Wicker baskets have been used throughout history in cultures as far back as the Ancient Egyptians.
The versatile and cost effective nature of wicker has led to the designs being found in a wide spectrum of historical civilizations from ancient Rome to Iron Age Britain. The use of Wicker baskets continued moderately up until the 19th century when they saw a boom in popularity, as the Victorians embraced wicker for its intricate woven forms and patterns.
In modern times, wicker continues to be used all around the world, and many countries, including India, South Africa, and Mexico, have their own variations and design styles. The material is now widely featured in traditional, retro, and eco interior decoration in the form of wicker storage baskets, furniture, and even artwork.
How Wicker baskets Are Produced
Wicker is made by weaving together reeds or fibers to create a solid and durable material. To produce decorative patterns, different colored reeds or weaving methods are included in the design. Historically, wicker was always made by hand, but most modern wicker hampers and baskets are now created by machines. Many wicker products are varnished, painted, or coated in resin to keep them bright and protected from wear and tear. Other pieces are left untreated so that the natural, organic properties of the material are clearly visible.
The Different Types Of Wicker
The name ‘wicker’ actually refers to the process of weaving the material rather than the name of the reeds or fibers that go into it. In reality, there are a wide range of materials that can be used to make wicker. The following are some of the most common:
- Rattan Reed
In the past, rattan was the most frequently used wicker making material, as the pliable reeds that come from the vine-like rattan palm can reach extraordinary lengths. When used whole, the solid rattan poles are usually used to build a strong framework. When the outer layers of the vines are removed, the pliable inner pith can be woven more delicately to create the rest of the wicker work.
- Paper Fiber
Paper Fiber wicker is a more recent invention, dating from around the early 20th century, but it is quickly growing in popularity. The man-made product is very flexible, versatile, long lasting, and easy to work with. It doesn’t need to be soaked before it is woven, so it can be easily shaped into much more complex patterns than a natural rattan weave.
Bamboo wicker looks very similar to rattan but its hollow center makes it lighter in weight. Unfortunately, bamboo canes are less bendy than rattan reeds and break more easily as a result.
Over time a broad range of wicker styles have been developed. Here are just a few of them:
- Complex and elaborately detailed Victorian wicker designs are the most well-recognized. They often feature beading and spirals, and the style is used in everything from bird cages and craft storage boxes to sofas.
- The Bar Harbor style closely followed on from the Victorian era, and the pieces are far simpler. A hand woven crisscross diamond pattern is a predominant feature.
- Stick wicker is far more geometrically shaped, and the reeds are set into a frame rather than woven together.
- Art Deco wicker has the tightest weave. It is often left relatively plain but arrows, diamonds, zigzags and other straight lined patterns are sometimes used.
How To Care For Wicker baskets
Wicker baskets and furniture require very little maintenance, and when properly cared for they can last for hundreds of years. To keep them in top condition for as long as possible, the material should be kept away from heat sources like radiators and fireplaces which can make them brittle. It should also be protected from any greasy substances as these have a tendency to leave stains. High humidity can be an issue as well because when wicker is wet for a long period of time it may develop mold.
Wicker is very simple to clean. For general maintenance simply brush the wicker with a duster or use an upholstery hoover attachment covered with a nylon stocking. If your wicker basket needs a deeper cleaning, then use a cool damp cloth and leave the piece somewhere airy to dry afterwards.