This case study seeks to focus on one particular Asian material, rattan, and its relationship to changes in furniture design and production skills. In doing so, it highlights the ways in which one commodity (which was initially treated as a waste product) can illuminate our understanding of the multiple links that existed between the material worlds of Asia, America and Europe from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century.
The author, Brian Crossley, is a retired Chartered Civil Engineer and a second generation chair caner. His mother (who commenced chair caning as a ten year old in 1918) taught him the craft skills on two Victorian chairs shortly after his marriage in 1958, which helped to furnish his first home. She then guided him to a thorough understanding of the craft and he has subsequently and continuously re-caned all types of furniture for many and varied clients. He has taught others for a number of years and undertakes research into the world-wide development of this type of furniture. At various times living and working in the Middle East, managing a Department for International Development project in Bangladesh and travelling to Asia on business, he has been afforded opportunities to examine and study at first hand the materials and craft of chair caning. He is a Yeoman Member of the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers.
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