Claire Maclean and Nicola Thomas, founders of Edge Upholstery, moved into their studio on Bernard Road, N15, in June 2018 and run a range of upholstery classes.
What do you do and what are your roles?
Claire: We’re both upholsterers. We met while we were working in a workshop and a school in Shoreditch. We decided to do more upholstery on our own, found a workshop and set up Edge together.
Nicola: Edge is an upholstery workshop and we offer classes.
Claire: We specialise in traditional and modern upholstery. I quite like modern upholstery whereas Nic’s a fan of traditional.
Nicola: We can both do both, but when a traditional piece comes in I’ll get on it and when it’s a more modern piece it’s more Claire.
For someone who doesn’t know anything about upholstery, what’s involved and how does it work?
Nicola: Upholstery is like dressing furniture. You’re putting in the foundations. You’ll web it or put springs in and then you’ll put padding in it. Then you’re covering it and making it look beautiful and you’ll end up with a long-lasting piece of furniture.
How did you first get into upholstery?
Nicola: Before I was doing upholstery I lived in Bristol and my best mate and I designed and made handmade lingerie. We did that for about eight years and then the recession hit, a lot of our stockists closed and it was a sad time for luxury bras and pants, so we decided to end.
I decided to make the leap from pants to chairs. It’s still looking after people’s bottoms! I went to Hertfordshire and did a course. Then I found an upholsterer who took me on and I worked really hard. I moved to London six years ago and worked at the upholsterers that have got the Royal Warrant, that was really cool. Then I went and worked in a prop house and worked on shows including Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey. After that I started working in Shoreditch, met Claire and we immediately clicked. We worked very closely together there so it just made sense.
Claire: I studied interior architecture in Cardiff and then moved to London and worked as an architect’s assistant. I did that for about four years and was stuck behind a computer. I realised then that I was more of a maker than a designer.
Before interior architecture, I was always interested in furniture. I stumbled on to upholstery and thought I’d give it a go. I met the woman who trained me in Shoreditch when she was just setting up a school. I was her first student. I was still working at the architects firm part-time and got a Saturday job at an upholsterer. Then the woman who was teaching me needed help and offered me a job at the school. I’d been working
with her for five years and a couple of years later Nic started teaching at that school.
How has it been going since you opened?
Claire: Work’s coming in and we started our first leisure term. We’ve got a few students and we’re loving it. Most of them come from stressful banking jobs in the city and then they come to a yard in a warehouse in Tottenham and learn about upholstery!
What is your favourite piece that you’ve worked on so far?
Nicola: Despite the fact that I like traditional work, my favourite chair is called Hans Wegner Papa Bear Chair. They’re gorgeous to look at, really comfortable and really expensive.
Claire: It’s a bit nerve wracking when you’re working on a really expensive chair.
Nicola: When it’s a design classic and you know it’s worth about 10 grand, you’re like, ‘Don’t drop it!’
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Claire: Each other!
Nicola: Day-to-day, we both love making things. The amazing thing about upholstery is you sometimes can polish a turd! You can take a piece of furniture and inside the frame you might find cardboard in there, or chipboard, and you can turn it into something that looks stunning. We’ve covered things that are basically from a high street shop and turned it into something beautiful.
Edge run a number of classes including: a leisure class one evening a week where you can bring in a piece of furniture and are guided through the process of stripping it back and building it up. A taster class, where people can ‘come and see if they like upholstery and decide if they want to take it up further.’ They also do monthly Saturday surgeries ‘aimed at upholsterers who are just starting out, have done a few lessons, or need a bit of a top-up or some guidance. They can bring something in and join a morning or afternoon session.’
Edge are running a one day course on 8 December, where you can learn to make an atomic stool.
This article first appeared in the Craft issue of Discovering Tottenham which was released in November 2018.