Rat­tan shell chair

Home & Decor (Malaysia) - - Hot Seat -

If you grew up in the 1960s or 1970s, you prob­a­bly would have taken a child­hood photo on one of these chairs. Fondly called the shell chair, it was a fa­mil­iar sight in many homes and pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dios. Rat­tan was widely used in fur­ni­ture-mak­ing in the trop­ics be­cause it is light­weight, long-last­ing, flex­i­ble and could be worked into many styles. Tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from clamshells, crafts­men started mak­ing these seats in the 1950s, selling them to both lo­cals and ex­pa­tri­ates.

“Both young and old en­joyed loung­ing on it be­cause it’s so cool­ing,” says 66-year-old rat­tan maker Chen Foon Kee. They were in­di­vid­u­ally made by hand – by wind­ing and weav­ing rat­tan reeds in con­cen­tric cir­cles, start­ing from the cen­tre, “much like spin­ning a spi­der’s web”. Foon Kee, who took over his fa­ther’s rat­tan shop in 1970, re­calls how he could deftly make six of these seats a day to meet de­mand.

The chairs costed just RM21 in those days, which prob­a­bly ex­plains why it was so com­mon­place. The hum­ble seat serves as an en­dur­ing re­minder of our child­hood days. For some, it has lasted for years with gen­er­a­tions grow­ing up on it, as it made its way from five-foot ways to flats. Block 122 Bukit Merah Lane 1, #01-68, Sin­ga­pore, tel: +65-6278-2388

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