What we human beings have sat ourselves on throughout history would make an interesting dissertation. From hunkering down on our haunches to ornate palanquins and thrones to humble hand-hewn cottage seats, we’ve strived through the ages to be comfortable when not out doing the daily hunting and gathering.
New chairs can sometimes be okay but are rarely as pleasing or as long-lasting as the old ones handed down in families or found in antique shops.
I am now in my fourth year of chair caning (the term is used loosely and includes hand caning, fibre and natural rush, splint, seagrass, “wicker,” Danish cord and other types of woven seats). In that time I’ve woven close to 200 seats. Who would have thunk it — so many chair seats needing attention within driving distance of Gore’s Landing!
Here’s my “to-do list” right now:
It includes four chairs needing new hand-caned seats in the traditional seven-step pattern, and five fibre rush seated chairs. Each seat will take a couple of days to weave and should last 40 years or more. The basic structure of most modern chairs doesn’t last that long!
When you do this work, you meet the loveliest people and learn a lot about chairs. The old porch rockers are one of my favourite type of chair. They’re simple, honest and extremely comfortable. One of my earliest jobs is also one of my favourites — it’s a rustic, hand-made, Indiana hickory rocker.
Before I get back to it, I want to show off my own rocking chair that I rescued from an old building where it was rotting away. I use this chair when demonstrating at various fairs so it’s taking a long time to cane. The back is about 2/3 done now. The unusual thing about this lovely rocker is the cut out piece at the top of the back. It’s a carrying hole!
There are now artisans in most parts of the world who do chair caning. Your cherished heirlooms or great ‘finds’ can be made like new again!
Note: It’s now July, 2013, and I’ve officially hung up my chair-caning hat. If you’re looking for something new to do and you love working with your hands to create beautiful, long-lasting things, I would suggest experimenting with chair caning!