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“People tend to think of chair caning as a quaint craft of the mountains, but it is an ancient and global tradition,” says Clements. “Kings and queens have sat on caned chairs and caning is featured in modern art as well.” The duo has 20 years of experience between them and while they are mostly self-taught, in her twenties Clements spent a week with her Aunt Linda learning four styles of weaving. Clements describes her as “the cool aunt” they visited annually (today the two are best friends and confidants). Clements says she’s the archivist of the family, the one that “tells all the stories,” most of which are relayed through a burgundy, push button, landline phone, complete with a long, curly chord. The retired X-ray technician is still weaving chairs in her seventies. Once Clements learned the basics, she immediately started receiving business. With so few caners in the region, word spread fast and soon customers arrived with broken, unraveled, or sagging chair seats and left with a restored memory of the family member who owned it. “A chair can be the essence of person,” says Clements. “It captures the soul and carries the soul through time in the physical form of a chair.” When the volume of restorations reached avalanche proportion, she taught Klinger as well. Their skill developed by taking chairs apart, a

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Brandy Clements and Dave Klinger are the proprietors of Silver River Center for Chair Caning

hands-on study of the process. At times they merely winged it. They have restored thousands of chairs or woven seats, and since expanding their restoration business into a school and museum, have taken on the responsibility of carrying on her family tradition of teaching the eager. In my exploration of Silver River, I experienced first hand the skill and artistry of caning. The reverence, pride, and importance of passing on the skill felt palpable. Clements believes that by carrying on her family’s tradition of chair caning she has become an advocate for the craft, an entrepreneur and a torchbearer. The dedication has connected her with chair caners across the globe, many of who also share a family history in the craft. She counts friends and followers in Greece, Uruguay, Australia, and Japan with whom she regularly shares photos and stories, despite the language barrier. Sometime in the future, Clements hopes to publish an archive of the collected stories of chair caners and their unique family traditions. For now, she finds contentment at the helm of Silver River. “I feel a specific type of pride, often emanating from somewhere outside of myself, each time I turn on the lights in my chair shop.”

A Caning Primer

Silver River specializes in hand caning which include splint, rush, shaker tape, machine, and laced. They range in difficulty from pressed caning which is simply placing a pre-woven piece of cane webbing into a groove (like fixing a screen door), to lace caning, a seven step process that weaves the cane into holes drilled into the chair. Rush weaving has been around since Pharaohs walked in Egypt and it was popular in Europe in the 1400s. Bulrush and cattails were most commonly used during those times because they were easily accessible. Today, materials range from corn shucks to iris leaves to leather. The result is four envelope triangles that meet in the middle. Splint or split weaving is the most common in Appalachia. Traditionally crafted using hickory, ash or oak, it is one of the easiest methods with a basic over/under technique that creates a strong seat. It can be fancied up with checkerboard, herringbone or Carolina patterns and made more colorful with Shaker tape. What are the signs that recaning might be needed? The seat is sagging or holes are in the cane. How long does it take? The time it takes to repair a cane chair depends on the caner, their level of skill, and the type of caning you need, but Clements estimates: Splint Weaving: 3-4 hours Rush Weaving: 4-6 hours Machine Caning: 2 hours Laced Caning: 10-15 hours

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8/22/18 9:49 PM

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atHome Fall 2018 | 15th Anniversary Issue  

At Home Magazine is now published four times a year (Winter, Spring, Summer, & Fall) by Community Journals LLC located in Greenville, SC. Fo...

atHome Fall 2018 | 15th Anniversary Issue  

At Home Magazine is now published four times a year (Winter, Spring, Summer, & Fall) by Community Journals LLC located in Greenville, SC. Fo...

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