Monday 30 December 2013

The Last Six Childrens Chairs for Christmas

Well here we are coasting up to another New Year. I hope that it will be a happy, healthy and prosperous one for everyone. So to end 2013, another festive half dozen chairs and bears to celebrate.

Gromit climbing on an 1870's cane seated chair.

Big bear and pink bear Kylie, (yes a joke present from my son) next to a porch woven American rocking chair.

Young Sweep on a recently finished colourful painted chair.

Shawn the sheep climbing on a William Morris rush chair.

The oldest bear on the oldest chair. Ted sitting on an 18th century "Bodgers" ash chair.

And finally lovely old Sweep contemplating the Christmas tree from an arts and crafts rush seated armchair.

Hope you've all had a great Christmas and we wish you all good things for the coming year!

Monday 16 December 2013

The Twelve Childrens Chairs of Christmas

Okay, I'll admit it - I am a Chairoholic!!

The main problem with this obsession is that chairs are a bit big to collect, so I've compromised....I only collect child sized chairs now!

So for Christmas this year here are a few of my favourite old kiddies chairs that I've dressed up to celebrate the joys of the holiday season. The soft toys are all much loved family favourites, some are over 60 years old. Hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

The first day of Christmas. This is a mid Victorian rush seated chair adorned by Big Ted and Kylie.

Day two. This is Gromit gazing at an angel on an American mid 20th Century armchair.

Day three. Sweep dreaming on an 1890's rush seated armchair.

Day four. Shawn the Sheep climbing onto a Victorian Bentwood.

Day five. A very special bear - Ted - looking proud in his hand knitted outfit.

Day six, half way there...... Gromit gets everywhere!

Six more next week.

Monday 28 October 2013

How To Restore A Hand Woven Cane Chair Seat

This is one of the main reasons why the blog has been a little bit quiet for the last few months, I've been doing a lot of general sorting out here at FG headquarters and one of the projects I've been itching to do was a makeover of the DIY booklet that we include in all of our Hand Cane Seat Kits. Well here it is - finished!

It had to be done, all of the paperwork and images that have accumulated over the past 20 years were starting to get overwhelming, it's still going to take me a long time to sort them out properly, but at least I've made a start. This is the first DIY instruction booklet makeover, more are in the pipeline already. If you're interested have a look at our Facebook page for more updates.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Bernard's Swan Song

It's been eight years and a lot of very beautiful and some not quite so beautiful times since we first bought Bernard. It doesn't seem that long....but there you are! Everyone thought we were mad, why on earth would we want to buy a ropey old horse truck and then even worse, spend loads of money and several weeks of spare time we didn't have converting it into an exhibition wagon? Well I can't really answer that, it was just something that we wanted to do.... a bit like ice skating in Central Park, or snorkeling off the Barrier Reef.

I remember the excitement when we first saw him in the stable yard, oooh so tatty but full of hidden promise, it seemed like an age before he finally pulled up in our front drive on the 9th April 2005 and we could start work on the grand project.

We took him to pieces, literally!

800 hours labour and three months later we had this.

We recycled all sorts of bits and pieces to build the interior living area.

Most of our friends started to understand what we were doing, but it wasn't until recently when "glamping" entered the English language that we started to feel....well, quite normal really! At the shows people would come specially to see the truck, they loved him, still do, but it's time for him to have a new adventure with someone else now.

It has taken us the best part of two years to make the final decision - 800 miles a year isn't enough for this old boy, he needs to do more. So now we're looking for a new home for him next month.

So it was ironic that our final show with Bernard would be at Breamore House, one of our favourite places in the world and also where we started out on the show circuit proper back in the early 90's. Bernard's swan song was magnificent!

So it's the end of an era for us and hopefully a bright future for Bernard and his new owners. Who knows where he'll end up, but wherever it is, I won't be able to stop myself from watching!

Sunday 30 June 2013

Rattan poles.....thousands of' 'em!

It's been a funny few weeks, by that I mean funny in an odd way, not funny haha sadly!

We knew there were two important tasks we had been putting off that could wait not longer. First was restoring the woodwork and cab on Bernard our trusty old Bedford horsebox and the second was to sort, cut and bundle a mountain of raw rattan poles into more sensible and manageable sizes.

