Chairs have been handmade for centuries and woven with pliable natural reeds and grasses. In the 17th century cane furniture made its way from Asia to northern Europe. Furniture makers flourished in the 18th century making exquisite hand caned chairs for the French and English courts. In the 1920s the Bauhaus School in Weimar, Germany, showcased the work of Marcel Breur and Mies van der Rohe. Their designs modeled what we now think of as Modern architecture and interior design. the Breur chair with it’s molded tubular frame continue to be hand and
sheet caned today. The mid-century Scandinavian arts and crafts movement of the 1950s refined furnture design for a new generation with the seat cord chairs of Hans Wegner and other modernists like Finn Juhl, Jens Jenson, and Arne Jacobson. They continue to be cherished and restored today.
Cane comes from the bark of the rattan vine. It sis cut into a variety of widths for hand caning strands through holes on a chair seat. The core of the vine is used for wicker, flat reed splint and a variety of round reeds used in basketry. Rattan grows in Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula. The traditional cane pattern has also been “pre-woven” on primitive looms in China and is known as sheet caning or spline caning amongst other names. Like so many harvested products, it takes the caners eye to select the prime material for each use.
Seat weaving materials include rush from the cattail family, fiber rush, essentially twisted paper bags, sea grass, Danish seat cored, and flat splint in reed, ash, or hickory or binder cane. The chair caner uses these materials to reweave seats as the chair was originally designed.