Tim the Stripper

The End of an Era at Ella Jenkins Designs

Well this week saw an end of an era at EJD HQ. My glamorous assistant Tim, (also known as Tim the Stripper) put down his hammer and tack lifter for the last time and has gone off to pastures new in Norfolk. Tim has worked (ahem, read as put up with me) for the last 3 years and 8 months. And yes, I agree, the man deserves a medal! A big fat shiny one.

Back in early November 2018 I accosted him in our Local – The Willoughby Arms and asked him to help me out during the stupidly busy run up to Christmas. Having just been made redundant from Cummins in Stamford with 35 + years in various engineering environments, he fancied doing something a bit different, but not sure what. Being a really nice chap he offered to help me out.

Tim soon got bitten by the upholstery bug! Firstly, he loved the variety. No two chairs are ever the same and so every day we were working on something completely different. As I specialise in vintage and antique furniture, Tim became fascinated by the history of the chairs and the difference in styles between Georgian and Victorian furniture. He appreciated the quality of workmanship that went into making the frame, which is in stark contrast to today’s modern furniture that appears to be constructed from pallet wood, cardboard and big staples. Tim loved the little glimpses into past lives from the old fabrics used previously and the little treasures that you find down the sides of chairs. This always made us laugh, as on the first day I told him Tim he could keep anything he found. Which so far, is about 25p in legal tender and lots and lots of hair clips, slides and bobbles. Tim doesn’t have very much hair.

Tim’s typical treasure finds

We soon settled into a comfortable working routine. I love to listen to Radio 4. Tim is more of a Smooth Radio or Mowtown type of chap. He says he has learnt so much from listening to Woman’s Hour – mostly about the female anatomy and the menopause, but he is sure the information will come in useful some day.

I jokingly nicknamed him ‘Tim the Stripper’ as a big part of his job was what we call ‘stripping out’ when you remove the old fabric and stuffing. For some reason it caught on. It was not unusual for Tim to wander into a local pub and someone would wander up to him and say ‘Are you Tim the Stripper?’ Other people at the bar would do a bit of a double take and Tim would grin and answer proudly ‘yes I am’. Luckily his wife Linda found this amusing too. I do have to mention, some of my lady clients did get a little bit excited when I mentioned Tim the Stripper and I had to gently let them know that he wasn’t quite the Diet Coke advert they were maybe expecting.

Some of my client’s waiting in anticipation for Tim the Stripper

Over the years we have become good friends. We have been through a lot together good times and bad, there has been lots of laughter and the odd few tears. The pandemic had a huge impact of my business, in particular the first lockdown was very difficult. There were times when it wasn’t possible to both be working at the same time in my the workshop, but we got through it. We often chatted away putting the world to rights, initially laughing at the antics of Trump, Putin and Boris commentating on the ensuing pantomimes. There is a difference of opinion on Sir Kier Starmer but time will tell who is right or wrong. (That will be me, obviously).

Tim’s engineering skills surprisingly transferred well into the world of upholstery. Tim has repaired all sorts of issues with chair frames, wonky legs, wobbly arms, unstable bottoms that I often thought were beyond help. He has a beady eye for alignment and there has been a number of times he has quietly said to me ‘I think you are about 5mm out there Ella’. I would disbelievingly reach for the tape measure only to find out, yep, he was right. He can instantly pattern match the most difficult fabric designs – the ones I have been looking at for 10 minutes rapidly developing a migraine in the process. His attention to detail is amazing, which is why I rapidly promoted him to Head of Quality Control, in the safe knowledge that no chair would leave the workshop that hadn’t been carefully checked against the highest standards by Eagle Eye Stephenson.

Nightmare repairs are Tim’s speciality!

Being a perfectionist he now assesses the upholstery (especially in alcoholic establishments) taking photos of the worst .pattern matches ever and examples of how not to do upholstery, that one day I will blog about. Tim and I share upholstery OCD and are proud of it.

So I am very much going to miss my buddy Tim. Things just won’t be the same without him. For a start I won’t have a clue what day it is as often I only knew it was Tuesday/Wednesday because Tim was in the workshop.

He has been an absolute trooper and uncomplainingly tackled any job I gave him and there were some real shitty jobs, let me tell you. He always had a smile on his face, helping me through some nightmare projects, always going the extra mile for me and supporting me as my business grew and changed direction. He has even made some fabulous design suggestions that have proved to be amazing.

Cleaning up woodwork
Cleaning up some filthy woodwork

Will I ever find a replacement? Possibly. But there are some rather large shoes that need to be filled. So I wish Tim and Linda all the best in their new life as they are good people and deserve to be happy. In the meantime I am researching the possibility of long distance upholstery via Zoom. Anything is possible!

I realised I don’t have many photos of Tim the Stripper in action so to speak, just the odd arm or hand, so I have included some of his all time favourite projects we have worked on together.

Good Luck Tim!

Tags: ,
Previous Post
Royal piano stool 1

This Not Just Any Old Piano Stool!

Next Post
Four French Chairs

My ‘Escape to the Chateau’ Style Chairs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *