Chrissy is the founder of furniture caning business, Nimble Norfolk. Here, she explains the personal reasons why having her own business has proved to be hugely beneficial
My name is Chrissy, and I’m the owner and sole proprietor of Nimble Norfolk. I repair furniture, specialising in cane. I’m intending to expand into other forms of woven seats soon as well.
Before I started Nimble Norfolk in 2021, I worked in a lot of administrative, scheduling and project management roles across a few different industries. When the pandemic hit, I had to shield, and the enforced isolation made me consider what I really wanted to do with my life. I decided that I wanted to do something more hands-on and fulfilling. I tried a few different courses over the year, and chair caning is the one that suited me the best. I quickly set up the business and handed in my notice. It’s been my main employment since early 2022, and Nimble Norfolk has grown ever since.
My husband and I used to live in Hampshire, not far from Winchester. We intended to relocate to Norfolk in 2019, as my husband got a new job up in Thetford. A few things delayed us until 2020, and then the pandemic hit. We moved to Watton in the summer of 2020, and absolutely love it here. My dad grew up around Norwich and it’s been nice to look at the family tree and see place names that I recognise.
I’ve been interested in history and archaeology for as long as I can remember. Chair caning is a centuries-old craft, and I find it’s really appealing to be doing the same work, sometimes on the same furniture, as did someone hundreds of years ago. On top of that, I’m a naturally ‘crafty’ person – I’ve been knitting and cross-stitching since childhood, and am currently getting more practice at sewing, crochet and tablet weaving. Painstaking attention to detail combined with patience, creativity, and the satisfaction of seeing raw materials turning into a beautiful and useful object will always keep me enthralled.
Practically, having my own business has been hugely beneficial. I’m a late-diagnosed autistic person, with an autoimmune disease and chronic mental ill-health to boot. Being in control of my own schedule, ways of doing business and one-to-one interactions with clients has helped tremendously. I’m less burnt out and can take rests as necessary or shift my working patterns as necessary. I’m also lucky that cane furniture has become one of my special interests, so I can combine research and education for the business with my relaxation time. It does mean that unwary people who chat to me at craft fairs can get stuck in conversation, learning more than they ever intended about rattan!
I think the most satisfaction I get is from returning an obviously well-loved and worn object back into a treasured piece. Giving it new life, and decades at least of use – reviving memories in the older generations of a family and giving the younger generations the opportunity to make new ones. Even if it’s not an heirloom within the same family, seeing people treasure an object for its history or its beauty, and being able to facilitate that process, is amazing to me. As simple as tightening a wobbly chair leg, through to completely refinishing and recaning a complicated project, I’m always happy to add to the furniture’s history.
Regarding chucking out old or broken cane furniture – it’s a tricky one. Hand cane, in particular, is a slow and therefore potentially costly style of work. No matter how well loved something is, sometimes the cost to repair it is beyond what someone is willing or able to pay, and that’s ok. In these instances, I’m always happy to discuss alternatives, be it different weaving patterns, options to discuss with an upholsterer or cabinetmaker, or how to extend its life at home. I can even point you in the direction of resources to learn how to cane a simple chair yourself! If none of those appeal to you, I’d recommend putting it up for auction, or on Facebook or eBay before consigning it to the tip or the bonfire. Someone else might want it to learn on, and I browse occasionally to see if there’s anything unusual that I might want for my own collection. I have a gorgeous Regency elbow chair that I found on Facebook. He had bought it cheaply ages ago and was using it in his garage. He had no idea it was a couple of hundred years old! It has cleaned up beautifully.
If you’d like to learn more about me, Nimble Norfolk or caning in general, you can follow me on social media, read the blog on my website, drop me an email or find me at one of the craft fairs I occasionally attend.
My hopes for 2024 are fairly simple. I’m planning to set aside a few weeks to work through the repairs needed for my personal collection; to get enough experience in seat rushing to be able to offer it to clients; and generally, strive for another successful year!
Featured images by ETT Photography