Wickerwork Products: A Brief Introduction
Forms and Materials
Wicker is hard woven fiber formed into a rigid material. It is usually used for furniture, baskets, everyday storage and other household items.
Materials for wickerwork products can be varied, such as the cores of cane or rattan stalks, or whole thicknesses of plants, as with willow switches. Other popular materials include reed and bamboo.
Often a frame is made of stiffer materials, after which more pliant material is used to fill in the frame. Wicker is light yet sturdy, making it suitable for furniture that will be moved often. It is often used for porch, patio and outdoor furniture.
Wicker products are affordable for every household, very light and portable. The market for wickerwork products is highly segmented, according to CBI. There is a very large lower-end market featuring functional, everyday storage products which do not show origin or cultural traits. Even though they may be handmade and a natural product, these products are not marketed as such. They are made available through large-scale discounter-type outlets such as hypermarkets, retail chains and garden centers. Price and availability is a primary feature.
The middle market in wickerwork products is slightly more diversified. There is still a focus on price, with a little more design, and it is part of the wide-spread market for the 'cottage or country look'(e.g. sprayed-on dyes or lining with fabric or other types of low-profile design features can give the basketry a rustic look).
The higher-end market has enthusiastically (re)discovered weaving, in interior items such as basketry, but also in furniture and other applications such as lighting (e.g. lamp shades). There is a strong trend inviting designers to show their technical ability in weaving, stimulated by top designers. Hand-made is very much part of a luxury positioning in the Home Decor market, and in weaving this is a core USP.
The same goes for 'origin': if a basket comes from a particular cultural tradition in terms of its material or use of technique that can be a story which grabs attention in the higher segments of the market and can form an opportunity for exporters in many developing countries. In these segments, too, statement pieces in terms of oversized or extravagant shapes are well appreciated. Items of wickerwork products in this segment are functional (baskets which can contain laundry or firewood etc), but are so attractive that they are seen as decorative objects in their own right. With their beautiful, intricate weaving, they are able to fetch premium prices.