The Return of Wicker — JENNY
Reviving the aesthetic that the Arts and Crafts Movement gave to this material in the late 19th century, these new developments revitalize the use of wicker while at the same time preserving its true essence. Over recent years new, hand-crafted and sophisticated products have emerged, in which design represents the key impulse in giving new life to this material. In today’s world, wicker exists alongside synthetic fibers, metals, leather and wood and can be mixed with them.
The Basket armchair, by Nanna & Jørgen Ditzel was design in 1950 and was recently reviewed by Kettal.Wicker belongs to the genus Salix, which includes hundreds of varieties - some of which are used in furniture and décor. Wickerwork is widespread in the United States and in Europe - but in Britain, Spain and Portugal it is especially developed. Growing the raw wicker stalks in Europe and USA has almost died-out nowadays. This makes it necessary to import the raw material from Southeastern Asia.The close-down of plantations and declining demand caused many wicker craft workers to give up their occupation. This progressive decline began during the colonial era - with the first rattan imports from Southeastern Asia. Rattan was not only aesthetically similar to wicker, and with comparable working characteristics – it also offered excellent durability and resilience. More recently, after the introduction of plastics and polymers with improved of the manufacturing techniques, rattan, wicker and other natural fibres began losing popularity.All lost then? No. As a growing trends for unrefined and natural materials led the renewed interest in wicker again. ...
Figuera: standing lamp with an iron structure by Let’s Pause.The use of this natural material is the core of the philosophy of Let’s Pause. “Our products are completely natural, with no chemicals or additives. We like the idea that they last as long as they need to last and then, once their useful life has ended, they can return to nature,” explains Monica Lafuente - one of the brand founders. Natural, chemical-free materials change color and gradually darken over the life of the product – giving an authentic look and feel.
An artisan working with rattanIt’s particularly important that wicker is a natural and sustainable material, since it is sourced from high-efficiency plantations—that is, from high-volume crops. Wicker processing also requires few steps, so it consumes relatively little energy.Nowadays “we commonly use the term wicker when referring to a great variety of natural fibers”, says designer Andreu Carulla - creative director of Cru. “All these fibres have similar origin and can be worked similar techniques, but among these climbing plants there are hundreds of varieties”, he continues. Alberto Ales, head of the design department of Expormim, says “We use the term wicker to define thinner and more flexible fibers, while all the others, thicker and more resilient, are called rattan”.
Raphia chair, designed by LucidiPevere for CasamaniaVarious techniques can be used when working wicker, according to the desired finish or function of the product. These range from the traditional mesh finish - often used in the seats or backs of chairs—to a braided finish, often used in basketwork. Thicker fibers, such as rattan, are normally used as a substitute for wood in creating frames.
The Raphia chair for Casamania, is an iconic artisanal reinterpretation within an eminently industrial world. In this piece two materials – antagonistic at first sight – are combined. The structure of the chair is metallic, while the backrest is hand crafted of wicker or rattan, and available in two versions.“In the last two years we’ve become very interested in natural materials and artisan craftsmanship. In particular our region of Treviso (Italy) has a long tradition of wicker craftsmanship,” says Elis Doimo, president of Casamania. “Without a doubt there has been a return to natural, craft-made products,” says Doimo.“The Raphia chair is a perfect synthesis of industrial production with traditional craftsmanship. It was very interesting to investigate how these two materials would be able to coexist and blend together. At the same time, it proved very complicated finding a good balance between the two. Each material has its function. The metal functions very well as the structure of the chair - defining its silhouette from a technical point of view. The wicker is a natural and warm material which completes the structure, creating a delicate surface,” said Luca Pevere, one of the...
According to Pevere, “in recent years there has been an enormous resurgence in the use of natural materials such as wood, marble… There is probably a twin motivation for this. In some ways the market was saturated by the misuse of plastic that took place in the 90s and the following decade; while on the other hand, the economic crisis has forced many businesses to move from expensive technologies to traditional materials to reduce costs. Overall I believe these days businesses pay more attention to the environment - now that, fortunately, the rules of the market are changing.”
