Still happy after 40 years of weaving cane

Text and Pix by Randima Attygalle

His humble push-cycle with bundles of cane strips tied to its sides and worn-out bag of equipment, will certainly not tell a story of a contented ‘weaver’ at first glance.

“Life can be hard at times with cane prices soaring, yet I don’t grumble and I have work round the year to keep my mind and hands busy,” says smiling Chandradasa Mendis from Bokundara, Piliyandala- a seasoned cane-weaver with almost 40 years of experience to his credit.

Mansions of the elite names in the country, corporate sector and luxury hotels have received Mendis’ ‘weaving’ touch. “My trade prospers mainly by word of mouth”, says Mendis whose customers are eager to recommend him either to a neighbour or a friend to mend an age-old chair or a complete set of living room-cane furniture.

Inspired by the work of his father, a cane weaver himself, the young man soon grasped the techniques of the trade that extended from repairing of cane products to production. “Like any other vocation, this too is an art that has to be mastered with time and practice,” explains Mendis whose quick fingers moving rapidly on a sofa or a chair is indeed a fascinating sight.

He says the durability of a cane product lies mainly in the quality of the cane and the design of the particular item. “In the case of cane and wood mixed furniture, such as sofas, arm chairs and divans, the strength depends on the number of joints (thauwa) which binds the cane to the wooden frame and the space between them,” he explains adding that the maturity of the cane too is vital.

Distinguishing natural cane from artificial or plastic, Mendis says, “the natural cane we get from Polonnaruwa is cooling, eco-friendly and more costly than plastic cane which is imported.” According to him, the local cane-weaving industry is a specialised craft as all aspects of it are exclusively done by hand. “Unlike in many industrialised countries where woven cane is fixed to the structure with aid of machinery, our industry is devoid of it,” he said adding that equipment used by local artisans is light.


Top    Back to Business

Copyright © 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.