Wicker refers to any furniture or baskets that have been woven. Many web sites will tell you that people often mistake wicker for a material but in fact, wicker can be made out of anything that is pliable such as rattan reed, willow or paper fibre. Wicker is the process, the act of weaving these materials. Wicker furniture and objects can be found all around the world and it dates back to ancient civilizations. But it really became popular as garden furniture in the Victorian era. According to randomhistory.com, the Victorians favoured wicker furniture because of its perceived cleanliness. Many of the designs that we still see today have a Victorian feel to them such as this peacock chair:
The largest producer of wicker furniture in the US was Heywood -Wakefield, which was a merger of two companies. This is a classic Bar Harbor chair that they produced:
The company modernized the process of producing wicker furniture through the invention of a loom that could mechanically weave furniture. The age of their wicker pieces can be ascertained by the labels found on the furniture. You can find information about the different labels here.
Wicker became less popular in the early 20th century because of the shift in taste towards more streamlined, less decorative furniture. However, in the 20’s Heywood-Wakefield bought the patent to Lloyd loom, a process invented by a competitor. Lloyd loom wrapped paper around metal wires then wove them on a giant loom. Not only was this cost effective but it produced a tight weave that was very sturdy and could be used to make simpler styles in the Art Deco mode. Lloyd loom pieces became very popular and were seen every where up until the Second World War. They are still produced today by a different company in England. Here is a tearoom photo with Lloyd loom furniture:
My wicker chair is a classic Lloyd loom piece probably from the 1940’s or 50’s. It has a beechwood frame, metal slats in the seat area and the seat cushion has springs. It is very sturdy and has no holes anywhere because of the tight weave and is very comfortable to sit in. I bought it from a neighbour over 30 years ago and painted it white. For awhile, it was part of our living room furniture then it ended up in the basement for years before I decided to paint it a teal blue with an AS mixture of Napoleonic blue, Antibes and Florence. I recovered the seat cushion with indoor/outdoor fabric. I put multiple coats of polyurethane on it so it could be used easily outdoors. With a little care, it will last as long as any piece made out of wood.
Although I love chalk paint, I have to say that I should have spray painted this with something else because I wasted a lot of paint getting between all the holes. I know I used more paint on this chair than anything else that I have painted.