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Arts

The Liberty Chair on display at Blackwell

Newly conserved Arts & Crafts gem on display for the first time
Kate Gill stabilising top cover of the Liberty Chair © Kate Gill

A century old Arts & Crafts chair once sold at iconic Liberty & Co of London has gone on display at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House.

The magnificent Liberty chair, manufactured around 1900, is a significant new acquisition generously donated to Blackwell from a private collection.

The chair’s fabric was designed by the Silver Studio, one of the most influential textile design studios in Britain between 1880 until the mid-twentieth century.

Probably designed by Harry Napper, the piece retains its original Liberty & Co upholstery.

When Blackwell received the chair in 2017 it was in need of careful conservation to the fabric and underlying structure to enable it to go on display.

Specialist textile and upholstery conservator Kate Gill was brought in to assess the condition of the chair and plan a five-week conservation strategy.

Liberating History: Conserving the Liberty Chair is an exhibition which runs until 9 June at Blackwell. It looks at painstaking processes behind its conservation. After 9 June, the chair will then go on permanent display in one of the downstairs rooms at Blackwell.

Kate Gill said: “I’ve been a practising conservator for many years. Occasionally you come across something that’s really quite special. When I realised the Liberty chair had so much of its original features I got very excited and wanted to work on it.

“I had to devise techniques to give the chair the support it needed without disturbing the original. It was very challenging – at times it was a bit like keyhole surgery.

“My aim was to preserve what had survived, rebuild the seat using conservation techniques and then make the chair stable enough to go on open display.

“I’m very pleased with outcome. It is a beautiful Arts & Crafts chair and it fits in so perfectly at Blackwell.”

Blackwell curator, Chelsea Eves, said: “This chair is beautiful and is a major acquisition for Lakeland Arts. It is remarkable for a piece of this age to retain its original upholstery.

“When we received the chair it was in need of essential conservation work. We were delighted to work with Kate who has done a magnificent job to ensure that the chair can be enjoyed by visitors to Blackwell for generations to come.”

More information about the Liberty Chair here.

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