It’s a baking hot day standing in the Parker Knoll Nottinghamshire factory as I watch Daniel, an Apprentice, artfully stretching William Morris fabric round my Penshurst chair. There was only 51 years worth of dust, for Apprentice Dean to strip off the hand carved wooden frame too. And stuck to the chair’s wing is the original factory label stamped 1964. A year of Beatles mania, the first issue of The Sun and Churchill’s retirement from the House of Commons. Parker Knoll’s heritage is a slice of social history, as well as furniture design.
I’d come to Parker Knoll HQ to meet the young apprentices I challenged, to give my vintage chair a new lease of life, and see them reupholstering the final touches. What an amazing journey for my chair, returned to its birthplace, and reupholstered by young talent coming up in the business. It takes three levels and roughly two years for an apprentice to complete their training under the watchful eye of their teacher Kev, a lifetime upholsterer. It’s physical and skilled work and the Apprentices are learning a trade of real craftsmanship. They take great pride in making furniture, beginning to end.
The Factory and Design & Development team is an impressively modern set up. For all the huge technological advances, the 2017 Penshurst pattern still fitted my 1964 model, down to millimetres. There’s something refreshingly comforting in that, I think.
Never has craftsmanship seemed more relevant and appealing in this digital age. The more automated life becomes, the more we seek out traditional skills and the hand made. There was only ever going to be one choice of fabric for my chair, it had to be Willow Bough x William Morris, the Father of Arts and Crafts. Thanks to the PK Apprentices, I’m looking forward to enjoying the next chapter of my Parker Knoll armchair’s life.