Although Ontario was not one of the stops during the Pope’s recent visit to Canada, a furniture company on the outskirts of Toronto has given the province a seat at the historic table.
Quality and Company, a furniture manufacturer based in Maple, Ontario, was commissioned to design the eight chairs used during the Pope’s public programs during the Canadian tour. The chairs are expected to remain in every location he visited as a heirloom.
Company president Frank Caruso, whose father is an Italian immigrant, said being part of the papal visit in this way was important to him and his family.
“I watched it every day,” Caruso said. “I feel like we were part of the story and having them in museums in those areas or kept where they are, I think it’s really a great honor to make them part… It’s a family business, and my dad was a first-generation Italian who came to Canada, and for him that was really important too, to be able to connect like that was really cool for him.
The tour, which ended on July 29, included stops in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut. With less than 45 days between plans and completion, it was “everyone on deck” for the design and manufacturing team who pulled out all the stops to complete the project on time.
With specifications provided by the Vatican to address the pope’s mobility issues, designers used four different dyes and six different fabric and embroidery designs.
The chairs, which are approximately 55 centimeters high, were adorned with white upholstery and a carved wooden detail representing Aboriginal symbolism. Quality and Company worked with Métis graphic designer Shaun Vincent to incorporate the logo he designed for the papal visit.
In keeping with the theme of the papal visit Walking Together, the circular logo features salmon, caribou and eagles dancing together in the sky and representing a connection with the Creator. The logo also includes the keys of St. Peter and the doves of peace. The intricate logo can be seen carved into the wood of the chairs in the various designs.
“The circle is found throughout Indigenous life,” Vincent said in a statement. “In a circle, all are equal, all are visible. The ceremony needs this symbol. It’s history. It contains our stories. It’s who we are. A symbol representing this event should have confidence and calm in the center. This is why I chose this symbol as the core, with the teachings existing in its form.
With every detail in mind, Quality and Company designed the chairs to be intricate yet minimal to match the special seat of honor as well as the weight and tone of the moment in the journey of healing and reconciliation. The chairs were made for free.
“(Pope Francis) doesn’t like it to be over the top, so we kept that in mind when designing them,” Caruso said. “We designed something very minimal, not a lot of carvings and gold or extravagant. I think that’s the kind of Pope Francis is. We designed something very nice and clean, and I think you can see it from the chairs. The beauty of being able to add the aboriginal symbols on the top and sides was also very nice.”
Through the chairs, the province has been included in a small but meaningful way in every public discourse and will be part of the memory of the visit for generations to come.
“It was so nice to see that everyone was so happy that we were part of it,” Caruso said. “That someone in Ontario was able to design and build something like this for them.”