The Next Generation

21 Sep

I spent a lovely Friday afternoon recently with upholsterer (there must be a better name for this; Stuffing Stylist? Staple-gun Artist?  I’ll keep thinking) Emily Coleman and her mentor, Michael Thurman.  Emily had posted a few things on the Market and I was intrigued with her work, so I wrangled an invitation to visit.

Emily at work

Emily at work.

Michael has known Emily since she was born.  Emily’s mother, Charyl Coleman of CC Designs is an Austin interior designer who has worked with Michael as her upholsterer for over twenty years.

Emily started UT as an art student, but through a series of events ended up leaving school after a year or two.  She loved art, but wasn’t sure classes were the best way to express herself.  As she was casting about for a more concrete direction, she learned through her mother that another young woman was apprenticing for Michael. Emily flew in to a jealous rage.  Well, ok, not really. But she did ask if she could become an apprentice too.

Inspiration pile

The Inspiration Pile

The pair spends most days out in Michael’s studio in Garfield.  For a tactile, creative and slightly messy person like myself, it was heaven.  I loved the “inspiration pile” of found objects, fabric and stuffing that filled about a quarter of the room. Several of the pieces in the pile were acquired when Michael simply knocked on the door of a strange house and asked to buy the dilapidated chair sitting on the front porch. If Michael had a different calling, he may have been one of those guys with 20 rescue dogs running around. Instead he rescues furniture.

There were some great stories about the things found in furniture he’s re-doing: diamond jewelry, revealing photos of the clients (awkward…), and once even a letter describing the journey the piece had taken from Italy to Galveston and then on to Chicago.

While Michael acts as “elder statesman”, he says that Emily brings the artist’s eye to their projects, finding the perfect fabric to enhance each piece and adding unique touches that finish it off perfectly. Take this amazing Duncan-Phyffe sofa that she totally rejuvenated with the bold floral – no beige brocade here.

Duncan-Phyffe sofa

Bam! That’s all I have to say.

It’s great to see a new generation taking on a traditional craft.  See some of thier work on Red Chair Market below and on Emily’s blog.

1920’s Sofa

Refinished Aluminum Chair 

Tub Chair

Cowboy Chair 

Stay tuned for advice from the pair on picking the right piece for refinishing (follow our blog so you don’t miss it!).

P.S. A few fun facts about Michael:

  • He created a prop for the remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre where the actor’s legs could down in to a chair so they looked like they had been cut off.
  • He was involved in two remodels of the Driskill Hotel
  • He made slipcovers for Matthew McConaughey’s van

2 Responses to “The Next Generation”


  1. Red Chair Market | MLE - September 23, 2012

    […] She came out to my shop, talked to me and my mentor, and wrote a nice piece about us on her blog. Check it out! And while you’re at it check out Red Chair Market’s site as well, it’s pretty […]

  2. The Throne | MLE - September 27, 2012

    […] was a little thin it allows the upholstery to last longer as well. The first photo was taken for Red Chair Market’s blog, and shows me applying the burlap to the […]

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