The Cape of Good Upholstery

Deon Viljoen is probably the World’s leading expert on Cape-Dutch Visual History and its history of domestic design. Deon is also interested in local and current Design and in November 2010 he staged an exhibition at the WhatiftheWorld gallery in Woodstock. ‘Manet is too Tight to Mention‘ was a mixed salad of beautiful old-as-18th-C pieces and pieces made by local and international designers in the months up to the exhibition. It received positive praise from local critics for its fresh-take on ‘old’ antiques as well as the exposure it gave to new designers. The juxtapositioning of old and new pieces lent a new electricity to the beautiful forms and asked the viewers to reconsider them through new lenses.

Deon approached me to find a solution to upholstering a fabulous set of 8 Cape Stinkwood Dining Chairs, circa 1810. Georgian English in taste, but made in the Cape – they are a wonderful example of a Cape interpretation of an English style which had just reached its Zenith. About this same time, a very wonderful women would take me and her golden hounds walking in the woods above the suburb of Oranjezicht. Having grown up on them, her knowledge of the woods was intimate and she showed me a magical little glade where there lies a stone ruin. On either side of this forlorn-looking structure run two streams which are interrupted by small ponds. It was in these coarse-grained pool beds that I found pieces of English blue and white porcelain – obviously thrown out with fellow fractured shards after a domestic mishap.

The porcelain pattern is English and thus shared a similar tale to the chairs. Both their design origins were English, and both ended up in (the) Cape wood(s).

We decided to embroider four different porcelain shards on the set’s stuff-over seats in a humble, off-white cotton. Some lie on the chairs’ curves like Dali’s melting clocks, whilst others are attached to the seats like lost limpets. The effect is quite fun.

for images of this fantastic exhibition click here:


Photograph by Hayden Phipps - with kind permission from the WhatiftheWorld gallery

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See the Chairs at Deon Viljoen’s open house show – at Endhuis. Details on his website –


One Response to The Cape of Good Upholstery

  1. manina says:

    what a magical adaptation of treasures of design in blue and white…lost and cast away, to be found again and enjoyed and adapted into such unique beautiful renderings……stunning !!! ……..

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