Upholsterer: Winifred Watson

Winifred Watson and her 19-year-old son Stephen sticking a cake to celebrate her 50th birthday.

Upholstery is traditionally seen as a man’s work, but single mother of five Winifred Watson who lives in Stanley-town, West Bank Demerara, does it along with some amount of joinery to provide for her family.

Winifred started to repair chair sets after her husband, a joiner, dared her to take up the challenge over 20 years ago. She set about opening the chairs, piece by piece, carefully looking at the way they were built and how best to repair the damaged sections. Winnie, as she is fondly called, told this newspaper that she was surprised to find that, “No matter that the chair might be looking beautiful on the outside; it does not necessarily mean that it was a perfect job. Often, when the beautiful fabric or cloth is removed, one is stunned by the presence of the material that makes up the outfit.”

Nevertheless, she began to learn, day by day, how the chairs were made. She reviewed the various styles of the chairs that were entrusted to her, and assured this newspaper that no customer ever left her workshop disappointed. Winnie also recalled the days spent working alongside her now estranged husband in their workshop; he would repair the structures of the chairs while she sewed the material to cover them with on her machine. When he left the home, she was suddenly faced with providing for her three sons and two daughters alone.

Winifred Watson and her 19-year-old son Stephen sticking a cake to celebrate her 50th birthday.

However, despite the hardships of single parenthood, Winnie persevered and today with her son Stephen taking on his father’s role, she cleverly manipulates the raw cloth into designs that embellish the beauty of the chairs. Sometimes she also replaces damaged or rotten boards in the chairs and broken springs.

The woman said she worked while her children attended school and was pleased to point out that her daughters have achieved much success in the medical field while Stephen continues to work alongside her. She is also now a grandmother of two. According to Winnie, sometimes people come from as far as Canals Polder and even from the West Bank, East Bank and Georgetown to place their orders.

Winnie recently celebrated her 50th birthday and feels a sense of satisfaction serving the people of her community.


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