Remember British actress Jane Birkin’s style icon wicker basket, famous Parisian brand Maison Drucker’s rattan bistro chairs, or the legendary rattan Peacock chair which is now considered an antique? Wicker is not just a versatile material that gives essence to all these items, it bestows texture and character to the space and their users.

Depending on the application, wicker can be made from bulrush, reed, dried plants or Raphia palms. Bulrushes are woven much like kilims which can take hours on end. Centuries ago, wicker stools from reeds growing on the banks of the Nile were woven for the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Today, these items are on the radar of interior design. From headboards, lamp shades, armchairs and chairs in our homes to accessories like hats and bags in our wardrobes, wickerwork has found an undeniable place in our daily lives. As a practical material that can easily be harvested and rolled, wicker is frequently used as floor mats, wall and ceiling linings and in roof making. Wickerwork is quite popular across Turkish civilisations and the daily lives of people in this geography. Basketry is a handcraft which is still practiced in cities like Konya, Kastamonu, Kocaeli, Rize and Edirne. Wickerwork has traditionally been used as mats under carpets, on walls in homes, and as floor lining inside mosques. Meanwhile, its use as furniture in the way we know today has its origins in 17th century North Europe.


In fact, reed tissue is not a material, it is rather a weaving fibre obtained from reeds, rattan stems and bamboo plants. Owing to its fibrous properties, both rattan and bamboo are categorised in the same group, making them a choice material in numerous designs. Rattan is a variety of lianas that is similar to reed. Indonesia is home to 70% of the population of this material with a strong inner core. It is frequently used to fix furniture joints. Rattan furniture is only made from the rattan plant but wicker furniture can be made from a variety of materials including bamboo, hay and rattan. In its untreated form, rattan fades under sunlight so, it is mostly used in interiors. Whereas bamboo has been grown and used in Asian civilisations and particularly China for millennia. As a fast growing, strong material with smooth fibres, bamboo has a wide range of applications from basketry to home construction.


On a global scale, it could be said that Italian art collector Marella Agnelli and Italian architect Renzo Mongiardino’s interest in wicker furniture around the mid 20th century contributed significantly to the popularity of wicker use in outdoor furniture in Italy and France. The Southern French region of Provence has a tradition of wicker work that goes back 150 years. Besides vintage items by craftsmen Adrien Audoux and Frida Minnet, there have been several local artists working with the material throughout this period. The Provence based Atelier Vime is a prominent wicker making studio which has gained reputation for their contemporary items made using traditional methods.

Fusing ikebana art and flower arrangement, baskets became a form of artistic expression in Japan. Looking at their adaptations of 9th century Chinese baskets, it goes without saying that the Japanese were largely influenced by Chinese art and handcrafts of the period.


The texture of wicker is neither like wood or fabric and has a distinctive presence in any space it is used. At times, this distinction adds artistic value to wicker. Much like architects, artists were aware of wicker and rattan materials. During a period while heavily influenced by synthetic cubism, Pablo Picasso added a new dimension to art by incorporating delphinium to his famous work ‘Still-Life with Chair Caning’.

I stumbled upon Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich’s works during a visit to Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013. I vividly remember his intriguing fluid statues made with experimentations in rattan and bamboo.

Today, wicker baskets are gaining market value at auctions. The Japanese baskets listed at a 2017 auction at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts are the production of a cultural philosophy beginning from the harvesting of materials to the design process.

The iconic “Bamboo Basket” designed by American-Japanese artist and architect Isamu Noguchi and Japanese designer Isamu Kenmochi in the 1950s was auctioned and sold last year, reaffirming the durability of the material and the timelessness of the design.

Back in 2018, Iranian-French designer India Mahdavi appeared at the Home Faber exhibition with an installation titled ‘Imaginary Architecture’. The objective of the exhibition was to prove that traditional handicrafts had a place in the modern world. India Mahdavi’s abstract winter garden featured rattan as a material. The combination of master craftsmanship and the designer’s vision became the depiction of a new take on a traditional material. The Spanish fashion powerhouse Loewe opened a basketry and weaving exhibition in scope of the ‘Salone del Mobile’ at the 2019 Milano design expo with similar intentions.

Another example of a contemporary wicker work was the Nalgona chair designed by New York based artist Chris Wolston which was made from 100% Colombian mimbre fibres harvested from the Amazon. The design which recaptured the idea of the abstraction of the human-like form, appears like a statue. Whereas the ‘Vincent Chair’ series designed by Italian architect Alberto Biagetti must be one of the most extraordinary works of recent time which focuses on weaving and wicker craftmanship.
A specialist in wicker furniture, Robert Wengler is undoubtedly one of the most prominent names in the history of wickerwork. The German master’s classic garden dining chair from 1902 defies contemporary wicker furniture without losing any popularity over the years.

The 1960s and 1970s might be known as the golden age of rattan and wicker materials however, a growing demand for natural and sustainable materials has meant that wicker is going through a Renaissance. As a sustainable and natural choice with ample amounts of character means that wicker designs are expected to maintain their popularity in the years to come.