PhotoMarie Brailey with a cane chair
Marie Brailey dedicated over 45 years to the art of caning chairs. Brailey learned the art form from a neighbor on Treadwell Street in Orangeburg. Brailey earned supplemental income by caning chairs for folks throughout the Orangeburg community. She eventually went into business for herself, slowing down only when her eyes began to fail. Through the good times and the challenging times, chair caning not only occupied her hands, but also focused her mind on the creative process.
Over time, she passed her knowledge on to her son, Willie Van Brailey, who fondly recalls passing the midnight hour with his mother to finish a job. Her skill is widely recognized by her community in Orangeburg. The senior citizen center, Mass Production Machinery, private antique dealers, and numerous individuals have asked her to teach her craft. While cane is not a material native to South Carolina, chair caning has been a vocational craft practiced in South Carolina for at least a century. Brailey received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 1997.
PhotoMarie Brailey with a chair seat in progress
PhotoMarie Brailey - cane seat detail
PhotoMarie Brailey - Tools of the trade
PhotoMarie Brailey with her son, Willie Van
PhotoMarie Brailey - child's chair
PhotoMarie Brailey - finished work, cane chair