Meet the Maker: Jo Mepham, Textile Artist takes on Upholstery April 11, 2016 12:00

My background is in Fine Art and I have a Masters Degree in Painting. 

Surface and textiles have always been an interest and in September 2012,

I attended a workshop in Italy to learn how to paint and make marks with

Procion cold water dyes on natural fibres.

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The possibilities for making great pieces of cloth with these thickened dye paints were
obvious and the idea of the painted and drawn marks being in and a part of the fabric
was very important to me, but what to do with it?  I had many smaller pieces and played
around with various ideas like lampshades and cushions without any particular
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 I think fate played a hand as chairs somehow came to mind as a possibility at the
same time as I came across Kent School of Upholstery, recently set up in Faversham
by Master Upholsterer Alex Law, on my doorstep.  Right after I’d signed up I also
found what would become my first ‘proper’ armchair on the street abandoned. 
It was meant to be.
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Back at home in the studio at the end of the garden I began to dye some larger
lengths of linen ready for chairs. 
The most I can comfortably dye is 2.5 metres mainly due to the physical bulk of a
large piece of fabric that needs to be soda soaked, dried, pinned out, drawn on,
cured overnight then washed out.  Then that process is repeated at least once
more to get the depth and interest that I desire. 
Each piece of cloth is an individual and unrepeatable whole which is then cut up
and re-pieced to become the top cloth of a reworked chair.
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I don’t use sketchbooks but do lots of drawing on small pieces of paper which
inform my cloth dyeing.  A lot of my marks are derived from drawing allotments,
I have been drawing for some 30 years so a lot of it is intuitive.  My art work has
always been about the nature of meaning somehow being between the cracks
of intention.  The marks being part of the cloth and the random new juxtapositions
brought about by forming it onto a chair add to my artistic intention.  There is little
opportunity for choosing what goes where as it is always a tight fit.
Sometimes a very tight fit.
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 So far I have chosen chairs that just somehow speak to me, mainly quite simple
shapes, I love metal legs and brass feet but am also looking forward to tackling
some older period pieces.  I have a queue in waiting, chairs are addictive.  I
enjoy all the phases of restoring a chair, though it is a long and labour intensive
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 Taking a very unloved dirty chair and making it into something new and
completely unique is very satisfying and in collaboration with Alex we have
really transformed some chairs into lovely comfortable and hopefully desirable
objects.  Currently I am working on a pair of mid-century chairs which are
going to have hollow arms and I’m very excited about them.
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 Jo works with Alex Law, Master Upholsterer at the Kent School of Upholstery in Faversham.
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 The bottom cloth - an artwork in itself....
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 The Finished chair.  More views in the Shop.
Jo and her chairs will be with us at the Dulwich Open House.

Please join us!

7-8 MAY & 14-15 MAY