Words by Pat Dew
Lucy Renshaw runs her upholstery, up-cycling and interior design workshops from the vast kitchen of the 17th Century farmhouse that she is renovating with her partner – the sort of wonderful old place that keeps the creative spirits fully charged. After driving through the Derbyshire countryside, abundant with autumn colour at the time of my visit, students are given a warm and friendly welcome.
Unlike many ‘how to’ workshops Lucy encourages her students to each bring along a piece of furniture to re-upholster or upcycle so everyone may be working on very different projects. In the course of a single session chairs might be re-covered, cushions made with buttons and piped edges, seats re-upholstered and stools decorated. Lucy keeps the student numbers low, enabling her to offer tuition and advice to each participant across a wide range of skills. This is how Lucy loves to teach; we all benefit from the variety of projects ‘on the go’ whilst Lucy demonstrates, guides and offers inspiration, showing an intuitive sense for colour and texture.
After our friendly introductions, everyone gets busy with their own project and the sounds of scissors, sewing machines and staple guns lend a background hum to the shared industry. I’d recently been reading about the increasing numbers of men participating in craft workshops who are very keen to learn new, hands-on skills. Lucy agrees that furniture restoration and upholstery, which include such a wide range of varying techniques, are popular with men and women alike.
Lucy gained a Master’s degree in mixed textiles from the Royal College of Art and loves to use her design skills to enhance the lived–in space, not just for her own family but for everyone who comes to learn with her. Her style is much influenced by her years of living in the Caribbean and South and Central America. She still has close ties with the British Virgin Islands and is raising money to help restore the islands after the devastation of Hurricane Irma.
Author of the book “Mixed Media and Found Materials”, and with work featured in many of the best design publications, Lucy is very generous with her tips on how to achieve professional results; where to buy bargain products, big recycling depots and all sorts of information is happily written down for her students to take home. In fact, I’d say the flavour of the day is generosity – from the hot drinks and delicious home-made cakes, the tasty lunch and, most of all, the happily shared knowledge and creative inspiration.
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