Clintonville caner chair weaves magic to restore antique furniture

While the old craft of chair caning takes years to learn and perfect, Emily Uphill can’t help but think her skills in the craft could be a bit genetic too.

After all, she learned to weave cane and other materials into seats as a child while watching her father, Bill Seib, make repairs for others in their home. Clintonville residence.

Seib has been collecting chairs and other part-time furniture for more than 40 years. He acquired the know-how of his maternal grandfather, a mason who found old furniture to repair in the alleys near his home in Saint-Louis.

“We always had chairs in the living room,” said Uphill, who has fond childhood memories of helping his father with his canning business. “It was an opportunity for me to spend time with my father. In addition, I like to work with my hands.

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She caned her first chair when she was 14 or 15, before she could drive. Yet the professionally trained ceramist, who lives in Clintonville, never imagined that 25 years later, she would be making a full-time living in art, which many consider to be dying these days.

Emily Uphill, third generation caner and chair weaver, in her basement studio in Clintonville.

Uphill operates a family-owned chair caning business in the Greater Columbus area

When her father retired from the caning in 2011, the calls didn’t stop and she figured someone needed to step in to fix any collapsed seats or broken chair backs in the area. (A quick Google search reveals only a few more in the Greater Columbus area.)

In fact, Steve Coup, who owns a furniture restoration business in Franklinton, said panic set in when he heard Seib was retiring.

“There aren’t many that do, and losing that resource has always been a concern,” Coup said.

He was more than grateful to hear that Seib’s daughter had decided to start her own cane cane business.

“I think she could be better than her dad,” Coup said with a laugh. “Or at least as good as his father.”

Seib agrees.

“I’ve never had a waiting list like you,” Seib told his daughter a recent day, adding that Uphill knows a lot more types of caning and weaving patterns than he ever has. made. “I’m proud to have managed to get this across the board.

Caner Chair Emily Uphill's basement workshop is stocked with tools, supplies and chairs waiting to be fixed.

“It’s an antique piece – it’s a memory”

Uphill, 40, said demand for her services has increased since she started a website for her business called Emza Chair Cannage & Weaving (Emza is her middle name), allowing people across the region to find her.

As the only person doing the job and the mom of two young children, it can take several months for a spot to open on her calendar. The job just takes time to get done right, she said.

“I’ve worked on a lot of really important design pieces, and recreating the weave on those pieces is very important to the value,” Uphill said. “It’s important for me to do quality work and reproduce what existed before. ”

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Cane, which comes from the bark of a climbing plant called rattan, is, of course, a popular material for crafts, however, Uphill also uses other materials made from hickory bark, cotton and sources.

While repackaging chairs and furniture for museums and high-end clients – including L Brands founder Les Wexner and his wife, Abigail – Uphill said the everyday pieces her clients give her trust for repair can also fall into the “invaluable” category.

“For 50 percent of my clients, it’s an antique piece – it’s a souvenir,” she said. “I channel this generational story energy into my work.”

Emily Uphill, a caner and chair weaver in Clintonville, demonstrates her craft, which she learned from her father.

“Knowing how to do it is such a cool job and profession”

One of her clients, Clintonville resident Molly Litfin, said the mid-century Dutch rocking chair in her home has become a family favorite, especially her husband. So when the cane strings started to tear, she was grateful that Uphill had the unique skill to mend it.

“It’s such a cool job and profession to know how,” said Litfin, 46.

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In early spring, Litfin dropped the rocker off at Uphill, where the caner has a workspace in her basement, and when she picked it up a few weeks later, the 60-year-old chair looked almost new. .

“She cleaned the chair and it’s beautiful,” Litfin said. “It’s so much more comfortable than when we first had it. He has more support.

Caner Chair Emily Uphill's basement workshop is stocked with tools and supplies.  His company is called Emza's Chair Caning.

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Upton said a lot of people assume all of his clients must be Baby Boomers or older. They think the younger generations are only interested in “disposable furniture”, but she said that was not true. She has clients in their 20s and 30s who enjoy antiques or the culture of reuse or recycling.

“I have students who are graduating and setting up their first home,” Uphill said. “They shop in their family’s attics and find something that just needs a new seat.”

And, she added, caned furniture has more recently been featured in design magazines or reality TV shows on HGTV, helping the style make a comeback. This year alone, she has already repaired parts in six states and even a Canada chair.

A photo taken in Emily Uphill's basement studio shows Uphill early in his career with a finished piece.

Uphill said she typically works four or five pieces at a time, and it can take anywhere from a few hours to over 25 hours, depending on the size of the piece, the extent of the repair, and the type of caning required.

However, she must be careful to change the different patterns she does to avoid repetitive motion injuries.

“If I plow 10 chairs of the same model, I risk losing the ability to do it at all,” Uphill said.

And that would be devastating for Uphill, not only in terms of meeting demand, but also the responsibility she feels to keep the business alive.

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As a member of the SeatWeavers’ Guild, an international organization of chair baitboats, she learned new techniques, connected with other pole-and-line vessels and even taught classes to those who wanted to learn the craft.

And her two children, aged 4 and 6, are already showing a keen interest in the passion of their mother and grandfather.

“They both like to be busy like me,” Uphill said. “Most caners are baby boomers, but the next generation is coming. We will continue.

On this piece, Emily Uphill uses a hand-woven French cane technique, secured with cribbage pliers, to mend a chair.

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