Tuesday, 29 January 2013

grant opportunity for craftspeople?

Could this be an opportunity for craftspeople? There is £1.25 million government money to  be invested in grants of up to £25,000 for new designs with low environmental impact. If folk use good quality stuff they throw away less.


£25,000 Competition from the TSB

Win up to £25k of co-funding to design new products that make better use of resources

The Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s Innovation Agency, will shortly be opening the second round of the “New designs for a circular economy” competition. This competition is intended to help companies work with new partners to radically rethink the design of products, components or systems and generate value by retaining or regenerating materials and components over several cycles of use.
Manufacturing companies are well acquainted with high or volatile prices and the risk of materials shortages that are a consequence of increasing global competition for raw materials. “Circular economy” approaches can help manufacturers protect themselves against these pressures by developing long-term value and a deeper, more service-oriented relationship with the customer.
The second round of the competition opens on 11 February 2013, with a mandatory registration on noon 20 March 2013. The deadline for all applications is noon 27 March 2013.
·         Read more about the thinking behind the programme here
·         Download the competition brief directly here
·         Contact John Whittall at the Technology Strategy Board to find out more, john.whittall@tsb.gov.uk

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Chair caning

By Brian Crossley, HCA Secretary, a second generation professional chair caner with 50 years experience.

Chair used by John Ruskin when a child

Chair Caning has been practiced as a craft in the UK since the late 17th century when it was - and still is – associated with the craft of basketmaking.  Today the craft concentrates on restoration with virtually no new caned furniture using the traditional techniques.

The material used is an outer layer (similar to bark) of the branches of a species of the Rattan Palm tree growing in the rain forests of the Far East, principally Indonesia, which unusually climbs in the forests looking for light.  Each branch can grow up to 200 metres long and is of constant diameter.

The original technique of chair caning uses a hand prepared single strand of cane woven through holes around the panel to be caned, in six distinct stages to create a pattern ‘the six way pattern’ which is used in almost all caned panels.  This pattern is known to have been in use from as early as around 200BC.  Caned panels are used mainly on chair seats (also their arms and backs) and to a much lesser extent on other types of furniture.

Part of a chair back

Seven different widths of cane are available, the exact width used being dependant on the spacing of holes in the panel to gave the right balance of ‘cane to fresh air’ – not too flimsy and not too crude.

Caned furniture responded to changes in fashion and in the first period, 1670 to 1720, chairs had caned seats and very high caned backs.  Prior to this, seats were in leather, wood or upholstered.  The attraction of caned furniture at the time was that it was light in weight, easily cleaned and did not harbour vermin - unlike upholstery. 

Chair circa 1710

The next period of use was the Regency period from around 1790 to 1820 when cushions were typically used on the seat.

Regency period armchairs

Until this time, most furniture in the UK was made in London, in and around the area known as St. Paul’s Church Yard.  However with improvements in transport and the ready availability of wood and Windsor chair making skills, manufacture of virtually all caned furniture in the UK moved to the High Wycombe area.  Caned furniture made here progressed in the period 1830 up to the First World War from being a cottage industry to major factory manufacture with many hundreds of thousands of items being made - but caning remained as a hand craft.

Sofa with ‘Spiders Web’ back panels
There was a major development in Europe around 1850 when Michael Thonet (born in Germany but working in Austria), developed the ability to bend solid wood and in came a major source of cheap durable bentwood furniture, most of which had caned seats and other caned panels.  Each of his five factories had around 300 chair caners and the business made many millions of caned chairs, exported around the world in a flat pack format.

Bentwood chairs circa 1890

After the Second World War, the only furniture in Europe using cane was by Scandinavian designers who also utilised the fashion for teak frames.  However a technique which did not take off in the UK or Europe was the use of machine woven cane, developed in the USA in the mid 19th century when two major developments took place.  First was the ability to cut the outer layer off a branch by machine whilst preserving intact the central core and second, the machine weaving of a roll of cane up to 36 inches wide (90 cm).  This material is mechanically attached to the panel frame in a groove and locked into place with a spline pressed into the groove.  Virtually all new caned furniture now uses this technique.

Chair with machine woven cane panels

Today, the craft of chair caning by hand is used to restore furniture of all periods from the very first caned chairs made in Europe in the late 17th century to the modern machine woven cane seats. However, the traditional techniques are now being used on other applications.

Design using traditional technique and woven pattern