January 11, 2023 5 min read
Wicker is a term that describes an ancient furniture making practice, used to craft furniture and home accessories. Wicker has made a stylish revival in recent years, becoming the forefront of bohemian-chic interior trends.
Because wicker has been around for so long, there is a wealth of vintage pieces available on the second-hand and antique market. This is a terrific way of sustainably sourcing new furniture for your living space, as it means you can attain a limited, unique piece while keeping items in circulation, reducing waste and unnecessary production.
In this article, we break down all the essential facts that will aid you in your search for stunning antique wicker furniture.
Wicker has been around for centuries, dating as far back as ancient Egypt. The craft of wickerwork migrated throughout the Middle East and Europe. It is believed to have reached Persia and ancient Rome.
Archeologists have uncovered that wicker was frequently employed to create baskets, chairs and boxes. Wicker is so robust that it has even been found in battle shields, which date back to the first Persian Empire.
During the 19th century, wicker furniture gained tremendous popularity among western society. Because it was relatively quick and inexpensive to craft, it soon overtook upholstery. Today, wicker is still celebrated for its durability and has since become an aesthetic for interior décor.
To help you narrow your search for antique wicker items, we have listed the main woven materials that are frequently used for this ancient craft.
It is so common for wicker craftspeople to use rattan that this article may as well be called 'Identifying Vintage Rattan Furniture'. Rattan is adored by weavers as it is easily yielded and manipulated to fortify long-lasting furniture.
Rattan is a variant of the palm plant, a type of vine commonly seen ascending tree trunks and branches throughout southeast Asia.
The rattan plant is amongst the fastest growing materials found throughout nature, and is favoured by many due to how simple it is to sustainably grow and harvest.
There are two components of the rattan plant that are harvested for wickerwork:
The Cane: This is a thin interior located within the bark of a rattan plant. Because the cane is incredibly permeable, it requires little treatment after harvesting. Craftspeople favour cane when weaving intricate patterns, due to its tremendous flexibility (also making it comfortable to sit on). You will often discover cane wicker on chairs and stools.
The Inner Core: The core often requires more TLC than the cane, when harvesting. It is highly versatile and hard-wearing. Historically, the core has been harvested for basketry, a tradition which is still upheld today.
Like rattan, bamboo is a rapidly renewing natural material, and is subsequently perfect for eco-friendly production. Bamboo is additionally championed for its astonishing tensility and longevity, making it great for patio furniture.
When comparing durability, bamboo surpasses most hardwoods, and even steel! Bamboo also offers an attractive appearance, emanating natural warm tones, making it a popular material for home furnishings.
Willow wicker is an artisanal craft that is believed to have originated in Kashmir and Jammu. You may find that antique retailers refer to willow wicker as Kahmiri wicker. This type of weaving uses willow wood, which is handcrafted to form delicate wicker designs that offer both organic beauty and durability.
Willow wood is highly malleable because it easily retains moisture, making it suitable for constructing extraordinary patterns. Unlike bamboo and rattan, this material tends to be slightly heavier and suited to withholding excessive amounts of cargo.
Many artisans deem willow a superior fiber for basketry - it is likely that you will discover willow wicker baskets on bikes.
There are several synthetic materials commonly found in more recent wicker items. At Mojo Boutique, we tend to avoid artificial products as they often contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are proven to have carcinogens and other harmful toxins.
It is worth familiarizing yourself with some synthetics used to create wicker furniture, so you know what to look out for. Here are 3 common synthetics used for wicker:
Paper Fibre Rush: In the early 1900s, Paper Fibre Rush (spelt fibre not fiber because it is synthetic) made an appearance, in response to the high demand for wicker furniture. Manufacturers began to adopt this material for the production of their wicker items, as it was seemingly cheaper and easier to produce than naturally grown materials.
Lloyd Loom: During this era of rapid capitalization, an American inventor, Marshall Lloyd Loom, patented a specific process called the Lloyd Loom Weave, which involves finely wrapping paper strands around a tensile wire. This is type of wicker is found in many antique pieces that date back to the early 20th century.
Resins: Resin wicker is usually found in modern items, specifically outdoor furniture. You will notice that high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is the most popular material used to make artificial wicker, as it does not fade and can easily mimic the appearance of natural substances.
This is not notably hard-wearing, and can easily crack when exposed to heat. It is additionally regarded as 'safe' but scientists have discovered that this material contains estrogenic chemicals which have potentially dangerous effects on fetuses and infants.
Wicker furniture is undeniably very popular at the moment. Here are some of our favourite aspects of natural wicker:
Because natural wickerwork incorporates some of nature's toughest, organic materials (such as bamboo), it is ideal when creating robust, eco-friendly furniture, that works great both indoors and outdoors.
The natural materials used to weave wicker, such bamboo and rattan, offer breathtaking finishes, providing your habitat with sensationally rustic, boho interior.
Wicker has been popular for centuries, making it a truly timeless design. Buying wicker items from an antique furniture store will provide you with an authentic vintage piece that will embellish your space with character and elegance.
Wicker furniture incorporates the artistry of ancient weaving practice, which allows you to invite remarkable designs and patterns into your home. This builds texture throughout your interior, and helps you to add the finishing touches to your décor.
Now that you know all the fascinating and important facts about wicker, it is time you understand the main signifiers of vintage wicker furniture.
Quality Craftsmanship: Antique wicker is often handwoven by experts. It should therefore be of a superior quality, displaying obvious attributes of artisanal artistry (such as symmetry and tight-weavings).
Hardwood Frames: This is a staple characteristic of antique wicker furniture that dates between the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Check The Tag: There are 4 common manufacturers of early western wicker furniture:
Whitney and Reed Company
We hope this article has provided you with enough knowledge to confidently search for vintage wicker furniture. If you are in search of some newly made pieces to accompany your vintage purchase, we warmly invite you to explore our collection of consciously hand-crafted furniture here at Mojo Boutique.