Re: How did you get started in the chair caning business?
Mon Mar 10, 2014 1:17am
71.228.121.120

I've loved reading your stories. The common theme seems to be that a "someone" introduced you, and the passion was ignited. My story is similar in that vein, except the person I credit with introducing me to caning is someone I never met. Since my entry into caning is quite recent, the details are vivid ...

Apologies for the length ... you might wanna grab a cuppa coffee/tea (or Scotch!) and settle in for a story ...


Spring 2012 and I begin a local hunt for someone to replace the cane on one of our six DR chairs. All attempts ultimately pointed to a fellow named Ray Corliss, and all my attempts to reach him failed. The voice on his message machine belonged to an elderly fellow, so I imagined he wasn't diligent about replying to messages.

Many weeks pass, and I am resigned to just live with failing cane. That should be my worst problem, right?

Eventually, a lovely woman, Ann Corliss, returns my call. She's his daughter, from Ohio. Ray was quite ill and won't be caning again -- at least none too soon. However, his friend Geoff agreed to finish the work Ray had taken on and perhaps Geoff would take on one more chair. She gave me Geoff's contact info. I contacted Geoff and while he was not happy about yet *another* chair to cane, he agreed that I could bring it to him.

It turns out that a few months prior, Ray taught Geoff the basics of 7-step and also cane webbing. They, along with several other resident craftsmen worked from the well-equipped, climate controlled wood shop in their retirement community here in Albuquerque.

When I brought the chair to Geoff and saw him working on hand-caning some seats, I was intrigued and asked if I could watch for a while. He agreed I could watch -- but only until I understood enough to DO some of the caning for him. That took about 15 minutes! He said we could work on the 5 (hand caning) pieces in the shop and then he would work on my chair.

I spent much of my free time that spring and summer working in the wood shop with talented and interesting fellows -- most of them could be my uncles. It was fun to be considered a youngster, too, I admit that! I had a ball learning and soaking up precious inter-generational time. Not sure which I loved more at that time -- caning or adopting a gaggle of new uncles.

Geoff and I agreed that I would help him for free and he would teach me for free. A perfect arrangement. He'd buy me an occasional lunch and I would bring in an occasional treat from the garden or kitchen. As I saw several chairs transition from unusable to lovely, I got hooked and imagined that when the backlog was completed, I'd find some practice chairs on my own.

As we were completing a pair of chairs for a customer, JC - the owner of a furniture refinishing shop in town stopped by. He, too, had been trying to reach Ray Corliss for weeks, because Ray had been caning chairs for their company for many years. Geoff told him of Ray's ailing health and then introduced ME as the person who'll be taking up where Ray left off. Truthfully, my thinking hadn't gone that far, because I was still working (university prof). Still, I gave JC my contact info. He has since become my most steady source of work. [Sidebar, even as a Jewish woman, I'm aware of the irony that "JC" showed up and essentially launches my little biz!]

While I never met Ray Corliss, I credit him with introducing me to caning. I'd ask about Ray's progress and prognosis for the weeks I worked with Geoff, but Ray was already too ill to meet a "new person". Inevitably the day came when Geoff told me that Ray had passed quietly in his sleep overnight. I felt a personal loss for this fellow I'd never met. I arranged to attend the memorial service where I could learn about the man and also express my gratitude to his children (out of towners).

Ray's children were delighted that someone, ANYONE was interested in caning. They asked to meet privately with Geoff and me and then offered us all of Ray's caning materials, supplies, and equipment. Our taking it would solve their problem of figuring out how to dispose of it from afar. We could have whatever was useful and donate the rest. They drew up a document to that effect, and we all signed it.

I was stunned by that generous outcome. Grateful and stunned. Geoff was eager to get back to his real love restoring antiques, so he gave me the lion's share. So, I "inherited" hundreds of dollars in strand cane, webbing, fiber rush, wicker, and tools. There are also some gizmos I still can't figure out, but I think they might somehow be assembled to hold work pieces in position.

Within 24 hours of finishing the last of Ray's chairs, rearranging a guest room in our home, and moving Ray's treasures out of the wood shop, I got my first call to recane a chair. That call came from a resident of the same retirement community who -- ironically -- had been a staff member working with me at the university. After I completed her chair, she referred her daughter to me ...

I've stayed in touch with Ray's family and they delight in seeing my progress and enthusiasm. My little biz, The Caning Room (CR) is also a nod to Ray Corliss (RC). I see Geoff from time to time; he refers residents to me and I help him with some of his own caning projects. I provide him materials. It's the least I can do for an "uncle" whose many many hours of teaching and encouragement led me to a craft I love.

While I've now come to realize that some of what I learned was not correct, it really doesn't matter at all. That Geoff took the time to share what he knew was a gift I can never fully repay. And that, just a few months before his passing, Ray took the time to share a bit of what HE knew, well that is simply astonishing. And JC ...

Now that I have "officially" retired (mostly), I'm so grateful to have this fabulous craft to hone. And every time I complete a new project, I marvel at just how perfectly these fellows came into my life to guide me toward this wonderful source of lifelong learning.

Promising to never post such a long message here again!

