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2013 Press Release

Second Sitters

Curated by Jude Dennis and Hannah Stanton

17 - 27 April 2013, The Parker Gallery at The Cass

Private View 18 April 6-9pm 


Second Sitters


Second Sitters, a new exhibition by Upholstery alumni of The Cass reveals that the traditional craft is increasingly attracting a new breed of more experimental artists and designer-makers.


The exhibition, at the Parker Gallery on Commercial Road from the 17th to 27th April, show-cases aspects of the craft including upholstery as textile design, as sculpture, frame making and manipulation. It also features collaborative pieces with other artists. Exhibited works show a depth of influence from a much broader base than just upholstery. 


The exhibition reveals changes in the range and type of artefact created in the Cass upholstery studios, attributable in part to shifts in the demographic of upholstery students in recent years. 


Where once the upholsterer was part of the process, today they play a part in the process as a whole. The traditional skills are being kept alive, but combined with a more design orientated student base the use of materials has changed. There is an emergence of the Designer Maker – those who engage with the materials and have a deeper understanding of its extended possibilities. The materials become the starting point of a design journey. 


Second Sitters was conceived after many discussions between Hannah and Jude - largely revolving around the definition of their work. ‘Craft’- is it a dirty word? Are we designers? Are we designer-makers? Artists? This exhibition explores and challenges those boundaries.

Exhibiting artists


Celebrating and subverting traditional skills, Jude Dennis work is both artistic and functional. The work takes a playful look at institutionalisation  and what goes on when the lights go out... 


Hannah Stanton reworks the structure of the chair. Recreating traditionally hidden elements using unexpected materials such as brass and gold. The upholstery works with the structure to highlight the best of both. 


A specialist in iron back chairs, Debbie Lowndes recent work shows an elegance and subtlety influenced by Alexander McQueen. Feathers are hand stitched to the back of each chair to contrast with the intense tautness of the upholstery. Debbie is founder of The London Chair Collective.


India Carpenter has a background in Fine Art and Textiles and has always been interested in ‘process’. Her textiles are specifically designed and made in response to the individual form of each chair.  


The Boudoir chair by Julia Surnina is a collaboration with the sculptor Yasemen Hussein. Hard copper feathers are woven through soft upholstery making at once a sculpture and a functional piece of furniture. Julia is founder of Artel House in Islington.


Rachael South has a contemporary approach to her family craft of caning. Her chairs incorporate ribbon, leather and glow in the dark lacing. Rachael has a passion for constructed textiles. Her work here is inspired by projects with weavers in India and Guatemala.


Sandra Ruiz Calvo plays with the construction of upholstery. Her piece takes inspiration from the interior of a classic car.  She has redesigned the upholstery to completely transform the original image of the chair.


Tracy Fox takes inspiration from the furniture itself. She prints over original designs and further embellishes using hand stitched embroidery to create unique pieces. 


Pia St John studied Graphic design in America and Fine Art at Central St Martins College of Art and Design before training to be an upholsterer. Her work incorporates traditional upholstery materials and techniques, making new and unexpected forms. 



Jude Dennis has spent over 15 years in the art departments of film, theatre, fashion and events. Her passion for making and learning new skills brought her to The Cass where she studied Traditional and Modern Upholstery. She now works there, part time, as the upholstery technician. As well as producing her own work, Jude takes on bespoke high profile commission pieces, both commercial and private. Her forward thinking approach to upholstery design, has won her many awards. Her work has been featured in fashion and interior design publications. 


Hannah Stanton is a graphic designer turned upholsterer. Having studied at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, she spent several years working in web design, TV and publishing. Her lifelong obsessions with design, interiors and traditional craft techniques led her to re-train as an upholsterer and subsequently gain awards in the field. Hannah is currently working on her own collection of furniture exploring new ways of combining materials and techniques. She is author of Contemporary Upholstery in the UK, and Style, Stitch, Staple in the US.


Exhibition Details



The Parker Gallery

The Cass

41-71 Commercial Road


E1 1LA


Venue for Talks 


Parker collection room (next door to gallery)

Show Dates

17 - 27 April 2013 

Wednesday – Friday 11am - 6pm

Saturday 20 April and 27 April 12am - 4pm


Private View Thursday 18 April, 6 – 9pm


For further information please contact


Jude and Hannah




Notes To editors:


The Cass


The Parker Collection


The exhibition takes place in the Parker Gallery next to the Frederick Parker Collection. The Frederick Parker Foundation is a registered charity whose aim is to maintain a collection of chairs for students to study at close hand their history, development, design, construction and restoration. The Foundation seeks to promote and encourage the study of furniture history and in particular the design and development of British chairs.

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