Upholstery Art with Antiquate

upholstered chair using recycled fabrics

Kerri Hollingsworth from Antiquate, is not only a furniture restorer, but an incredible artist. Based in Taggerty, Central Victoria, she upholsters furniture with a difference. The materials she uses vary from job to job, but she tries to steer clear of synthetic materials. For example, some upholstered chairs need foam cushions as that is the way they were designed. Others can be built with coconut fibre and cotton batting instead, to limit the use of non biodegradable products. On her own Upholstery Art pieces, she tries to stick to only natural/biodegradable/recycled products.

Her most recent design, ‘Autumn’ was completely biodegradable – all natural non toxic materials. Even the fabric was 100% compostable. Kerri uses mainly 100% wool or recycled wool fabrics as well as recycled fabric scraps. The timber treatment she uses is Linseed oil: the perfect treatment for timber that is completely natural. Weave fibres are recycled fabric scraps, trim off cuts, second hand and new yarn, raffia, jute, hessian, cotton and hemp. The upholstery builds are from Jute, Hessian, steel springs, cotton, coconut fibre and cotton batting.
upholstered chair using recuc
Kerri describes herself as “mum to her beautiful daughter Betty, a partner, a creator and an avid believer that all businesses can work harmoniously with the environment”. She and her family live out on a small farm in Central Victoria and have a goal of self sufficiency and zero waste. Kerri has a strong passion and genuine love of textiles, recycling, creative design and earth friendly solutions. Her main inspiration is teaching Betty about our choices every day and how they can impact other people and the planet (in both a positive and negative way).

The inspiration for the business started by ‘practising’ on hard rubbish finds. “Seeing a piece of furniture on the side of the road destined for landfill, then to see it transformed and enjoyed for many more years was just such a rewarding process. I have a wonderful mentor (a retired upholsterer) who has helped guide me when I started picking up furniture pieces that where wayyyy past my experience level” she explains. That was the beginning of her love affair with upholstery, but the business didn’t come until many years later.

With all that ‘practising’, her house was beginning to fill up with all of her treasures, so she sold a few on eBay. Then friends started asking her to reupholster things of their own. It took a little while before her confidence and knowledge grew, to realise she could potentially do this for a living. She was a flight attendant at the time, and although she loved her job, jet setting overseas every few days whilst raising a family was not what she wanted for the future. “I also needed (and I say need as it truly was what my soul needed) to create. Creating is my happy place” she says.

Once the business started, Kerri attended lots of markets to get her name out there and things grew organically from there. Once she combined upholstery with her desire to lessen landfill and our impact on the planet, she really fell in love with what she could be doing with these skills. It was very much an evolving process, which Kerri is sure will keep evolving over time.

She enjoys the whole process – seeing the old antiquated piece of furniture about to be added to the already damaging landfill statistics, then seeing the joy it can bring people with some care and dedication. As well, seeing the piece of furniture turned into a piece of art, using fibres that were also heading to landfill. It is really such a rewarding process.

Stripping the old furniture back was her most dreaded part as the smells and general  materials you find in old furniture wasn’t nice. But she has really learned to love the whole process now. Especially living out in such a beautiful relaxing area. “I just open up the roller doors on my workshop to breathe in the fresh country air and make it an enjoyable experience. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many frustrating moments and lots of problem solving, but I think that is also a positive thing to work through.

Kerri’s Tips on Being More Sustainable at Home

I think sustainability is something that all businesses no matter how big or small should be conscious of.
For me personally the journey to being environmentally aware came a few years ago when I learned
about the landfill statistics of everyday items, many I had never even thought of – toothbrushes for
example. It had never occurred to me wonder where they went or how they broke down (or didn’t
break down!!). Once I became aware of it I started researching, and was horrified about not just the
statistics, but my personal involvement. I decided that day that I would change my habits.

To begin I started a year long challenge (which turned out to be much longer), to not buy anything new that would not completely biodegrade. I started making my own deoderants/shampoo/moisturiser and repurposed items I already had. I shopped secondhand on the few occasions when all other efforts  to get what was needed were exhausted. It really changed my thinking about what we really ‘need’ in life. Still to this day I do not enjoy ‘shopping’ like I used to. It has a whole new meaning to it when you know the lifecycle and impact all the ‘new things’ have on the planet.

From the challenge it was a natural progression to include my business. My ultimate goal is for both home and business life to be zero waste. Of course that is difficult with the unknown in every piece of furniture when you start pulling it apart. But I do my best to ensure that as many items I come across as possible are reused or recycled.

  •  Be conscious of what you purchase.
  • Start the choice before its in your home as there are many ways to create better choices.
  • Treat everything with respect – whether its a $20 appliance or $2000 appliance, if its in your home already, make it last as long as possible.
  • Before throwing away when things break, think about what else it can be used for.
  • When you force yourself to think creatively, it’s incredible how ingenious our minds are!
  • Check out good opshops for old furniture.
  • Second hand stores in the country seem to have lots of treasures!
  • Don’t be afraid to try a restoration – It is not always easy, so you need some persistence but there is a wealth of knowledge on YouTube and upholstery hobby facebook groups that will help you along
    the way.
  • Focus on just one step at a time and reach out for help if needed. You will be so incredibly proud of your creation if you take the time to upcycle.

Kerri’s biggest challenge setting up and running the business is wearing 100 hats – being the upholsterer, customer service agent, marketer, social media guru, book keeper, networker, creator etc. “I have recently learned what is important for me to do and what is ok to ask for help with. It’s hard to know at the start but I have an amazingly supportive team around me that help when I get off track (ie concentrating solely on one thing when I need to focus some attention elsewhere). It’s still very much a learning curve – but hopefully that learning curve continues forever as you can never know everything” she says.
uphlKerri has had some incredible feedback since stepping out of her comfort zone to showcase her personal designs in the Upholstery Art Collection. The comments are usually along the lines of how creative and unique they are. She says it really is humbling hearing every comment and makes her very grateful to be supported and appreciated by so many. A favourite piece of work would have to be her first Upholstery Art piece – Numero Uno. This to her represents finally stepping out of her comfort zone and having belief in herself as a designer. “I had had this idea in my head for years before I made the the conscious effort to make it happen. The backdrop is our farm which I love so much, so it brings much happiness looking at this photo” says Kerri. You can Kerri and her work here

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