. The padding and covering of chairs, seats and sofas became recognised as an accepted craft, long before sewing machines, synthetic fabrics or various types of foam were ever available.

Traditional methodologies for upholstery involve using a solid wood frame or platform (webbed). It can also involve various kinds of springs, lashings, stuffing (animal hair and feathers), grasses and coir, wools, hessians, scrims, bridle ties, stuffing ties, blind stitching, flocks and wadding, all built up by hand.

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By the early 17th Century, chair seats were being padded if in a somewhat basic fashion. The shapes and styles of upholstery we now consider ‘classic’ (both the shapes and manufacturing techniques) were popularised in the 17th Century, but remained the province of the very wealthy. New techniques gave greater control with the ‘stuffing’ enabling further definition in the upright and sloping lines of popular furniture.

The Victorian era saw excessive stuffing and padding pay homage to the fashionable opulence of the era.

And as the craft evolved with stainless steel springs and new lashing techniques, the seats, backs and arms were further built up, independent of the solid frame’s shape. More complex stuffings, elaborately shaped rolls and scrolls, with different fabrics allowing soft padded shapes by means of buttoning saw new styles and shapes evolve until we have the types of furniture we now feature in our exclusive Wills Collection.

The Wills team faithfully follow the techniques described, handed down over the centuries from the original ‘Upholders’ to today’s specialist upholstery artisans.

All Wills Furniture is handmade faithfully to those tried and true techniques, with the added advantage of modern equipment and studio fitting.

The Wills Furniture team return to work on Monday, January 6th. Wee look forward to seeing you then. For any urgent enquiries please call 03 9815 0111 and leave a message. Alternatively, you can contact us here for a prompt response.

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to everyone from the Wills Furniture team. See you in the New Year!

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