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Keeping the art of cane furniture alive

Keeping the art of cane furniture alive

Even though demand for it has shrunk with the arrival of lightweight wooden furniture, cane furniture is still sought after by many twin cities’ residents, most of whom travel to the cane wood market near Chak Madad Khan Bridge.

Here, many shops still sell cane furniture painstakingly woven by artistans into sofa sets, rocking chairs, swings, tables and baskets and more. These pieces are displayed in front of the shops, causing people to stop to check their prices.

The furniture itself is made of solid cane sticks and steel nails, and soft cane strips are used to tie the joints together. Stoves are used to straighten the cane, while varnish and synthetic paint is used to bring colour and shine to pieces if the buyers do not want to retain the original colour.

Even though cane furniture was used as outdoor furniture, for lawns and verandas, over the last decade people have also opted for cane bookshelves, rocking chairs and indoor swings.

And even as the trends have changed over time, artists who make cane furniture continue to teach others and look for innovative ideas to attract customers.

“I have been working at this market for the last 10 years. I was 13 years old when I learned the art from Karachi, and am now making furniture according to the customers’ wishes,” Mohammad Sajid, 40, said. He said many customers come to them with pictures of cane furniture made abroad, which workers typically recreate.

He said that while many people do prefer solid wood furniture, several still enjoy cane furniture as well.

“A few years ago we were selling some furniture items every day, but now people come to look at the pieces and real customers arrive every week or two.”

Mr Sajid said the price of cane furniture has increased because all the furniture is made by hand, without the use of machinery, and it can take days to complete chairs or other pieces. “We use cane imported from Sri Lanka and other countries,” he added.

“Cane furniture is lightweight and bug free, compared to wood furniture. Wrought iron furniture rusts with time, but cane furniture is affordable and light enough to carry for daily use,” said carpenter Abdul Shakoor, 34.

He said soft cane strips are used to weave together panels and for the outer layer of the furniture, and because of these woven panels cane chairs and sofas are soft enough to be used without cushions.

However, customers said the increase in the price of cane furniture is the main reason why so many people have chosen to opt for wood, as well as the solidity of wood furniture.

Farah Fayyaz, a customer, said that while people used to prefer cane furniture, they found it difficult to use. “It is not as solid as wood or wrought iron furniture. If a strip in a cane chair or sofa breaks, the whole piece looks ugly and it starts ripping and cracking,” she added.

However, she added, cane baskets, bookshelves, swings and chairs are good for garden and balcony furniture.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2016

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