All About Us
Meet the Mary's Chairs Team
Mary Cowdry qualified as a traditional upholsterer in 2014 and set up Mary's Chairs.
From a young age she was fascinated with fabric, colour, design and loves to create personalised presents for her family and friends.
Her hobby has now become her passion and she is in the process of building her dream workshop where upholstery, sewing, rug making and all aspects of fabric creativity can happen under one roof. "Making new friends and sharing the joy of creating and learning new skills is my greatest pleasure. She loves to challenge herself and discover the endless world of fabric and design.
Christine assists part-time at Mary's Chairs alongside her career as a Landscape Architect. Christine qualified in 2016 from the City of Oxford College attaining a distiction in the AMUSF level 2 &3 (Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers).
She too has had a lifetime of creating and her talents stretch far and wide - patchwork, bag making, lampshades, pottery and beautiful sewing.
Kylie has always loved being creative and discovered the joy of upholstery two years ago as a student of Marys. She is now working on her Upholstery Diploma at the British School of Upholstered Furniture in Nettlebed and works for Mary's Chairs part-time as our Workshop Assistant.
The beginings of Mary's Chairs
By Mary Cowdry
The story of my chair.
My first encounter with upholstery started in 2009. We were about to buy a new house, and in the garage was a 1930s rocking chair covered in a brown corduroy with palm leaf design. I fell in love with the chair and visualised it resplendent in a new cover; the curved wooden arms cleaned and polished, the rocking mechanism oiled and smooth.
I didn't have the first idea how to go about the transformation; I had experience of curtain and cushion making but had no experience of upholstery. The chair was so full of promise, I was afraid of making a botched attempt at re-covering it; I knew nothing of upholstery fabrics, stuffing materials or the tools required.
The chair remained in the garage.
I bought a basic set of upholstery tools and set about the re-covering of our dining room chairs. It didn't take long for me to realise that there was more to upholstery than fabric and staples.
The chair remained in the garage.
Time passed and we were moving again, the chair was discovered among all the other garage occupants gathered over the past four years and I was reminded of my desire and failure to do anything about it’s renovation.
I resolved to act; I found an evening upholstery group held in a village hall and took the chair along once a week to start the restoration process. I soon learned that I loved upholstery, but also discovered that I wanted a more in-depth learning experience. I wanted to totally immerse myself in the process.
So, in March 2014 I started my first week at the Traditional Upholstery Workshop. I discovered within the first couple of days that I wanted this to be more than a hobby and signed up to the Business diploma course. I set up a modest workshop and spent most of 2014 training and working on small commissions. In 2015 my business had been running for a year, and I was moving to the Sylva Wood Centre into my new larger workshop. The Wood Centre had just recently opened and we were about to take part in the Oxford ArtWeeks festival.
I needed something to exhibit, and decided it was time to finish my chair. I had bought some beautiful but what then seemed hideously expensive fabric (not quite so hideous now I discover) to cover my chair with and I decided it was time to finally commit. I returned to the Traditional Upholstery Workshop for a further weeks training and set about completing my chair.
The finished article was displayed and I received many approving comments especially regarding the stunning Melin Tregwynt Mondo fabric.
My chair represents many things to me: a past I want to preserve, a quality that is enchanting and the joy of discovering a craft and tradition that brings me such joy.
It now has pride of place next to my fireplace and my heart lifts whenever I sit in it.
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Sylva Foundation Wood Centre,
Little Wittenham Road,