Chair Caning in South Carolina: Kristen Jurewicz ‘15
Kristen Jurewicz ‘15
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Ruth Beals, Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Design
Nisbet Honors student Kristen Jurewicz ’15 received a South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (SCICU) grant for her research project, The History and Application of Chair Caning in South Carolina. Kristen was intrigued by this specialized weaving craft, which is slowly becoming a ‘lost art.’
Chair caning is the technique of weaving chair seats, in addition to other types of furniture, from a pliable material known as cane. This smooth material is derived from bark or glossy skin from the rattan vine, native to Far Eastern tropical areas such as Southeast Asia, China, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
The unique art of chair caning is an intricate and time-consuming process. Kristen said “In the mid 1800’s, the process of caning was semi-mechanized, which increased popularity. Cane chairs began to be sold in catalogs and caning was offered for many styles of chairs, from stools to dining room seats to wheelchairs to office chairs.”
Kristen, an Art Education major, researched the background of chair caning in South Carolina, working closely with Hobcaw Barony, a nature and research preserve on the coast just outside Georgetown. Focusing on the last 200 years of furniture caning, Kristen took specific interest in materials used, where those materials were sourced from, as well as the various designs of caned furniture.
Kristen’s participation in the Nisbet Honors Program gave her access to extensive support in applying for this research grant and the opportunity to conduct independent research under the mentorship of Ruth Beals, Owings Associate Professor of Interior Design. Professor Beals said she was impressed with Kristen’s interest in chair caning and knew it would not only be a compelling project, but that she may also learn from Kristen’s research. “Kristen and I developed a friendship while working on this project. We spent pleasurable time during all the phases, on campus, at my home and at the Hobcaw Barony in Georgetown. She has the experience of a graduate level project in her undergraduate portfolio.”
Kristen will graduate this May and hopes to share her art skills and unique knowledge in a teaching position. “This experience has shown me that I enjoy demonstrating far more than I originally thought I did, as well as highlight my confidence and ease in giving public demonstrations of artistic skills.”