A Justification of Wicker

As the Summer draws to a close and Libra season rushes in like a crisp breeze (but seriously, the crisp breezes are coming, right?), I thought I should take this opportunity to talk about wicker. It seems that all of the sudden, wicker is everywhere - or has it always been there? Beautiful and impractical basket purses, light fixtures that persist even after the weather has cooled, and of course furniture.

Technically and adorably, Merriam-Webster tells us that wicker refers specifically to "a small, pliant twig." This means that wicker is anything made out of woven wood. And if you needed proof that it existed long before your grandmother put it in her garden, look no further than the ancient Egyptians. Apartment Therapy published a Quick History of wicker furniture back in 2012 from which I learned that Tutankhamen was buried with a wicker chair seat, headboard and stool. And if it’s good enough for King Tut, it’s good enough for me, you know?

Wicker was also good enough for the Ancient Romans, and for the French, as I learned in August’s issue of The World of Interiors. The cover article describes an incredible home in a small town in the south of France, where at least 400 wicker-makers once took advantage of the favorable irrigation situation provided by the Rhone. The industry collapsed in the 1980s, but the owners of this home recently did their part to revitalize it by founding their own studio, employing both local craftspeople and world-renowned designers. They called their studio Atelier Vime, a word with roots that refer to soaked, flexible wood.

So, wicker was never really gone because it’s literally always been here, but now it’s back in a big way and has crawled out of the dated backyard and into just about every genre of modern design you can imagine. Just last year, I found myself in an entirely wicker bathroom. Almost without realizing it, I now have a wicker pendant light hanging in my dining room (with no intention of switching it out in the winter, thank you very much, because YOLO). It’s in our studio. In restaurants, shops and hotels. It’s in images old and new - spanning decades and lifestyles and cultures and gently prodding us to ask, “Just when was this photo taken anyway?"

The recent resurgence of wicker was not sudden, but steadily built momentum, like a fire catching. My hypothesis is that this is a byproduct of our collective consciousness turning - toward something more polished, more livable, and perhaps more familiar. We are not ready to give up entirely on the earthy neutrals, bright whites and organic fabrics of California casual, but we want to merge that with something deeper: longer histories, more vibrant colors, richer textures, the ornate in place of the rustic. 

And this inclination is not new. In a 1917 essay entitled “A Justification of Wicker” published in The Art World, Vol. 2, author Walter A. Dyer writes, “…we continually hark back to the period styles when we desire something substantial and sure.” 

Though Dyer’s essay actually goes on to defend wicker as a hot new trend worth exploring in 1917 (turns out his prediction caught on!), I agree with this sentiment nonetheless. Maybe it’s the seasons changing or the political climate or the actual climate - I’m not sure. But I do know I feel myself turning toward steadiness and the sureness of small, pliant twigs.

- Stephanie

Stephanie MercerComment