As luck would have it the weather has been okay for the past few weekends, so in between the odd shower we donned masks, ladders and sanders then threw ourselves at the mammoth task of horsebox restoration. Bernard is 10'6" tall and 19' long, so to say it's a big job washing and sanding that lot is a severe understatement. Meanwhile we had phoned the mechanic to ask him if he could check Bernard over for his annual "plating" test, thinking that we had plenty of time as we don't need to use him until the end of August. So imagine our shock when the mechanic told us that we'd better get him down to his yard asap as the testing station was already fully booked until, (you've guessed it) the end of August!

So panic ensued, pressure applied. We worked away madly for three solid weekends and then took the truck to the mechanics yard. We're all keeping our fingers crossed now that we can get a cancellation at the local testing station, otherwise it will be a 40 mile plus trip each way to the next nearest one!

So this is what he looked like when he went to the mechanic. Woodwork almost finished and the cab only partly started. Ooooh I hope we can get him tested and back home soon, still lots to do.

So once the truck panic was over, we girded our loins for sorting out the rattan pole problem. Last Wednesday, the two of us plus two friends (probably now ex-friends) set about the task. I hate to admit it, but the old adage "out of sight is out of mind" is so true. We had genuinely forgotten just how much rattan we have. At first we were optimistic that we could achieve loads in one day, but by the end of a VERY long shift, it was obvious that the job was going to take at least another week of concerted effort. This was the mountain we were looking at sorting and is only about a third of the total.

And here we are trying to decide where to start.

So we were a bit worse for wear after that lot and decided to have a gentler time this weekend. We've pottered about gardening and doing nice, quiet things like............

......rescuing lost frogs from the middle of the kitchen floor. Don't ask.....I have no idea how he came to be there suspiciously covered in fluff from the tumble drier!

I wonder what next week will bring?

Thursday 13 June 2013

Fashion. From Georgian to 60's...and back again!

I was recently made painfully aware that next year will be the 20th anniversary of the "birth" of my trading name - Former Glory. Where did all that time go? Thinking about the range of furniture in the workshop these days and looking back, it's amazing how fashion has changed peoples preferences over so few years in relative terms.

In the beginning it was mainly Victorian and Georgian furniture that came in for restoration. Spoonback chairs and heavily carved walnut, little barley twisted tables and anything made from rosewood with ornate inlay and mirrors. Pretty, practical, occasionally OTT and to be honest sometimes huge, heavy things that were difficult to move and consequently gave me problems with my sacroiliac joint that I still suffer from today.

After about ten years it became more about Arts and Crafts. William Morris, Godwin, Macintosh etc. The prices of anything from this design period went through the roof and people realised that it made good economic sense to keep their Art furniture in good order. We saw plenty from this period, probably because lots of it had hand woven seating and labour intensive oil and wax finishes that need attention periodically.

Nobody wanted "modern" back then. I remember distinctly being lambasted for having a soft spot for this practical simplicity of Danish mid 20th century design and worse still being raucously laughed at for lusting after the slightly imperfect hand made beauty of rush seated country chairs.

But then more recently the world changed again. Modernist designs were "in". The Bauhaus, Danish and progressive designs, all previously largely unloved and out of favour, were finding their way to our workshop. I've lost count of how many "Cesca" chair seats we've replaced, (named 'Cesca after Francesca, daughter of the designer) and if I had £1 for every Danish chair we've seen........well!

Finally a proper comfort zone has arrived for me.

So.....where next? Shall we go around in a big circle and find a renewed interest in the classic lines of the Regency period, or will it be a yearning for the decorative - a return to Victoriana?

Well that's anybody's guess, but my money is on anything original, comfortable to use, beautifully made, practical and SMALL. All power to the independent makers of this World, your time has come!

What say you?

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Is it Summer?

At last it seems we have some sunny weather although the wind still has that northerly chill to it. We've been very quiet on the blogging front for a long time, mainly because so much has been going on that finding time to sit and write has been difficult. So today a chance to do a quick catch up!

Our Goddaughter came to stay with us for a few days last month and we had a lovely time. She is French and determined to speak English as well as her Mum, (who speaks English fluently). So while she was staying with us we arranged for her to spend time at the local infants school as a volunteer helper. I think the time was enjoyed by all, she played football and helped the children with their crafts to the point where she rubbed a blister on her hand from using the little scissors so often. The teachers told me that she was also very helpful indeed in the French lessons! Such fun.

Meanwhile we have been wading our way through a mountain of work, everything from an experimental woven piece using carbon fibre to reviving a marquetry table top, no opportunities for boredom here.

