The Duplicator

On the roll off the roll the texture the grain the smell the yard and the metre the sample the swatch the shears the weight of the shears and the disfigurement to the fingers from the shears cutting the sheen the colour the hang, cutting with the grain and the tearing method along the seam just a snip and there it goes, take an even grip with the fingers either side. Shears are not scissors but tools of the trade that need sharpening more often than not.

The notches I cut at eight inch intervals so the women who sewed the pieces together with piping cord, including my mother, would know how to reassemble the pieces, the wings, the seats, the cushions, the inside arm, the outside arm, the scroll, the back, the front, and the arm caps for that extra protection from wear and tear. Or as I unpinned and became the duplicator so I could match up the pieces then roll them into bundles with a customer name pinned on with scrap paper, Johnson or Marshall. The heavy upholstery fabrics, often from Sanderson and the vintage floral patterns filling my sensibility with repulsion and confusion: William Turner, one of the most eminent designers of the 20th Century, first produced ‘Roslyn’ as a wallpaper design in 1910. It was later manufactured as a printed fabric from the 1920s and is all flowers, all flowers. Originally known as, ‘The Cleves,’ it was part of the Sanderson range until 1974, making it one of the company’s most enduring designs, and one that I handled and smelt and cut, sliced, notched and folded. This latest version has been engraved directly from the original fabric to retain the distinctive textures and effects. The effects of floral conservatism and aspiration to the country house in the suburban street or perhaps that was all they were shown in the pattern books supplied by Bob, my employer, we recommend traditional Sanderson and William Morris designs.

Designed in 1957 by the Parisian studio, Pollet, ‘Eglantine’ is a charmingly romantic composition of rose branches and petals, illustrating a loose painterly style typical of French designs of the 1950s. A classic Morris design dating from 1875, ‘Larkspur’ is highly elaborate composition of winding vertical stems of fern leaves around small groups of flowers.

And the William Morris designs had some credibility to the art student but day after day, cut after cut the winding vertical stems began to appear sinister, lifeless and endless and it became about getting through the time of instant coffee drinking and radio tuning in as the long weekends of solitary cutting with the right hand when the left hand could never grip in the same way to make a clean cut drifted across minutes and hours until it was time to lock up shop.

So the haberdashery reversal for Forty Hall of embracing and selecting fabrics on my own terms as bolts and slashes of colour and extravagance is very fine.