British furniture company Soane has saved the traditional skill of rattan furniture weaving from extinction by stepping in when one of Britain’s last rattan furniture-making companies, Shire Workshops, went into administration a couple of years ago. The three exceptional craftsmen now weaving rattan for Soane can craft rattan into lamps, tables, screens, chairs, planters with zinc interiors, desks, bookshelves and anything you may dream of – life-size rattan animals are a favourite challenge!
To create the frame of each piece they make, rattan is steam-bent around a pattern or “jig” to make it pliable enough to mould into the desired shape. Rattan strips in many different sizes are then wrapped around the framework. This is known as “randing” and is what creates the distinct atmosphere of each piece. The wooden tool in this picture is known as a ‘commander’, and is used to bend canes to construct furniture frames.
Rattan-making is very labour-intensive. Each piece is crafted entirely by hand. It takes three days to make a lampshade and a week or more to create a sofa.