Antique Wicker Furniture Motif Features

WEDNESDAY WICKER WISDOM–Today we have a wonderful guest author here on the Weavin’ Wicker Woman blog.

Richard Saunders is a man who hardly needs an introduction since he’s already so well known in the antique wicker furniture industry.

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. He also demonstrated how to repair wicker during that segment, so I was hooked!

This man was doing the same sort of wicker restoration work that I was; how cool was that?

Richard worked as a consummate wicker furniture repair expert for many years and is now retired from that position.

He’s also written six books on antique wicker furniture and the industry itself and is a certified antique wicker furniture appraiser.

Find Richard’s contact information on his listing in my National Furniture Repair Directory™ in the Wicker category.

Fancy Victorian wicker rocker. How to care for antique wicker furniture.
“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.

Here’s a wicker motif 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

The ultimate in theme wicker

A rattan reed wicker 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 possibly 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.

This reed wicker settee also retains its original stained and lacquered finish.

Schooner motif wicker settee
Settee with a two-masted schooner motif in back.

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

This piece also has the centers of the star and moon woven in the intricate Star of David cane pattern.

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

Painted white rocker with a sailboat motif in the back which is woven in the intricate spider web cane design.

Sailboat motif Victorian wicker back
Sailboat motif Victorian wicker rocker.

Natural finish children’s rocker with heart motif and woven spiderweb cane design in the center.

The heart motifs were very popular with adults and youngsters alike.

Heart motif child's wicker rocker
Child’s wicker rocker with heart motif in back.

Here is an exceptional Victorian natural finish rocker with an American flag theme.

It also has the spiderweb cane design which represents the stars in the flag.

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

Some motif theme pieces were figural, as is this doll buggy with its wooden wheels.

It’s in the form of a shoe and comes complete with hand-painted “stitching” on the sides of the sole.

Shoe motif wicker carriage
Wicker doll carriage made in a shoe motif.

Here’s a natural finish Victorian Lady’s rocker with a Japanese fan motif. Notice the star and crescent moon at the top on either side of the fan.

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 the Wicker Motif Quiz Above

Most people see a leaf but on closer inspection, you realize it’s an owl. Were you correct? Did you get the right answer without jumping down here to find out?

Thank you so much, Richard, for this excellent blog post article about Motif Antique Wicker. This will help us assess any wicker furniture we are purchasing or already have as heirlooms.

If you have any questions about your wicker furniture, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Richard for an appraisal through his listing on the National Furniture Repair Directory™.

How about you? Do you own any antique wicker furniture with a woven motif in the back? If so, please leave a comment below and tell us all about it.

wicker braid separator graphic

wicker braid separator graphic

~~ Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much ~~

Until next time, Happy Weaving!


About The Author

12 thoughts on “Antique Wicker Furniture Motif Features”

  1. I just purchased the same chair with the fan motif at a yard sale in Cape May. Nj. When was it made and what is it worth. Thank you.

    1. Hi Tracey,

      It’s great to hear you are interested in antique wicker furniture and that you’ve purchased one of your own! You can find a lot of general information about wicker furniture throughout my website, both on the blog and on the pages. Just use the Search feature at the top of every page to find what you want.

      The Articles tab in the navigation area has a number of hints, tips and information about wicker manufacturers, dating pieces and how to care for wicker.

      If you are looking for specific dating and establishing value, what you are asking for is an appraisal. I do not give appraisals and instead, refer you to wicker restoration expert, author and appraiser, Richard Saunders who is listed on my Furniture Repair Directory™ in the Wicker category.

      Thanks for asking, glad I could help!

  2. Dear Cathryn,
    I own a rocker that looks exactly like the American flag themed rocker you have pictured in your blog. It has a sticker on the bottom that says PASS 0013. Can you tell me anything about it? Thank you
    Jenny Dean

    1. Hi Jenny,

      How lucky are you to have such a rare Victorian antique wicker piece! I don’t know what the PASS 0013 refers to and can’t tell you much more about the piece other than what my guest blogger, Richard Saunders said in his article. He’d be happy to give you an appraisal on your wicker flag motif rocker though, just contact him using the link here Saunders Wicker–National Furniture Repair Directory™. Be sure to read my article on Caring for Your Wicker Furniture.

  3. Cathryn,
    I was stumbling around on the internet last night and landed in your wicker blog at I subscribed immediately. Your “WEDNESDAY WICKER WISDOM- Motif Wicker” was well done and very interesting. I believe it was thru a comment on the Chair Caning Forum that you recommended the value to wicker repair of Richard Sanders’ books. During December 2015, I obtained several of his works. It was during those negotiations. I requested that Mr. Sanders offer some technical/detailed comments on a project I was about to work on. He graciously declined. He felt a personal inspection would be required, and he stated he had been out of the wicker renovation for sometime. He referred me to the Wicker Woman whom he felt might be more accustomed to replying via e-mail without a personal inspection and perhaps more up-to-date on the details and techniques of my project.

    As you will recall, I initially contacted you in December 2015 concerning the repaIr of a wicker child’s rocker and sent pictures and detail sketches in January 2016. I so hope you can respond to my cry for help with this project.

    Thank you for promoting our craft and sharing your experience and knowledge with all.

    1. Hi Tom,

      So sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner on this comment and answer your emails, but my personal life and family responsibilities took precedence over my blogging for the last several months.

      In response to your question about wrapping wicker frames, legs, arms and such, I am in the process of filming a video to show how it’s done. I will keep you and my other readers “in the loop” as it progresses and when it’s finally able to be seen.

      Thanks so much for subscribing to the blog and expect some major changes in topics and overall look and feel to it coming soon!

      P.S. Thanks also for hanging in there and being so patient with me, too! I appreciate all my new followers and of course, the ones that have been with me for the last 12 years since I started the blog! Be sure to look through the Archives (over in the right sidebar), for some juicy and “evergreen” posts on chair caning, wicker repair and basketry.

  4. Cathryn, You always have new and interesting things to see and learn. You are quite a lady!
    Those samples of wicker art are amazing. Thank you for sharing the beauty.

    1. Thank you Adrienne, so happy you are enjoying the blog post with Richard Saunders, thanks for being a subscriber too.

      Your website URL didn’t come across properly, so here it is again. I want to make sure folks can click on your link and visit your site, too.

      And here’s your link to your listing on the Furniture Repair Directory in the Chair Caning category also.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top