Maybe you never thought about where the plant material came from in the late 1800's to create wicker/reed furniture. Let's start at the beginning. Here are a few photos that show the people in the Orient cutting and processing the rattan plants, circa 1880's. Can you imagine this exotic and enchanting time in the Orient? These photos were cited from the books: "American Wicker" by author Jeremy Adamson; "Fine Wicker Furniture" by author Tim Scott; "Collecting and Restoring Wicker Furniture" and "Collector's Guide to American Wicker Furniture" both by our friend and author Richard Saunders. I thought you would enjoy seeing these photos.
These are the rattan plants that our wicker/reed furniture is made from. Reed is the inner pith of the rattan plant. These plants were being hand-harvested in the late 1800's in places in the Far East such as India, Ceylon, Burma, The Malay Peninsula, The Moluccas, Indochina, The Philippines, Southern China, The Islands of Java, Sumatra, and Borneo and shipped to America by the American wicker manufacturers to create their wicker furniture. These plants were very old when they were harvested in the steamy jungles of the Far East.
It's great to get a sense of the exotic country and time period that this rattan came from. It's interesting knowing that our wicker furniture began in the jungles of the Orient over 100 years ago. Some plants were over 600 feet long! These old rattan plants made excellent wicker material that cannot be duplicated. That is quite the opposite in the new wicker made today. The reed used today in new wicker can be likened to making furniture with green wood rather than old seasoned wood, or worse yet, it is made of a synthetic material that could emit harmful gasses into the environment.
The old natural reed has a silky feel, exotic look, and mellow color. It's really something special to behold. We treasure early Victorian wicker pieces that retain that special original finish we call 'patina'.