Silver River Center for Chair Caning Weaves Past and Present

By on January 26, 2016



How much attention do you pay to where you sit down? Probably more than you think. For Brandy Clements and Dave Klingler, co-owners of the Silver River Center for Chair Caning, where you sit is their passion and business, enough so that they describe themselves as “Chair Nerds.”

“A chair is usually ignored when you walk into a room,” Klingler says. “We’re trying to show how special the chair is. There is a lot of humanity caught up in chairs.”

Through their museum and classes, the two are inviting everyone to join them in becoming fully fledged chair nerds.

Located in the River Arts District’s Curve Studios, the Silver River Center for Chair Caning is a workshop, classroom and free museum dedicated to the tradition and life of chair caning.

Clements, a fourth-generation chair caner, embraces an art that spans centuries and the world. Silver River’s mission, she says, is to keep that art thriving.

“We’re carrying on not only a family tradition but a global tradition,” she says.

“Caning” is the term that describes many styles of seat weaving and encompasses a wide variety of materials. Some associate the woven seat as something only seen in a relative’s home, or even a broken, blown out chair found in a thrift shop. Brandy and Dave are out to update that perception.

There is a culture of chair caning alive today, they note, and caners seem to find each other across state lines and country borders.

“I don’t think of it as a lost art or a dying art. I think it’s thriving, just in an underground way,” Klingler says. “Our mission is to push the craft forward.”

On any given day, the two can be found in their workshop, alongside their dog Rosie, repairing the seats and backs of heirloom chairs and restoring them to their former glory.

“There’s something to be said about working on a chair that’s 50 or 100 years old,” says Klingler.

The center offers people the chance to experience that feeling for themselves, hosting workshops in five styles of caning. Classes are held at least every two months and are limited to four students to ensure maximum attention can be given to each project. Participants provide, work on, and leave with their own chairs.

“We want people to walk away knowing they can do it again,” Klingler says.

That ethic is a good fit for a place like Asheville that embraces local, handmade, and a certain DIY philosophy.

“I’m not sure this idea would have taken off just anywhere,” Klingler says. “There is a supportive community in Asheville for creative education.”

Even so, the two have seen people travel from Illinois, Alabama and other locales to take classes at the center.

Like any heirloom, old chairs tell a story. And by learning the art of restoring them, people can attach themselves to the lineage and history of family and heritage. “You become part of the story,” Clements says.

And, Klingler adds, chair caning is a nod to a time when people reused and restored rather than throwing things away.

“Some things are worth saving,” he says. “Chairs are worth saving.”

Silver River Center for Chair Caning
Upstairs at #9 Riverside Drive
River Arts District, Asheville, NC
(828) 707-4553
Museum and Studio Hours: Mon – Fri, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sat and Sun, 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Photo by Brian Postelle.

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