ARTIST OF THE MONTH: NICKI TARR AND EMILY BEAUMONT
1. How long have you been at Phoenix?
“Just over a year! I love our studio – it’s big and light and has given me the space to work in a much more focussed way” – Nicki
“We are relatively new, joining in April 2015 and feel very lucky to be here” – Emily
2. What are you working on at the moment?
“I have just finished working on a commission – a pair of antique French tub chairs which were a challenging shape to achieve particularly in velvet which doesn’t stretch much!” – Nicki
“At the moment I am working on a classic Howard Keith Encore chair, it’s only small but has a lovely shaped back and legs which make it stand out from the rest” – Emily
3. Which media do you like to use?
“I’m really passionate about traditional upholstery which involves using natural materials like hessian, linen, coir and hair to hand-build the stuffing and shape of a chair. People often think upholstery is just about applying a piece of fabric, but it’s so much more than this. It’s the insides that fascinate me. And when you strip an old chair it often reveals a hidden history, from layers of old fabric to old coins and receipts – even a darned silk stocking from the 1940’s” – Nicki
“We are both traditional and modern upholsterers so work with a huge range of materials from foam to horsehair, linen scrim to nylon cord and also have a huge selection tools to manipulate all these materials into place! Staple guns, hammers, ripping chisels, mallets, buttoning needles, slipping needles, a selection of scissors, sewing machines, buttoning machines, compressors, rulers, chalk, tacks, nails, glue – the list goes on!” – Emily
4. Which other artists do you admire?
“I was lucky enough to be working at the Science Museum on the Challenge of Materials exhibition in 1997 and met Thomas Heatherwick, his brief was to produce an exhibit to show “everything, that anything can be made of”, the result was the Materials House which is incredible and really got me thinking about materials, their use, their limits and more importantly the amazing objects they can create. I also really admire the work of the Utility furniture designers and manufacturers during WWII, the early work of Parker Knoll and for design classics Eero Saarinen and Eileen Gray for not letting the very fact that she was a woman stand in her way. People who have influenced me in a variety of ways would include Jacques Louis David, Frida Kahlo, Alexander McQueen, David Bowie and current designer-maker Zoe Murphy” – Emily
5. What would you recommend to go see?
“The Dr Susan Weber Gallery at The V&A is wonderful. It looks at the last 600 years of furniture design and holds over 200 great pieces, including lots of chair classics. http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/f/furniture/ Also any work by Second Sitters – a movement of upholstery creatives who are tackling the boundaries that separate art and craft while highlighting upholstery as a relevant art and design tool and not just a trade. www.secondsitters.co.uk” – Nicki
“I love the Geffreye Museum in Hackney, the Design Museum and the Fashion and Textile Museums, more recently I have discovered the stunning De La Warr in Bexhill. But one of the finest things I ever saw was The Sultan’s Elephant street art by Royal De Luxe in London 2006, they still perform around the world and are definitely worth a visit if your paths ever cross” – Emily
6. And finally, is there a piece of work you’re particularly proud of?
“A utility (war time furniture) rocking chair with great bentwood arms. It was designed as a functional chair but it has a beautiful shape that you can interpret in different ways. I love the continuous curve of the seat and back on this one.” – Nicki
“I’m very proud of beginning a new career in my forties after a lot of self-doubt and after six years part-time at London Metropolitan University achieving a Distinction in the AMUSF accredited Diploma for Modern and Traditional Upholstery. As single pieces I’m very proud of my modern Parker Knoll Statesman chair and my House of Hackney armchair built from the frame up using entirely traditional methods and materials.” – Emily
Take a look at the Artist of the Month archive here and make sure to check back next month to see who’s featured!