WEDNESDAY WICKER WISDOM–Today we have a wonderful guest blogger here on Weavin’ Wicker Woman. Richard Saunders is a man that hardly needs an introduction since he’s already so well known in the antique wicker furniture industry.

Richard Saunders Antique Wicker Books


I’ve followed Richard through all his books, but I also remember seeing him on the Good Morning America television show back in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Richard was on the show talking about the history of the wicker furniture industry. During that segment, he also demonstrated how to repair wicker, so I was hooked! This man was doing the same sort of work that I was, how cool is that?

Richard went on in the wicker furniture repair business for years, but is now retired from that position. He’s also written six books on antique wicker and is a certified antique wicker furniture appraiser. Find his contact information on his listing in my National Furniture Repair Directory in the Wicker category.


S motif in wicker back

“S” letter motif in wicker rocker back.


Read on and enjoy the post–

Motif Antique Wicker Furniture

by Richard Saunders

While today’s serious antique wicker furniture collectors search for natural, or unpainted, pieces there is a rare subcategory that is highly prized and even more elusive –Motif or Theme pieces.

The back panels of these exceedingly rare pieces were handwoven with cane, reed or a combination of both. These theme designs were employed in chairs, rockers and settees and made use of everything from ships and stars to hearts and flags.

Theme wicker was most often made by established and well-known firms like Heywood Brothers & Company; the Wakefield Rattan Company; and after their merger in 1897, the Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Company of Gardner, Massachusetts. The great majority of these whimsically ornate creations were made between 1870 and 1900.

I’ve often felt that the closest link to motif-inspired wicker furniture is occupational or hobby-related shaving mugs. These were commissioned by their owners and custom painted with themes ranging from butchers, athletes, barbers and pool players.

In my opinion wicker pieces with motif back panels mirrored the fanciful nature of the late Victorian period. Some popular theme designs lasted for years in manufacturer’s catalogs.

Yet other unique themes were most likely privately commissioned custom pieces, an example being an occupation-related Hook & Ladder motif and a Liberty Bell for a long-ago proud American intent on celebrating the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876.

1. Here’s a test for you. What motif do you see woven into the back of this rocker? Well, I said it was a test, but it’s more like a Rorschach Test. I’ll give you the answer after the last photo in this blog. No cheating!!!


Owl motif back Victorian wicker


2. The ultimate in theme wicker – a settee with a two-masted schooner woven into its wide backrest. It is most likely a one of a kind piece and commissioned by a sea captain or possible for the lobby of a yacht club. Aside from the wonderful caned sails, notice the reed curlicues between the two masts which represent the wind. The bow of the ship is also made of reed and is pulling along a small dingy.


Schooner motif wicker settee

Settee with a two-masted schooner motif in back.


3. Closeup of a star back blue rocker which also employs a quarter moon at top right.


Star motif Victorian wicker

Star and crescent moon motif in back of Victorian wicker rocker.


4. White rocker with sailboat motif.


Sailboat motif Victorian wicker back

Sailboat motif Victorian wicker rocker.


5. Natural children’s rocker with heart motif.

Heart motif child's wicker rocker

Child’s wicker rocker with heart motif in back.


6. Exceptional Victorian natural rocker with American flag theme. You have to look twice to notice the “1776” centennial date at top.


Victorian wicker rocker 1776 motif

“1776” centennial motif in back of Victorian wicker rocker


7. Some theme pieces were figural. This doll buggy in the form of a shoe and comes complete with hand painted “stitching” on the sole.


Shoe motif wicker carriage

Wicker doll carriage made in a shoe motif.


8. Natural Victorian Lady’s rocker with Japanese fan motif. This is a prime example of the Aesthetic Movement style which started in Victorian England and relied on the popularity of the Orientalism craze in America.


Japanese fan motif Victorian wicker rocker

Japanese fan motif in natural wicker rocker


Answer to Question #1:

OK. Here’s the answer to the top photo quiz. Most people see a leaf. But on closer inspection you realize it’s an owl.

Thank you so much Richard for this great article blog post about Motif Antique Wicker. This will certainly help us when assessing wicker furniture we are purchasing or already have as heirlooms.

And if you have any wicker furniture you are wondering the value of or age, please contact Richard for an appraisal through his listing on the National Furniture Repair Directory™

Do you have any antique wicker with woven motif in the back? And if so, please leave a comment below and tell us all about it.

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