Despite the renewed interest, practically all the crops are located in Asia.Many businesses manufacture in these countries as well. In the case of Expormim, one of the Spanish companies with the longest tradition of work with this fiber, it has been a journey there and back again. They started manufacturing in Spain and then moved production to Asia.“Since 2008 we’ve been working with wicker again in our own factories. It`s a way to create added value and ensure a natural assembly,” says the head of their design department, Alberto Ales. It has been a relatively simple process for them, because they already had experienced artisans on staff. Their new operations help to keep this technique alive.
Armchair Frames by Jaime Hayon for ExpormimThe collection Frames includes an armchair, a screen and a side table with a lightly steam-bent structure. Wicker is the main component of the seat and backrest of this chair, which actualizes a classic material while skirting the typically rustic look of mesh.The resurgence of wicker wouldn’t be possible today without close collaboration between designers, manufacturers and craft workers. “Being close to the artisan leads to more direct contact and also enables experiment and trying new things.” says Albert Ales. “Without a doubt it is a slower working process, and could work-out more costly - but it certainly adds quality and great freshness to the product”.
Due Sorelle Grande: standing Lamp by Let’s PauseAt Let’s Pause they choose cane, to avoid raw material import from Asia. This means using local crops and cooperating with artisans from South Spain or North Africa. Cane is the closest alternative to the most popular variety of wicker, and shares its characteristics, hand-processing techniques and results. “What we are looking for is raw materials that grow in the Mediterranean area, and products made in this area,” says Monica Lafuente. Among her recent works are these cane-made lamps. “We love the quality of light they give, and the charming effect of the shadows they project on walls and ceilings”.
Cru Furniture by Andreu CarullaThe warm and familiar touch of these fibers is certainly what people appreciate the most. This is also what attracted Andreu Carulla, Catalan designer, representative of the brand Cru. His background embraces two approaches – while working at his studio he gained familiarity with the cutting-edge materials and industrial processes; but now, with his new brand, he is experimenting the most human side of material. His research rejects the pureness of finished industrial products to highlight “the imperfection, the simplicity, the artisanal value”, saysCarulla. The philosophy at Cru is based on rustic and simple principles and on 100% natural materials.
Wicker has been tied to the history of industrial design from the outset. In fact over recent decades, professionals fascinated with this material have reclaimed the potential of wicker through their work.This is the case with Danish designers Nanna & Jørgen Ditzel, who created Basket in 1950 - an unusual bowl-shaped wicker seat. The Spanish company Kettal has just reviewed this design. “Classical materials such as marble, teak or wicker are coming back because of the general trend to return to authentic everlasting materials. We’ve always been using them,” says Alex Alord, son of Kettal’s founder, and now head of the company.
Allegory Desk is another example that confirms the wicker boom. It is part of a collection designed by Danish designers GamFratesi and realized by Gebrüder Thonet Vienna. This design studio has a clear idea of the motives behind the renaissance of this material: “It is natural, beautiful, with a long artisanal tradition,” says Enrico Fratesi, one of the founders of the company.Allegory Desk can serve as both a desk and dressing table, in which the woven cane screen can be used to keep personal items, messages or images. “Wicker is a traditional material for us at Gebrüder Thonet Vienna. We wanted to emphasize the history of the company by using this material in a different way,” says Enrico. We went for a simplification of shapes in items - aiming to modernize such classic concepts as personal space, or the intimacy of a bedroom.
Even in the luxury segment, wicker seems to be a “must” in new collections. Hermès have just presented their new home collection, featuring a prevailing special attention to artisanal and handmade production processes. Their furniture shows a great presence of natural woods, along with Hermès’ all-time favorite material - leather. Yet other materials play a valuable role in their collection too. We see them in this magazine rack - made of calf leather and wicker knitted together in thin strips: an artisanal masterpiece. This is exactly what you get when buying wickerwork.WHAT ABOUT YOU?Do you have any wickerwork or wicker furniture at home? Share your picture in the Comments section.