“I’ve considered working in monochrome, but colour is inescapable for me,” says printmaker and textile artist Maxine Sutton, whose vibrant, jostling abstract forms are rendered in an appealing tactile combination of screen printing and embroidery. From her studio on the Kent coast, wall hangings and prints on paper are approached in a painterly fashion – a process that stays the same when she adds a chair to the mix, producing bespoke handprinted and embellished panels to re-upholster and entirely reinvent pre-exisiting pieces of furniture.
“The last private commission I did was a vintage Parker Knoll armchair and footstool for a London-based couple with backgrounds in law and finance who are also interested in the arts, crafts and collecting,” says Sutton. “They had seen my work previously and were waiting to find the right piece for me to work on for them. We discussed colour and other pieces they liked, but they were very open and fully embraced the process. I don’t take commissions where the brief would be too prescriptive. The way I work on fabrics is much like a painting, with very little planning – so I don’t give clients sketches or ‘designs’ beforehand. It’s important they know my work and are able to trust me.”
But that’s not to say the clients aren’t involved in the process. They decide on a colour scheme and an approach with Sutton – via email, telephone or a studio visit – before colours are mixed and fabric samples, including any embroidery, are produced and posted to the clients. “Ideally I like to have the piece with me in the studio, so I can respond to its form directly,” explains Sutton, who produced the Blues chair for her erstwhile showroom “because I loved the shape and wanted to do something with it.” The result is a striking yet fully functional button-backed chair, its abstract markings sleekly fitting the form.
A fully upholstered chair starts from £1,700 – not including the chair – and typically takes around three months from initial enquiry to delivery of the finished work. Sutton can source furniture pieces and also have them refurbished, if necessary, by the upholsterer she collaborates with. Private commissions have taken a bit of a back seat in the past year, admits Sutton, who has been focused more on the fine-art side of her practice, but it’s an area she’s keen to explore further. “I’d love to produce some bigger wall pieces for a public space – like a library or a hotel – somewhere with high ceilings. But the best commissions are the ones where the client says: ‘I love what you do – so go ahead!’”