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Second Sitters


The National Centre for Craft & Design

Saturday 27 January - Sunday 15 April, free


This winter, Second Sitters bring their radical touring exhibition, Upholstery: Evolution to Revolution, to the National Centre for Craft & Design. The show is a fascinating journey through the history of upholstery in the UK, featuring works that challenge the traditional, preconceived role of the upholsterer, exploring the craft in contemporary, unusual and unexpected ways. The exhibition is generously supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

The show maps the changes and developments within the craft since it was formalised as a ‘trade’ almost 700 years ago and includes techniques, materials and upholsterers stories. Works are multidisciplinary; from furniture and photography, to film, tackling activism, social commentary, materiality and throwaway culture. Humour from The Guerrilla Upholsterer, Miss Pokeno’s thought provoking video work and Electra Read-Dagg with her fantastical and imposing ‘Inca Chair’ are just three big names contributing to a show that explodes expectations.

An open call for submissions from UK based upholsterers has led to the inclusion of a number of innovative new pieces for the show at NCCD, including a footstool by Vanessa Butt. The work is made from an antique farm tool (harrow) upholstered using ‘transparent’ materials and takes inspiration from Vanessa’s experiences of growing up on a family farm in Lincolnshire. The piece links together her agricultural roots and skills as an upholsterer.

Visitors will also be able to view exquisite publications on the history of the upholstery trade that are being generously lent by Bishopsgate Institute, home to extensive materials about the various trades of London since the Nineteenth Century. 

The exhibition is conceived and curated by Hannah Stanton and Jude Dennis, both practising upholsterers who come together as Second Sitters to promote independent UK and international upholsterers through publications, exhibitions, collaboration and education days. 

A lively programme of events and activities includes The Memory Chair; a travelling artwork providing a practical way for visitors to embrace the notion of ‘chairs’ as places of comfort and refuge, collecting our detritus and most treasured possessions. The piece expands over time, collecting the memories and secrets of those choosing to contribute, ‘posting’ their thoughts into its fabric.


Featured upholsterers include: Jude Dennis, Hannah Stanton, Polly Granville,

Miss Pokeno, Electra Read-Dagg, Mick Sheridan, The Guerrilla Upholsterer, Rachael South & Michael Brown, Alex Law, Vanessa Butt, Josie Ainscough, Sonia White / White Bespoke, Pia St. John, Bettina Langlois, Anita Vozic and Eleanor Bemand.

For more information and images:

Helen Bryan, Marketing Coordinator, Strategic Exhibitions: Mark Bowery, Marketing Assistant:

Bryony Windsor, Head of Exhibitions:


The National Centre for Craft & Design, Navigation Wharf, Carre Street, Sleaford, Lincs NG34 7TW

Open 7 days a week, 10am - 5pm

 E:  T: 01529 308710 / / @nationalcraft #nccd

Notes to Editors:


An exciting programme of activities and events accompanies the show:


  • Exhibition Private View, Thu 25 Jan from 6pm. Free, everyone welcome.

  • Opening Weekend events and activities. Sat 27/Sun 28 Jan.

Family activities


  • Story Sofa. Free, everyone welcome.  Help design an upholstery pattern inspired by our exhibition and when you’re done put your feet up and get cosy on our sofa to read or chat.


  • Feb Half Term Family Workshop. Upholstery Revolution. Tue 13 Feb, 10am - 2pm. Free, drop-in session, everyone welcome. Workshop inspired by the exhibition.

Adult Workshops & Courses


  • Drawing Exploration - Fabric & Furniture. Sat 3 Mar, 10am – 3pm. £30  16yrs+, paper and drawing tools provided. Led by drawing expert Martyn Blundell, experiment with different media to create new drawings inspired by the traditional and contemporary upholstery.


  • Footstool Upholstery Masterclass with Hannah Weston Smith. Sat 24 Mar & Sun 25 Mar, 10.30am - 3.30pm. £100, 18yrs+, materials included. This two-day masterclass will cover an introduction to upholstery, providing participants with the skills to create a charming footstool. 

  • Chair caning with Rachel South. Sun 15 Apr, 10.30am - 4.00pm. £49, 18yrs+, Suitable for beginners, practise frames to take away, materials and tools are provided. One day class teaching the traditional 6-way woven pattern to a professional standard.


  • Upholstery: A Comfortable Future?  Date Thurs 22 March, 10am-5pm. Symposium - A dynamic day of programmed events for the trade to get together promoting a free interchange of ideas around the future of the industry/craft.

1. Second Sitters is Hannah Stanton and Jude Dennis, both practising upholsterers who come together to promote independent UK and international upholsterers through publications, exhibitions, collaborative working and education days.

2. Bishopsgate Institute. For over 120 years, Bishopsgate Institute has been a home for ideas and debate, learning and enquiry and independent thought.  We offer courses, workshops, talks and tours in subjects as diverse as London history, feminism, languages, Ballroom dancing, film studies, photography and creative writing. Our historic library, special collections and archives cover a variety of topics which explore radical, social, labour, feminist and gay history in London. The Institute is an oasis in the middle of a frantic city which provides you with the rare chance to explore, escape, research or relax.

3. The National Centre for Craft and Design is world-class centre and resource dedicated to the celebration, support and promotion of national and international contemporary craft and design. The Centre aims to stimulate greater understanding of contemporary craft and design and provide enriching arts and cultural experiences for everyone through a dynamic programme of high-quality exhibitions, participatory learning, events and retail.

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