Crazy Ideas – the story of a chair - Sandie Powner Photography

Crazy Ideas - the story of a chair

This is the story of a photographer (that's me) getting a crazy idea for a photo-shoot.

HOW IT BEGAN

It began with a Chesterfield.

Chesterfields are a bit of a thing at the moment, being used as props among photographers, and I absolutely love the look. The rich oxblood leather provides such a stunning backdrop for dogs and portraits, and add a certain elegance to the shot. I wanted one.

My husband, told me I was crazy - as I'm completely mobile, a Chesterfield would be too big and bulky to transport, not to mention not knowing whether people's houses would have enough space for me to set up a backdrop, lights AND fit the Chesterfield. I hated to admit it, but he was right.

So I began searching antique shops, charity shops, Facebook marketplace and Ebay, looking for the right chair. It had to be big enough to fit up to medium sized dogs on it, yet small enough for me to transport by myself and fit in the car (although I did end up drooling over a beautiful two-seat Chesterfield sofa that would be stunning for big dogs!). 

FINDING THE CHAIR

After lots of searching and rejecting unsuitable chairs - too big, wrong shape, no arms, or just ridiculously expensive - I realised I wasn't going to find the perfect chair.  So I started to think a little outside of the box. 

I knew I wanted a leather chair, but couldn't find one of the right size. I did find this fabric covered one listed on Ebay, it was the right size and style I wanted, and the bargain price of just £10! 

It was then I had the crazy idea......

It can't be that hard to re-cover a chair can it? 

This is when my husband told me I was crazy for the second time!

So I bought the chair and sourced some navy blue leatherette fabric from a company based in Germany. I chose navy blue because it was a little different to the oxblood chairs I wanted. It's always good to do something different.

And then the fun began!!

SETTING A DEADLINE

A project isn't a project without a deadline. When I began the project, I knew I wanted the chair to be finished by the time my next litter shoot was due to take place in July. I knew the navy leatherette would really complement the wheaten colour of the Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies I was due to photograph!

DECONSTRUCTING THE CHAIR

I began by looking at some blogs about re-covering chairs, and getting a few tips, as well as consulting my Mum and my neighbour Jennie, who are both wonderfully craft-minded people. The general consensus is to take off each piece of fabric intact, to use them as patterns for the new fabric.

So began the unpicking of the chair!

It was a case of careful unpicking to keep all the pieces intact and, most importantly, working out where everything was attached - it was not always in the obvious places! I also made sure to label each piece so that I knew where it had come from - a very good move as it turned out. 

Having a wood frame was a happy discovery as it meant a lot of the reconstruction would be possible with staples and tacks as opposed to stitching - something that is definitely not my forte.

With two weeks to go before the all-important litter shoot, the new leatherette fabric arrived, the old fabric pieces were all removed and I was ready to begin covering the chair!

RE-COVERING THE CHAIR

Starting to re-cover the chair was nerve-wracking, particularly when it came to cutting into my £22 a metre leatherette. I chose the expensive material because it is urine, blood and disinfectant resistant - just what's needed when it comes to potential puppy accidents! But choosing the expensive material meant I really couldn't afford to get the cutting out wrong.

I also had to put the pieces of fabric on in reverse order to how I'd removed them - so the last piece removed was the first piece to go back on. Luckily I'd taken extensive notes and photos as I deconstructed the chair, so it was easy to remember which order they had to go back on in. 

Inevitably there was some stitching involved. Ideally I wanted to pipe the arms and back of the chair as well as the cushion, but I quickly realised I didn't have the strength in my hands to push the needle through 4 layers of leatherette. I don't own a sewing machine, so all the stitching was done by hand.

I have to admit I cheated on the buttons - I found an Ebay seller who would cover buttons if you sent her the material - 99p per pair which was an absolute bargain and they were back in a few days. It's a two-person job getting the buttons in place, using a large button needle (I only managed to stab myself twice). One person presses the button hard into the fabric while the other ties off the buttons at the back with fabric under the knot so they don't pull through. 

I ran out of material and had to order more to finished the back piece, which luckily tacked into place with staples and nails. The final challenge was stitching the cushion by hand. I finished the chair at the eleventh hour - literally 10pm on the night before the litter shoot - my hands were so sore I had to keep doing hand exercises to make sure they didn't stiffen up and stop me using the camera!

AND FINALLY...... THE LITTER SHOOT

So I had the perfect chair for the litter shoot. It fit in the car, and on its first outing I managed to photograph 13 puppies in a row with no little accidents (although one puppy did take a liking to the buttons and had a bit of a chew!). So glad I did it - I totally love my chair - BUT I'm never doing it again. Roll on the next crazy idea......

puppy photography market harborough

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