My Mother’s chair

History is an intriguing force. Awareness of the past give us the tools to find our place in the present and sharpens the edge of the blade we use to forge our future. History can be applied is a broad cultural sense or focused down to a very personal event in your own timeline. My latest project zeroed in on the path that led to me, repairing the seat of the chair where my mother, and the child versions of my sister and myself, learned how to operate a rocking chair.

Dismantling the seat panel was a dip into the historical well of this piece. Originally built in the 1940’s, the brittle vinyl was cracked open and exposing the raw cotton padding beneath. Spit-tacks held their own to secure the seat. The vinyl was so accustomed to holding its form that I had to gently coax it out of the familiar shape to get around the wood seat board.

Spit tacks are a fascinating piece of furniture history to me. Tossing a handful of these micro-sized nails in their mouth, upholsterers used a magnetically-charged tack hammer to place each tack and secure the material. Methodically tacking and stretching, then tacking again; this was the process today’s pneumatic staple guns replaced. The original upholsterers of today’s antiques surely had sufficient iron in their blood from the tacks they inadvertently swallowed….I don’t want to imagine what other toxins that process exposed their systems to!

I’m very grateful for my air compressor and staple gun! Upgrading the materials, I replaced the raw cotton with ploy fiber and the lead-infused vinyl with an outdoor-grade upholstery vinyl (super excited I found an almost identical color match), securing the fresh materials with staples.

Viola! What some would place on the doorstep to the landfill is now refreshed for another 70 years and generations of new stories to share.
The story only dies when we let it go, and I for one rather let the stories carry on.


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