Artisans Stories

In Conversation With Furniture Restorer Julia Walton | Artisans Stories

In Conversation With Furniture Restorer Julia Walton | Artisans Stories

Have you ever visited a beautiful old house and as you wandered around, pondered how the furniture can be hundreds of years old and still look like new?

Julia Walton is one of the people behind the scenes, using her unique set of skills to bring precious furniture and a whole range of antiquities back to life. If you’ve ever watched the BBC’s ‘The Repair Shop’ you’ll have some idea of what Julia’s job involves, but unlike the edited TV show, there is a lot more involved in being a craftsperson than just the craft itself.

“I love my job but I'm definitely more of a crafts person than a sales person and often wish I had someone else to deligate the "business" side of the business to. Working on some objects can be really tricky but often I'm at my happiest when I'm working through a puzzle of a restoration job. Having things come together and making a beautiful object whole or function again is always a real reward.”

Julia has “always loved arts and crafts”, and once she had left school, studied Fine Art, completing her MA in London, where she went on to work in security in a big art gallery.

“It was great to spend so much time with amazing art works but after a while that didn't make up for the lack of creativity the job required. My partner was studying Conservation at London Metropolitan University and I was jealous of how fun her course looked! I enrolled in a Furniture Restoration course and have never looked back!”

Although it didn’t provide Julia with the creative outlet that she needed, spending time in the art world enriched Julia’s perspective, allowing her to see how furniture fits within the world of interiors.

“It’s really easy to separate the "art" and "craft"” Julia explains “but I think a foundation in both allows you to really appreciate the environments we live in and furniture as pieces of art rather than just functional objects.”

Again, like The Repair Shop’s antiques and furniture, with their surprisingly emotive stories, the pieces of art Julia repairs carry sentimental value and very personal stories.

“Recently I've had a few very different storage trunks come in and they've all had very personal stories attached to them. There was a simple plywood case that had been used by a client’s mother when she left home to go to nursing school. Another metal trunk had belonged to a client’s father and was used when he was doing his National Service.”

Every one of Julia’s projects is different and requires unique thoughtfulness and attention.

“Although every project is different, my process always starts with a conversation with the client. As most of the objects I work on are functioning pieces of furniture, there are considerations of how the object will be used. I always take into account how far and what direction to take the restorations.

I try to always take a good set of photos when pieces come into the workshop (not just for social media). Having a clear record of the damage that a piece comes into the workshop is important and really helps with long, complicated restorations, to help to track its progress.”

artisan craft

Julia’s workshop, where she spends much of her time, is important to her practice.

“One 'nerdy' thing I had always dreamt of was having a tool wall, so that was the first thing I set up when I got my own workshop. I'm not the messiest worker but definitely not the tidiest either and knowing that tools have a place and that I can always find them, saves time not having to search for lost tools. I'm up on the third floor in an old carpet mill, the down side being it can get pretty chilly in the winter. A definite upside is that the large windows give wonderful light.”

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Julia shared her essentials for a good working environment:

“I'm a great fan of podcasts and audio books. The nature of the work allows me to happily absorb myself in a project as well as a good story for hours.”

Despite the challenges of being a modern day craftsperson, the cold and admin to name a few, Julia gives a wonderful insight into the mindful benefits of craft - getting lost in the moment.

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