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.
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!!!
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.
More Examples of Extremely Popular Motif Wicker
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.
Painted white rocker with a sailboat motif in the back which is woven in the intricate spider web cane design.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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~~Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much ~~
Happy Weaving, until next time!