“I hope that I can inspire people to use traditional techniques in new ways. I don’t want the students to feel limited – that they have to do things the way they’ve always been done. I want them to discover new ways of replacing a covering or replacing upholstery such that the new becomes part of the design itself.”
American Matthew Nafranowicz is spending two weeks at Carl Malmsten Furniture Studies as “craftsman in residence”, a professional craftsman who spends time at the centre as teacher and expert. He sought his own education in Paris nearly 20 years ago, since upholstery is an art form that has as good as disappeared in the US.
“It is not appreciated, and few people work in the field. Paris has a much deeper tradition, and the education there is of extremely high quality, just as it is here. I fell in love with the profession in Paris.”
Matthew is famous within the industry, and many find inspiration from his unique technique. In contrast to many other practitioners, he does not attempt to conceal the handcraft of upholstery, which otherwise is often hidden under the fabric. Quite the opposite, in fact. His work shows the stitching clearly, and instead of padding the furniture with wadding and fabric to make it soft, he uses a thick layer of leather that is stitched in place.
“Upholsterers often use the traditional techniques only when they are working with historical furniture or reproductions. I try to use the same techniques also on other types of furniture.”
Students in the first year of the furniture upholstery programme will take part in, among other things, a workshop while Matthew Nafranowicz is here, during which they will work three days with their own productions, based on his philosophy.
“It’s really great that he’s here, since he does something that I’m really interested in. A lot of people don’t really know what upholsterers do. They think that it’s simply covering a piece of furniture, and don’t appreciate the impressive and beautiful work that lies under the fabric,” says Alexandra Bäckström, a student at Malmsten’s.
And the learning is mutual.
“Indeed! I’ve already learnt a great deal”, says Matthew Nafranowicz. “I studied in France, where the style of furniture is completely different. Here, I’m learning about Scandinavian furniture, for example, and how to work with it.”