It is good to be able to work outside again, one of the great joys of being self employed is the freedom to change workplace whenever it suits. It also means that I can watch the local wildlife. We are so lucky, these little creatures breed every year in the bank of the yew hedge. Such a privilege to watch them emerge and then quite frightening when they start to fly!!

Thursday 18 April 2013

The Time Has Come To Change Our Delivery System.

By now I guess most people are aware that the Royal Mail had a review earlier this month and as usual their prices have gone up, (well they never go down do they!) But very sneakily, they have also changed the parcel sizing structure and standard compensation levels. This means that unless a package is very small indeed, we will not be able to afford to use their services as some prices have doubled in real terms.

So to save costs whilst trying to maintain a reliable service, we are using a plethora of couriers including a two to four working day service. Regular customers may notice that their orders take a couple of days longer to arrive than normal, but please bear with us, we are trying our best to keep delivery prices the same as before. The next day England/Wales service and costs have remained the same.

The rattan embargo is still in place so the material supply for our craft is still strangled. How much longer this will continue we don't know, but we are trying to keep as much stock on hand as we possibly can so that we can all continue to work.

On a brighter note, it's not long until the Summer!! Next big job for us is to bring Bernard out of his Winter livery.

Thursday 28 February 2013

One African Seagrass Chair finished, just one more to go.

Chaos still reigns here at F.G. Stripping the wallpaper off in one room revealed a need to re-plaster the walls, so this dirty job added to the already burgeoning list of other things "to do" has left us with the feeling that maybe we'll never get to the end of the work! It'll be a while before this room is back in commission.

However, work doesn't do itself, (as much as sometimes I wish it would) so soldier on we must! The third and penultimate African chair is finished and I'm mustering up the courage and concentration to start the last one soon.

It is lovely to see the finished article, but such a lot of weaving, effort and time goes into it. In between times for a bit of light relief, we're catching up with all of the drop-in rush seats and cane chairs that need repair. Trouble is as soon as we think we're getting ahead of the workload, more arrives, don't get me wrong.....I'm not moaning!

Another beautiful thing has happened, here's our new friend, his name is Digby and he's 14 weeks old.

Sadly he's not ours he belongs to our friend, but I have a feeling we may get to see him often. What more could we ask for!

Thursday 14 February 2013

Snow, Decorating and Chairs Galore.

Well it's been a long time since I last wrote a blog post - sorry! Perhaps it's something to do with the Winter season, it's harder to be enthusiastic when it's dark and cold outside don't you think?

We've had more than our usual share of snow and ice here in Dorset this year, I admit it's very pretty, but I guess because we never expect to see so much bad weather here in the south, it always causes chaos. Trees down, roads closed, burst's all happened locally. And then when the snow melted to be replaced with icy winds, there were three bad car accidents in one week in our little village thanks mostly to the ice. Each time the road was closed and in one incident the fire brigade were called to cut the roof off one of the cars. Like I said earlier, snow LOOKS pretty!

Today is dry and sunny, it's even feeling a bit warmer, so I'm hoping that enthusiasm returns with the good weather!

The New Year's workload arrived promptly, which is great news, as long as you have lots of spare space to store stuff until you get around to it. Unfortunately space is something that we've never got enough of at the best of times. However, this year in our infinite wisdom, we made the problem even worse by deciding that the time had definitely come when the house decorating had to be done. Picture the scene, all of the room space normally inhabited by waiting work is non existent, instead it's occupied by random bits of decorating equipment - step ladders, paint pots and piles of stripped
wallpaper. It is an obstacle course, I keep telling myself never mind, it can only get better! ("sighs")

There is a lot of interesting and challenging work in hand, so that helps. The last two African chieftain chairs are here and started already.

There's quite a bit of cabinet work to do on a few other chairs like this one that needs an arm transplant.

And to fill up my last few working hours, I revamped our webpages! Have a look and please let me know what you think.

So all in all a busy time. I'll try to post blogs more regularly, but in the meantime if you're interested we'll be posting "workaday" news on our facebook page here -

Wednesday 9 January 2013


Another New Year and a number "13", here's wishing everyone a lucky one!

The Indonesian rattan embargo is still in the moment, but fingers crossed that the situation will change this year. I think we could all do with some truly GOOD news. We are back to work now with a vengeance, first seat of the year was on this lovey old traditional spindle back dining chair.

Today it's something a bit different, a green paper fibre rush back on this Shaker style rocking chair.

The lady who had his chair made for her daughter over 30 years ago said that she never liked the webbing panels, I'm inclined to agree with her. I hope she likes the new weaving we've done when it's finished!