Llewellyn Emery 0000-00-00 00:00:00
The next time you have an old wooden chair with a worn-out seat, don’t rush to throw it away. At least that would be the advice of Delight Goodfellow, one of the Taking Delight in Her Craft many on-site artisans who demonstrate their skills at the Bermuda Craft Market. Mrs. Goodfellow has “rescued” many a chair that would have been otherwise destined for the scrap heap and restored it to its former usefulness by a procedure known as caning. In layman’s terms, caning refers to the fine art of hand-weaving strands of cane, a derivative of rattan, in crisscross patterns to form seats, backs of chairs or to decorate other pieces of furniture. The earliest British settlers brought this skill with them to Bermuda in the 17th century, when it was common practice in England to use “rush,” a reedy grass, to weave baskets, stools and chair seats. Thus caning and rushing, though involving different materials, employ similar techniques. The settlers also found the native palmetto to be a worthy substitute. Today, although some artists are experimenting with synthetic materials, cane remains the medium of choice. Delight Goodfellow likewise prefers the natural fibres. “I learned how to do this 15 years ago... It was so fascinating that I decided to get some books and learn how to do it myself,” she says. “In England they probably use more rush than cane... but the cane is much smoother, more durable and much easier to work with.” To see her deftly tugging, snipping and pegging the narrow strips of cane into complex patterns at just the right tension, the process appears anything but easy. Yet she insists “it’s really not that difficult. It just calls for a lot of patience.” As a regular Thursday feature of the Craft Market’s Winter Program, you can actually watch this cheerful, soft-spoken lady at work. If you wish, she will even put you to work — pulling, threading, holding or tying the fibrous strands on a piece she’s repairing. “Many people who have their antique chairs restored turn to me to re-cane them rather than have them upholstered. It’s an old art I’m pleased to help keep alive.”
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