Brandy Clements and David Klingler are the proprietors of Silver River Center for Chair Caning in Asheville’s River Arts District. A couple of chair nerds on a mission to dispel the myth that seat weaving is a ‘dying’ or ‘lost’ art, they opened the nation’s only chair caning school and museum in 2015. The museum is free and open year-round. Classes are also offered year round and are geared toward beginners, with tutorials available for intermediate and advanced projects. They also offer restorations and commissions for antique and newly constructed chair frames.
Silver River’s mission is to cultivate and inspire a reverence for a worldwide chair caning legacy, and to promote an enthusiasm for the craft through restoration, education, and travel. Visitors to the 2500 square foot industrial chic studio can observe daily demonstrations, take a self-guided tour of the museum, play a chair game, and read chair books. The museum has rotating exhibits as well as process exhibits, guest artists, and informational panels about the history of chair caning. Clements and Klingler also travel the country and the world researching chairs, speaking to woodworkers associations, and giving lectures at conferences and schools.
Clements represents the fourth generation of chair caners in her family, going back to her great-grandmother Gladys McInnes Allen in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. Brandy learned the craft at her father’s urging (in “Chair Repair Boot Camp” at her aunt Linda’s in Virginia) as a way to make some additional income. Instead, it has become her full-time career and nerdy obsession.
Linda gets full credit for perpetuating the family tradition. Realizing that her parents’ generation was getting on in years, Linda put an ad in the paper and started getting work. Sh basically gave her elders no choice, “it was either teach me or do the work themselves,” Linda explained.
David Klingler, a craftsman originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee learned the craft from Brandy but has surpassed her skills in many ways, becoming a master at rush weaving, and developing ways to streamline the weaving process. After twelve years of restorations, they enjoy putting the ability into the hands of others, and educating people in general on the history and contemporary applications of the craft.
Silver River offers classes, lectures, demonstrations, and restorations both on-site and at other museums, schools, and historical sites around the US and the world.
Visit the Silver River Chairs website for hours of operation and a schedule of upcoming events.