Simion Hawtin- Smith Talks to us in ‘Meet the Maker’

Homes and Antiques Magazine - - WELCOME - IN­TER­VIEW SO­PHIE HANNAM PHO­TO­GRAPHS JESSE WILD

Simion is a fur­ni­ture up­hol­sterer based near Manch­ester who rein­vents an­tique and vin­tage chairs us­ing bold fab­rics and colours. You may have seen some of his quirky cre­ations on BBC One’s Money for Noth­ing.

‘I’m not afraid of a big DIY project – I re­cently con­verted my mez­za­nine into an area to work in or re­lax and play mu­sic while look­ing at the night sky.’

Us­ing bold con­tem­po­rary fab­rics and tra­di­tional tech­niques, fur­ni­ture up­hol­sterer Simion Hawtin-Smith breathes new life into an­tique and vin­tage chairs

Up­hol­sterer Simion Hawtin-Smith is ob­sessed with vin­tage chairs and, the more dar­ing and colour­ful, the be!er. ‘ I’d like to be like Iggy Pop,’ he laughs. ‘ His house is "lled with beau­ti­ful chairs and ap­par­ently he makes time to sit in each and ev­ery one of them – maybe one day I’ll get there!’ Simion’s stu­dio in Stock­port, which he moved to ear­lier this year, is crammed with cu­ri­ous an­tique seat­ing, o#en brought to him by clients. ‘ It’s very dan­ger­ous,’ he says. ‘If ever any­one sends me an un­usual chair, I sim­ply have to up­hol­ster it.’ His com­pany, Reloved Works, o$ers be­spoke up­hol­stery ser­vices and cre­ative work­shops for bud­ding fur­ni­ture fa­nat­ics. What’s more, Simion also up­hol­sters skip-sal­vaged seat­ing for the BBC One show Money for Noth­ing.

What’s your back­ground?

I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in in­te­ri­ors, es­pe­cially when it comes to mak­ing and restor­ing things. When I was a child, my mum caught me strip­ping the dark stain o$ my bed­room fur­ni­ture to bring it back to the pale wood. I stud­ied de­sign at col­lege but ended up work­ing in the bar in­dus­try, open­ing my own cafe and art gallery in Manch­ester. I worked hard to per­fect the in­te­rior, de­sign­ing it my­self and work­ing on the up­hol­stery. A #er that, I bought a house in France and

‘That’s what I love the most about my job: work­ing on chairs that are a per­sonal project for some­one.’

ren­o­vated it my­self, the chal­lenges of which led me to want to learn how to prop­erly up­hol­ster fur­ni­ture. Back at home, I met up­hol­sterer Den­nis Gal­lagher, who taught me how to up­hol­ster the tra­di­tional way. He’s 87 now but he still comes and vis­its my work­shop a cou­ple of times a week to give me ad­vice.

What in­spires you?

on hol­i­day – I con­stantly see things that I want to trans­fer to a project. My pas­sion is for fab­rics and I’m a big be­liever in ‘the state­ment chair’. I think I keep a mem­ory bank of fab­rics in the back of my mind, so that when I see a chair for the ! rst time, I have an idea of what it should be up­hol­stered in. I’m also in­volved in a re­ally nice com­mu­nity of mak­ers and de­sign­ers here in Manch­ester, which means I can al­ways ac­cess ad­vice and in­spi­ra­tion.

Talk us through your process

the frame and re­pair­ing any break­ages or wob­bles that there might be. You never know what you’re go­ing to ! nd un­til you strip a chair back – I once found a china din­ner plate down the back of a Ch­ester !eld! I then build up from the bare frame by re­plac­ing all the ma­te­ri­als and adding the fab­ric cho­sen by the client, be­fore top­stitch­ing ev­ery­thing by hand. Now that I’ve moved into a big­ger work­shop, I’m able to cut out all of the pieces for an up­hol­stery project and sew them to­gether in one go, which is much eas­ier. Ev­ery chair is di "er­ent but a I’m al­ways in­spired by my sur­round­ings, whether it’s a trip to Lib­erty, walk­ing down the high street or be­ing away With each chair that comes in, I start by strip­ping it back to

typ­i­cal lounge chair, such as a Parker Knoll States­man, will usu­ally take me a week to up­hol­ster from start to ! nish.

What has been your favourite project to work on?

For Money for Noth­ing I was given a huge lounge chair, which I up­hol­stered in a yel­low, hon­ey­comb quilted fab­ric. I made the pa"ern my­self and it was such hard work that it al­most broke me. Up­hol­stery is al­ways a chal­lenge but that’s what I love so much about it. Some­times a client will ask me ‘can you use vel­vet on this chair?’ and I know it’ll be re­ally di #cult to do – but I still do it any­way!

What are you work­ing on at the mo­ment?

While my pre­vi­ous busi­ness was mostly up­hol­ster­ing vin­tage chairs im­ported from Europe, I now mainly fo­cus on be­spoke projects for clients. For ex­am­ple, I’m cur­rently work­ing on a G Plan House­mas­ter chair that I’m re­uphol­ster­ing as a wed­ding present from a mother to her son (pic­tured above). I’m us­ing beau­ti­ful fab­ric from the Isle of Bute, as the fam­ily hails from Scot­land. That’s what I love the most about my job: work­ing on chairs that are a per­sonal project for some­one.

What are your plans for the fu­ture?

I would like to run more cour­ses and work­shops in my new stu­dio space [Simion works in an old mill above a vin­tage em­po­rium] as well as re­turn to sourc­ing chairs my­self to re­uphol­ster. I’d also like to take on more col­lab­o­ra­tive projects.

A G Plan House­mas­ter chair up­hol­stered in Bute Fab­rics. The Green Lady scat­ter cush­ion was made by Simion in col­lab­o­ra­tion with artist Stan­ley Chow.

THIS PAGE, CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVEBeau­ti­ful chairs fill Simion’s new stu­dio in Stock­port; work­ing on a G Plan House­mas­ter chair for a client.

A cock­tail chair up­hol­stered in botan­i­cal fab­ric by Guy McKin­ley. ABOVE

THIS PAGE Simion has an eye for fab­rics and cham­pi­ons the work of new de­sign­ers. Here he is cov­er­ing an ot­toman with fab­ric by Rachael Tay­lor De­sign Stu­dio.

BE­LOW A pair of an­tique chairs re­ceives a bold makeover.

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