By: Nicholas Stawinski
The neighborhood my father grew up in was located near several of the major automotive plants in Warren, Michigan, just outside of Detroit. It was a working class neighborhood. Many of the neighbors worked at the plants or at jobs connected to the auto industry. Today, you can still drive down Mound Road and see the plants—but many have closed. The industry has moved on to “21st Century Manufacturing,” they say. What is left are the neighborhoods adjacent to those factories: small, post-war, single-family houses like the one my grandparents raised four boys in, the one my grandmother still lives in today. This house was also where they made their living, the basement used as the workspace for the upholstery business.
I have recreated such a house from memory, rendering it in upholstery, the material and processes of my family’s trade. In this way—swathed in fabric and propped up on legs— I present the house, itself, as a piece a piece of furniture. Accompanying it are objects one finds in any house: a fridge, a radiator, a water heater. They are commonplace and utilitarian, lacking the personal touch and feel that a piece of furniture has. But by transposing these objects in upholstery, the industrial edge is softened and they become specific and personal, even ornamental.
The furniture form is a placeholder for memories of the work ethic and daily grind of a blue-collar town. The objects sitting atop the platforms weigh down the soft, upholstered surface leaving their impression, just as industry leaves its impression on the community. This work is about the documentation of the shared stories, the architecture of the post-war industrial suburban sprawl, and the idea of furniture.