Upholstery gone guerrilla

Making the world a more comfortable place—one bus-stop cushion at a time.

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Last year, Mick Sheridan was passing by a local bus stop and happened to see an older lady sitting on an undignified, hard seat. “I’ll make her a cushion,” he thought. So he did. “I put the cushion in the bus stop and it made me laugh, it also made anyone I told about it laugh,” Sheridan says. And guerrilla upholstery was born.

Conventional start

Sheridan runs The Last Gallery Workshops in Llangadog, Wales. He stays busy upholstering traditional furniture, doing repairs and working on whatever people bring into the shop. But upholstery wasn’t Sheridan’s original career path.

After attending university, he worked in offices in London before deciding he’d had enough. “I bought a place in Wales with a workshop attached, took a traditional upholstery course and started working for friends and on projects for sale,” he says.

He’d been introduced to the trade much earlier, though. “My dad was a trimmer in the car industry and worked for Vanden Plas and Aston Martin,” Sheridan says. “He upholstered the ejector seat in the James Bond Aston Martin, no less!”

Going guerrilla

After making that first bus-stop cushion, Sheridan set out on a new mission. Bringing upholstery to public spaces and giving travelers a more comfortable place to sit. “There are lots of seat-less bus stops in my area where old ladies have to stand up,” he says. “I am making it my business to rectify this.”

The idea also gave Sheridan a use for all the waste created in his shop. “Stripping a chair creates at least one bin bag of waste, so I had all this stripped fabric, hessian, waste stuffing and offcuts that were going to landfill,” he says. “Then I was taking my rubbish to the dump one day when I saw a perfect dining chair in a dumpster. I took it home and covered it in some waste fabric and placed it in a bus stop. When I photographed it and put it on Facebook, it got shared with hundreds of people.”

Sheridan says he can’t take credit for the name. A journalist for The Independent aligned Sheridan’s work to guerrilla gardening, a movement where gardeners take over abandoned or unclaimed areas.

So far, the name and mission has stuck. Sheridan’s guerrilla chairs and cushions have been placed in bus stops, train stations and even bird hides all around Wales. And he’s not stopping there. Plans are in the works for bed-sized cushions to be placed in mountain rescue shelters.

Extra details

For a little extra interest, every project gets a tag that reads, “Take the weight off your feet.” Just an old-fashioned British invitation to sit down, Sheridan says, but it also serves as a guerrilla marketing tactic. On the back, you’ll find a link to his shop’s website.

Take a closer look at any of the chairs and you might find a hidden surprise—toy figures screwed onto chair legs. “I have a collection of vintage figures and this seems like a good use for them,” Sheridan says. “The first one I used was a mouse in deference to Robert Thompson, the mouse man furniture maker, and I suppose it just grew from there.”

Everyday comfort

If Sheridan had to pick favorites, one would be a bus-stop cushion near his home. While it has been pulled off a couple of times, someone has always tied it back on and straightened it up.

“I’ve seen many people sitting on it, laying on it and photographing it, which means it’s doing its job.”

Mara Whitten is a freelance writer based in St. Paul, Minn.

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