‘All hands were on deck:’ Ontario company tasked with designing chairs for Pope visit
In a warehouse just outside of Toronto, furniture makers have put the finishing touches on the historic pieces that will be part of the Pope Francis’ journey to Canada.
Starting with wood from maple and oak, the designers bring to life sketches that were put to paper a month ago.
The final product is eight standing chairs approximately 55 cm high – about 8 cm taller than a typical dining room chair – decorated with white cushions and a carved wooden crown depicting the swirling image of eagles, salmon, and reindeer were soaring.
The seats are for the pope to use at each of the eight public shows he will participate in during his visit to Canada, which begins Sunday and ends July 29 with stops in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut.
Quality and Company, a custom furniture manufacturer based in Maple, Ont., has been commissioned to produce one-of-a-kind pieces.
“Have we pulled all of our resources here to make this happen? Company President Frank Caruso said.
Nearly 30 people, from designers to sculptors to upholstery, worked hundreds of hours to get the chairs to reach their final destination.
Ultimately, the team designed two different designs for the chairs using specifications provided by the Vatican to accommodate the Pope’s mobility issues. The designers used four different stains and six different fabric and embroidery patterns. It also worked with Metis graphic designer Shaun Vincent to put together a logo he designed for the Pope’s visit, which featured animals moving in a circle.
“These works will become a legacy to be displayed wherever these events take place. Rafael Studart, senior designer at Quality and Company, says it’s very important that each chair has a unique twist or feel.
Studart said the team drew inspiration from the architecture found in cathedrals and churches. The chairs themselves have a simple arch and shape to reflect that.
He added that each item also has a very delicate and unique embroidery pattern.
“It makes sense that the chair should be simple, but not simple, in the sense that it should be. “It needs to convey the importance of this moment without overpowering the main focus, which is the process of healing and reconciliation,” Mr. Studart said.
The theme of the Pope’s visit is “Walking Together”. It includes public and private events with a focus on Indigenous participation. It is expected that the Pope will deliver his apology at the former site of the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in the community of Maskwacis, Alta. — expanded on his apology to Indigenous delegates at the Vatican in April.
Deacon Pedro Guevara Mann, who was in charge of programming for the Pope’s visit, said it was important to keep the chairs simple and not detract from the message of the visit.
“It’s not about luxury,” he said.
“The chairs will succeed if they go unnoticed.”
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This is not the first time chairs have been built for a Pope’s visit. Some were made for the Pope’s previous visits to Sri Lanka, the United States and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“It is something that has started to happen organically. Because it is an easy gesture of something that can be done not only as a gift to the Pope, but also as a gift of heritage that will stay where the Pope visits,” said Guevara. Mann said.
Guevara Mann says each chair will likely be in the location where it’s being used or nearby. The chair used at Mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton set for next Tuesday will be moved to the Archdiocese of Edmonton after that.
The cost of each chair is between $6,000 and $7,000. The company has covered 90% of the cost.
“This is such an important event in the history of the country, it is an honor to be a small part of it,” said Studart.
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