Natural Woven Octagonal Patterns Of Distinction: The “Caned” Chair

Distinctive Design:  Laced Straps Of Cane
Distinctive Design: Laced Straps Of Cane

An appreciation of the beauty of the woven artistry and craftsmanship of cane weaving. Laced straps of cane in a pattern of distinction. Natural appeal, for certain.

The artistry that is entwined in a woven seat or panels of a chair is worthy to be appreciated. Woven in what is referred to as the “Seven-Step Caning” (producing the the pattern of octagonal holes), the caned chair gains appreciation within interiors, laced with its history. Crafted from peeled off bark/outer skin from the flexible, woody rattan stalks (a climbing vine plant in the palm family and commonly found in Indonesia), the natural cane that laces a distinctive pattern assumes a glorious yellow coloring during the drying process. Durable and light, the added benefit beyond its design is the ability to not warp or crack from high heat or humidity. Interior bliss in warmer climates, for certain. Of interest, the “skin” of the bark is cut into “cane strips” of uniform width and depth. The strips are referred to as the “peel”. Processed into thin strands, the “cane” is used for not only weaving seats and backs for chairs, but is also used as a “Binding Cane” to “wrap” the arms and legs of furniture. Stylistic designs within history, for certain. To summarize, the material is referred to as “Cane”, the process (or art) is referred to as “Caning” and the product is referred to as “Caned Furniture”. However it is referred, the artistry of the craft of caning is certain to be appreciated. A design element of ancient style.

“Caning” is an ancient technique of weaving that originated as basket material that Egyptian Pharaohs would possess and utilize. The art of “caning” has certainly withstood the test of time as an art form of distinction. Of note, the art of the cane bottom chairs is believed to have originated in China. Lightweight and airy, it is perhaps the European inclusion of this natural element that brings forth historical distinction even today. Cane furniture first appeared in Holland, England and France during the 1600’s due to trade with Asia. As a style that remained popular during the 17th century Jacobean period, American and European craftsmen hand constructed and incorporated woven cane into the furniture that adorned the interior. Alas, it is even said that Marie-Antoinette coiffed her hair (with assistance, that is) while perched on a lightly covered caned chair. Who knew? In 18th century England’s Regency period caned chairs (often referred to as “faux bamboo”) were designed with finely crafted cane seats. It is no wonder that the “caned” furniture would continue with its lightweight appeal. At the turn of the century a revival of the Regency style brought forth an increase in the number of pieces of furniture using cane. Bergere chairs would also became popular with cane back and side panels. Classic and elegant elements of interior design. In the 19th century, it is said that “Cane” furniture became associated with Dutch and English Colonial furniture as both countries had colonies within Indonesia and India. Supply and demand. A direct source for rattan that was easily accessed. Of course, one must mention the gift in cane that was presented during the mid 19th century- Thonet’s cafe chair (Chair No.14) (A previous post: Unchanging Style & Design: The Bentwood Chair, N. 14). In 1859, Thonet revolutionized the furniture industry with the simplicity of the cafe chair and its “caned” seat version. Considered a modernist endorsement, the chair of “caned” style has continued to represent timeless design with extraordinary lightness.

As a side note, it is said that during the 18th century the decline of seats in woven cane resulted as the affluent began to request period chairs (such as Chippendale and Sheridan) with leather or tapestry seats. Who knew that during this time the “caned” bottom chairs would eventually be found primarily within “Common” interiors? Yet there is nothing common about a “caned” chair. It is timeless within the interior. Whether found as a seat base or lining the panels of a chair in a stylized manner, the cane pattern is appealing with its textural interest and open woven style. Classic design, indeed…

Archival Images Of Caning:  The Cane Chair
Archival Images Of Caning: The Cane Chair

And to provide additional insights into the arrival of woven cane embellished chairs in American interiors? Cane bottom chairs gained popularity in America around 1820 with the arrival of industrialization and the dawn of factory built furniture. The beginning of the American expansion post the war of 1812 paired with economic independence from Great Britain was met with a rapidly growing population. In addition, new technologies and industrialization created wealth and a widespread middle class. To meet the supply and demand, it is believed that the ease of production of the spindle and dowel chair with a caned bottom (requiring less wood) provided a solution. “Cane” was the perfect natural element. Mass production resulted with the creation of a seat weaving “cottage industry” in which the seat frames would be constructed in the factory and then distributed to the local weavers to cane the seat at their private residences. Imagine! The completed seats would be collected and quickly assembled with the chairs in the factory. Artistry paired with industrialization, indeed. Of note, cane bottom chairs are said to have reached the peak of popularity between 1860-1890. After 1890, the decline it is thought to be a direct result of the increasing expense of the weaving. Manufacturers replaced the hand crafted weaving with machines. Alas, the artisan demise at the hands of industrialization. Producing the machine woven cane in sheets, like woven cloth, the sheets of cane would be glued into a groove around the edge of a seat rather than the peg system that supported the hand woven cane. By 1900, all American furniture manufacturers began using machine woven cane for chair bottoms in the full range of their furniture styles. It’s distinctive pattern of woven style has never left the interior world. Perhaps, with an appreciation of its appeal within our modern world proves that the octagonal patterns will remain in enduring style

Distinctive Style With Natural Woven Cane
Distinctive Style With Natural Woven Cane
Patterned Weaving: The Octagonal Holes Of Caning
Patterned Weaving: The Octagonal Holes Of Caning
The Timeless Beauty Of The Woven Caned Chair
The Timeless Beauty Of The Woven Caned Chair
Distinctive Patterns Entwined With Artistry:  The Caned Chair
Distinctive Patterns Entwined With Artistry: The Caned Chair

Consider the “caned” chair. Whether a chair that is an original classic example of woven artistry or a completely restored and rewoven cane chair, whether paired with walnut or mahogany wood with distinctive inlays or simple in form, the “caned” chair earns distinction within our interiors. Classic and timeless appeal within any space. Woven craftsmanship. Natural laced straps of octagonal pattern of distinction, indeed…

Kristin

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