Sample text for Wicker design / Mary Whitesides.
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Today's wicker furniture is no longer an exclusive industry; the wicker business covers a broad category in the home furnishings business. Multitudes of options are available to the consumer, from reproduction wicker to classic style furniture to furniture with modern, sleek lines. Many current styles of woven furniture resemble standard furniture, sized and configured to service contemporary needs. Woven fibers are readily combined with exotic hardwood frames and upholstered cushions. The industry endlessly experiments with materials, shapes, colors, and functions to suit all walks of life, climates, and uses. The latest technology, improved construction methods, and new finishes have propelled wicker furniture into an exciting new era.
"The versatility of wicker and rattan combined with other natural materials, and different finishes, offer a palette of creative options. It's like knitting a sweater. You change the color, the texture, and the thickness of the yarn, and you have a different look. It's the same with wicker and rattan. We strive to design with imagination to appeal to today's sophisticated consumer," says furniture designer Allan H. Palecek.
Woven furniture gives the designer a great opportunity to experiment in the use of fibers. Inventive combinations are endless. Braided sea grass, called double wall weave, covers wooden or rattan frames in such a way that the chair looks upholstered. Woven rattan peel is delicate and flexible enough to be used as an upholstery fabric. Abaca fiber can be plaited to resemble a cable knit sweater. Flat strips of rattan are woven in a check pattern, herringbone design, or cross basket weave. Several shades of the stained brown ropes are twisted together before weaving them into a beautiful armchair.
Rattan is the longest used fiber in the industry, and designers are still finding infinite ways of using it. For example, a combination of Abaca fiber, rope, and leather are used to cover rattan frames, another way to bring added interest and texture to woven furniture. Peeled rattan is used when a stain is desired; skin on rattan is used for natural texture and a brown color. Rattan legs on a sofa or chairs are bundled with leather strips. Rattan can be bleached and stained and used in a dual color weave to add interest and pattern. Franklin D. Roosevelt used rattan furniture is his USS Potomac home. The furniture was made of pencil-post rattan wrapped with reed. Palecek makes a very fine reproduction of FDR's ensemble.
As in the early 1900s, a substantial portion of woven furniture is now manufactured in Asian countries. Highly skilled craftspeople maintain a tradition of skills handed down through generations.
Bauer International utilizes the craftsmanship of woven fibers in the East and West Indies for historic reference to British and Dutch colonies, which had a presence there in the late 1600s. Ken Bauer says, "I like the idea of it being a natural product, a natural medium that has soul to it." He personally oversees the production of the furniture in his line. The fact that wicker was once a living root or vine gives the furniture an earthy quality. It's neither glossy nor high tech looking. Woven furniture takes a traditional wood or upholstered chair, softens it up, and gives it natural elegance. "It's an art form . . . You can see the craftsmanship of the people in the weaving of the chairs," Bauer says. Everything in the Bauer line is handwoven.
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