Hollywood calls! (part of why Summer 2016 was so great!). Written by Debbie Lowndes September 08, 2016 15:44

Upholstery, like many crafts, can amongst other things be extremely hard work, creative and lonely.  Which is partly why The London Chair Collective came to be back in 2009.     
Following our recent Blog: Summer 2016: Why it was so great, I’ve picked out one of my favourite Summer thrills. 

Debbie Lowndes: Art Department

We were lucky enough to work on a new feature film: The Death of Stalinworking with the super talented Art Department team, on-set upholstering, sewing and eating Percy Pigs!  Clearly the film is going to be a massive hit. When Steven Spielberg and The Coen Brothers see it for the first time they will be SO impressed with the furnishings, we'll be on speed dial for all their films. When Award season comes up, it won’t be about pithy things like actors and performances, but upholstery and soft furnishings!  We’ll probably have our own LCC Private Jet by the year end! 
And back to earth.....    
I've worked with Producer Nick Barton for many years but recently switched hats inching my way into Art Departments (Swallows & Amazons being my first). 
Debbie Lowndes with Nick Barton in Hastings
Teaming up with Carol we began our upholstering odyssey in Oxfordshire, on-set upholstering in a little corner of a beautiful abandoned building,  surrounded by the hullabaloo of painting, drilling, making, arranging,…setting off at dawn from London to get there for 8am.  Our first job was to put new fabric on a set of drop in seats, take apart and recover an Art Deco chair and the best job for me, beat up a perfectly good sofa to make it look lived in, pattern matching old fabric onto it. Never have I been so happy as creating that bums-have-sat-here look….a proud moment! 

The Death of Stalin

Other jobs on-set included recovering a sofa in stripy fabric, making some bolsters look beautiful, going crazy with a staple gun, and giggling on an M&S Percy Pig sugar jag whilst standing on chairs gathering and stapling fabric into position.  The sets looked amazing, and watching and hearing them spring to life is such fun.  I love how the rhythms of the builders and painters changed throughout the day and the camaraderie….very noticeable after lunch when the music goes up and it all gets quite manic.  

Carol Mandeville

Next up Ealing Studios for some big flag making, Pia joined us for this….and she was her usual creative, efficient but grumbly self….she's not keen on dawn starts. When grumbling reached fever pitch I thought about killing her,  which would have been apt for our next job…. upholstering a massive plinth for a coffin in a hanger built by construction at Shepperton Studios….Pia does love anything of a deathly nature, the pomp, the swags, the horses, the ceremony....possibly somewhat lacking in the Construction shed, but hey....!

Pia St John and plinth

Carol buoyantly gathered miles of red fabric and between us we sewed and sewed and sewed….and Pia tacked and tacked and tacked and we all stapled and stapled and stapled and draped and draped and draped, made some late night corsages at high speed stood back, admired our beautiful handiwork…and promptly collapsed in a heap, waiting for death to take us!.....

Upholstering - The Death of Stalin

My final bit of Art Department work was stenciling on a huge scale, scalpel in hand for several days at Ealing. Working with a team of Master Scalpelers, a job that oddly hasn’t appeared yet on IMDBs credit list!

Hard work, extremely long hours, but enormous fun, creative and far from lonely.
Debbie Lowndes