Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

April 16, 2014

Linda Hamer Kennett: The timeless beauty of wicker

No matter what the day may bring, I can leave it all behind when I take my evening walk.

Strolling through our historic neighborhood on Indy’s south side is a multifaceted treat. It is good for my heart, it erases the cares of the day and it affords me the opportunity to view more than a century of architecture. Seeing the homes on my street, one cannot help but be impressed by the individuality they express. However, there is one common bond that I have observed. More often than not, you will spot at least one piece of wicker.

Wicker has become the generic term for a number of materials, in some cases even being used to describe twisted paper. By proper definition wicker is “a product made of woven vines or stems.” Traditionally, since the mid-1800s, fine American wicker pieces have been made from rattan vines imported from East Asia and Central America. These vines are filled with lengthwise fibers giving them the strength of multi-strand cable and making them both flexible and sturdy.

The popularity of wicker furniture during the Victorian Era has left today’s collector with an immense selection of pieces. Pliable and durable, its life span can be 150 years or more if properly cared for. Wicker fibers deteriorate when exposed to rain and snow causing the hardwood frames to warp. Make certain to display your wicker on a protected porch, and no matter how quaint it may look, DO NOT place it on an unprotected deck or in a garden setting.

While major repairs should be left to a professional, minor repairs and cleaning can be done at home. General cleaning is best done with the soft bristle attachment on your vacuum. For stubborn little pieces of fuzz or lint between the fibers use an awl or tweezers. At the end of the season, wash your antique wicker with dish soap or a mixture of two tablespoons household ammonia to one gallon of water and rinse with a garden hose. Then set the pieces in the sun, preferably on a breezy day, to dry. This will take a minimum of 48 hours.

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