caneweaver

AkhbarCane Weaver

Cane makes a
comeback

Cane furniture makes me nostalgic for the days when city streets would be lined with weavers displaying their wares outside their shops. A common sight in Delhi, these weavers could be found sitting by the roadside, their hands busy at work while their eyes searched the streets for customers. They would often travel to workshops and clients’ homes to make furniture pieces as well. With time, this skill has disappeared from the public space and is now kept alive by only a handful of artisans. One such craftsperson is Akhbar Ali, who has spent the last 45 years producing furnishings, baskets and even customised orders for special clients—all woven with cane.

Akhbar has developed a flexible process and works directly with the raw material, following his intuition and developing the design along the way. “I don’t use pen and paper to sketch the designs. I directly work on the product. When I start to make the product, the steps automatically come to mind as to how to do it, and that’s how we keep exploring new designs,” he said, while seated in a small room, lit only by a single tube light, in a corner of Delhi.

Over the years, Akhbar has noticed a transition in the cane industry and a gradual decline in the quality of cane as well. He said that earlier, cane material from Singapore was the best—durable and long-lasting. However, today, cane quality has gone down along with the demand for such products. Akhbar has had to adapt to changing times and has taken to exploring alternate materials such as plastic and jute. Customers prefer to buy plastic furniture as it is weather-resistant, relatively indestructible and tends to outlast pieces woven with natural materials. While cane may be the more sustainable option, plastic has emerged as a cheaper and easily-available alternative.

Despite the transition, Akhbar has not ruled out cane altogether. ‘Vintage’ is becoming a new design trend, he said. With a rise in customers who seek to embrace the past while simultaneously keeping with their contemporary design sensibilities, the age-old style of cane furniture is making a comeback, albeit in a modern avatar.

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