Laurie Schatzberg
Albuquerque, NM
Intermittently weaving seats since June, 2012

  • How did ya'll get into this wonderful craft/business of chair caning, anyway? Please post your story. Most of you already know my entry into the field, but I'll post it again here anyway for those of ... more
    • Re: How did you get started...? Mr. Stafford, Thu Aug 10 9:44pm
      Hello all, My name is Mr. Stafford and I fell into my first chair caning project about four years ago. I had been a woodworker and professional musician for about 25 years and I had just started to... more
      • how did you get started? ediezalas, Fri Aug 11 9:13am
        First off I am one of those people that when I see some handiwork or artwork the first thing I think isn't 'how much is it' it's 'how did they do that and can I do it too?' That being said, I had a... more
      • How did you all get started? jbmeltzer, Fri Aug 11 8:43am
        I was teaching macrame (remember that?) at a local art center, and someone else was teaching caning. We traded skills, and I was off and running! Beyond that, I am self-taught, mostly by using Jim... more
      • How I got started Anderson's Restorations-Rob, Fri Aug 11 7:08am
        I used to have a refinishing business and a real nice older gentleman did my caning for me. One day his wife called that he passed and did I want his material. I had just taken in 4 chairs so I said... more
    • Picture with me, a cold, snowy January Saturday in 1975 ( 3 months after discharge from the US Army). Barbara and I have just completed the 2 hour drive to the home of her grandparents. For our chair ... more
    • how i got started f.david, Tue Mar 25 9:56am
      Well I have been caning for around 7 years and I do enjoy it. I am not to proud of where I learned, I got into some trouble with the law about 10 years ago and did some time in the NH state prison... more
      • Re: how i got started The Wicker Woman, Tue Mar 25 10:22am
        Hi Dave, Welcome to the Chair Caning Forum! It doesn't matter what the circumstances were regarding your learning of the craft, but rather that you learned it and have been making something good come ... more
        • thx f.david, Tue Mar 25 10:49am
          Thx for the kind words and advice. Dave
    • A Newby From Philly :) hannahbardinfurniture, Mon Mar 24 11:32am
      Hello, Chair Caning Forum! I'm new, and just got on the site to ask my first question when I saw this thread and thought it would be the best place to insert an introduction. I have actually been... more
      • Re: A Newby From Philly :) The Wicker Woman, Mon Mar 24 7:57pm
        Hi there Hannah, So glad you finally introduced yourself here! Hannah and I had a nice long talk on the phone a few months ago and I was so hoping she'd find us here and become a part of this... more
        • Newby from Philly Janet Noall, Tue Mar 25 9:10am
          Hannah, You are just plain AWESOME ! Jan N
      • Re: A Newby From Philly :) ABQLaurie, Mon Mar 24 12:52pm
        Welcome, Hannah! It's great to see another newbie in this seat weaving world, and you're sure to feel the camaraderie of the community very soon. Check out the Seat Weavers Guild, too. The annual... more
    • How I got started bworrad13, Fri Mar 21 10:53am
      Hello all! I'm Bruce Worrad in West Central New Hampshire. I'm 64 yrs old and have been doing seatwork since I was 25 years old. This is my first post, but have been following this forum since almost ... more
      • How I got Started Mary M Christenbury, Sat Mar 22 10:22am
        Hi Bruce, Please email me directly with your contact info. I may have some seat weaving work for you. Long story. Regards, Mary Christenbury Huntersville, NC Macama@bellsouth.net
      • How I got started Janet Noall, Sat Mar 22 9:15am
        Welcome, Bruce, So glad you finally joined the Forum ! It is so fun to hear everyone's story. I wish everyone would be more "vocal" . We need more input ! I get TIRED of seeing my name here !!! So,... more
    • Re: How did you get started in the chair caning business? ABQLaurie, Mon Mar 10 1:17am
      • Thank you for that wonderful story ABQ. It's great to hear of your adventure with The Uncles! My story is thus: I inherited a chair from my Grandmother. This was a beautiful nursing chair that had... more
    • How did you get started in Chair Caning Janet Noall, Sun Mar 9 1:14pm
      It was 1974, and my dad had just retired and was BORED ! He found a free class, that taught chair caning, and he said to my mom," I have to find some chairs that need caned ". She said " no you don't ... more
    • just fell into it johnk15, Sat Mar 8 9:38pm
      I attended a fund-raiser show for a local historical society and they had a man there demonstrating how to weave chairs. Looked interesting. I was working away from home, living in a hotel, in... more
    • How did I get started in chair caning? chrperson, Sat Mar 8 4:01pm
      I caned my first chair in 1974. A caned back to an upholstered chair, purchased by my father at a small shop in the furniture district in Chicago (where I lived at the time) because I had wanted to... more
    • How did you get started in the chair caning business Mary M Christenbury, Sat Mar 8 11:30am
      It was my sister-in-law's fault. She signed up for a class at John C. Campbell Folk School and invited me to go along with her. I'd been retired about two years and was in need of finding something... more
Click here to receive daily updates


Chair Caning Forum--The Caner's Community Hub™ 2004-2015