Wicker Baskets – Background
Not all basket have to be wicker, but to be wicker, it must be woven. Wicker baskets are made by weaving organic reed, cane, grass, branches, roots or man-made products into containers used for storing, carrying or displaying things. Their uses are in fact endless. They can be large or small, have handles, open tops or lids, be hung on a wall or sit on a table or the ground. They come in countless shapes, sizes and kinds and can be made from an array of different materials.
Woven wicker baskets are traditionally made by hand. The art or process of weaving a basket is called Basket Weaving. From the early days in Egypt to the current days in nearly all countries of the world, wicker baskets are popular and used by a large percentage of the population. Wicker baskets are being used in nearly every home today.
What Makes Wicker Baskets Desirable?
Wicker baskets have been around for thousands of years and are expected to be around for a few thousand more. You may ask yourself, why is it that wicker baskets have been around for so long and still a desirable product? The reason is simple. Simplicity in manufacture and cost along with an abundant availability of materials and skilled people with the desire to make something useful and charming. People are attracted to handcrafted things that are useful, inexpensive with a high degree of appeal.
One can only imagine what life would be like in a world without wicker baskets. From the very early days, people used wicker to make just about every conceivable thing they needed. Wicker products are lightweight and strong. Baskets were desirable as compared to the alternative of solid wood or metal containers.
In the old days, using wicker was an easy way to construct things they needed because the materials were readily available and the skills were handed down through the family. To improve their daily life, they invented the products they needed using the materials and skills they had. Making baskets from wicker became a constructive and well sot after skill and desirable good. When the materials are woven together to make a basket, they make a strong bond and create a useful container that can carry or store heavy items. A big advantage of making things from wicker was that they were lighter than their counterparts might have been. Clay and wood were bulky and heavy to use and carry. Based on the mass volume of wicker baskets made and sold each year, they are clearly a product that is in demand.
Uses of Wicker Baskets
Baskets can be used for everyday chores to carry and store goods. They can also be used to display things like flowers or simply be used as a decoration. Specially, some wicker baskets are designed for cooking and some act as a sieve. Others are used as a trap to contain animals or fish. The uses depend on who you are, where you live and your intent.
A fisherman uses a wicker basket with a latching lid and sling to hold and carry fish they catch. A popular seafood restaurant uses the same basket as a display item hanging on a wall as an aesthetic piece of art to establish an atmosphere with their customers. Extra large wicker baskets are used in many third world countries to hold grains, vegetables and fruits in homes and markets. In developed countries like the USA, the same large baskets are used for decoration or holding products on display in stores.
Some styles of medium sized baskets are used for laundry. Laundry hampers are used to hold the dirty laundry until its time to be washed whereas, a laundry basket with two handles that is open wide at the top is used for transporting the clean and dirty laundry to and from the place you wash it to the place you store it to be worn.
Egg baskets, are woven with a specific shape so as to hold the eggs so that they don’t roll too much and can be staked while harvesting. Vegetable and flower baskets have a large hooped handle and open space above a slightly curved woven oval bottom designed so that you can pick things like leafy vegetables & spices or flowers on a stem, onions, and other long garden choices that won’t fit in a smaller closed-in basket.
There is a great popularity of using a wicker wastebaskets in bathrooms and bedrooms. Depending on the design, wicker magazine baskets can be used in advanced countries to hold newspapers and magazines next to your favorite reading chair. Magazine holder baskets usually have handles and flat bottom ones can be used for carrying wine bottles or jars.
Round wicker baskets with lids are very popular around the world. Round baskets have many different uses. In some countries they use these types of baskets to store root crops or died fruit. Other countries these are used to keep snakes or insects. Some more advanced countries use large round wicker baskets as a trash can, clothes hamper or it is used strictly for aesthetic purposes on display in a home or shop.
The examples above only touch on the many number of uses of wicker baskets. They also show that any particular basket may have more than one use in addition to different uses in different countries or cultures.
Basket Materials and Construction
The lightweight and sturdiness of wicker baskets once they are woven make them a quality product over many others. They can be made from an array of many different organic or man-made materials. Traditionalists like their baskets made form organic materials. However, depending on how they are used, resin baskets have been getting more popular for both indoors and outdoor use.
Wicker baskets can be made using any long flexible material that can be woven. Some materials such as rattan reed must be soaked in water to allow it to become softened before it can be used. Otherwise, it will crack and break. Ultimately, what ever is used must be pliable so that it can be woven, especially when the weave is tight.
In preparation to begin weaving a basket, a bottom and sort of frame must be established with spokes onto which weavers are used to tie and tighten the basket together. For a conventional round basket that sits upright, the spokes, or staves as they are called, are the vertical running pieces whereby the weavers are the horizontal running pieces that are woven around the spokes that fill in the sides of the basket and bring it all together.
Each country or area where wicker baskets are made have their own specific designs. Not only the overall basket style and shape is unique, but also, and most importantly, the weave pattern. Many sophisticated patterns have evolved over the years many of them breath taking. In addition to the weave patterns, some basket makers have taken to painting designs or images on their baskets. These additional features are aesthetically pleasing making the baskets more desirable.
Organic basket materials can be used in their natural color state or can be stained or painted to take on what ever colors the basket maker desires. Organic materials are woody and can absorb the stains and allow paints to adhere. Resin based materials have the colors already embedded inside the materials so no staining or painting is necessary.
Handles are critical to some baskets and are part of the initial construction. The basket designer needs to consider ahead of time weather they want the basket to include a handle or not. If they do, they need to incorporate spokes that can be woven into the overall design and those spokes will become the handle.
The baskets discussed above are considered to be made of 100% wicker however, deviations in design of wicker baskets can include other materials such as a wood base, or wood frame onto which a weave is added.
Wicker baskets are alluring to many people. Life without wicker baskets might have changed the way man stored, carried things or how cultures evolved because basket weaving was a necessity, a job and an art. Fortunately, we live in a time when we can buy and enjoy wicker baskets without having to make them ourselves. Craftsmen from around the word specialize in this dying art. Third world countries produce the bulk of the baskets today only because thats were the expertise is, the labor is cheap and the raw materials are abundant. The expertise is being lost because the work in tedious and people don’t make much money for he effort they put into it. So, they move on to better jobs when they can.
Knowing the background about wicker baskets allows us to appreciate the art, the history and efforts of the basket weavers which allows us to enjoy the craft that has spread over many lifetimes.