And they are making a strong comeback thanks to the rise of handcrafted products and, above all, their great attractiveness and warmth.
Natural fibers are ecological, malleable, and lightweight materials. Its use is very ancient: the use of wicker dates back to the Middle Ages, being a material widely used in basketry until today. Between the fifties and seventies, it experienced its greatest heyday, starring in designs that have gone down in the books of the History of Design, such as the famous Superleggera 699 chair by Gio Ponti; and even mythical films such as Emmanuelle, a model recently reissued by Maisons du Monde. Wicker and rattan are currently experiencing their particular revival thanks to Spanish companies such as Expormim and Kettal; the latter has also just reissued Nina Ditzel's fantastic Basket. Two great Spanish designers, Álvaro Catalán de Ocón and Javier Sanchez Medina tell us why these materials are so attractive.
Although wicker is more common outdoors, it adapts very well to indoors, bringing a particular warmth. There is a wide variety of models in classic designs, but the current ones breathe simpler and more contemporary forms. In addition, Ikea has just launched numerous products made with natural fibers; the collection is called Nipprig and has very affordable prices.
"Wicker is a material that is making a comeback largely because of the return of craftsmanship. It is worked by hand, which today is perceived as an added value for the products. Previously, this skill was not so highly valued, let alone appreciated. At the same time, it is a very malleable material that lends itself to many applications. For example, it has always been a good ally in the world of lighting due to the fresh tone of the fiber and the shadows it generates. In terms of furniture, its strong point is in outdoor furniture, especially in terraces and porches. It is a fiber that is worked by moistening it and therefore withstands changes in humidity and temperature well," explains Alvaro Catalán de Ocón, a Madrid-based designer and author of the Pet Lamps collection of wicker lamps.
The armchairs, baskets, or chairs made with this material and mouse are wonderfully integrated into the bathroom. It withstands everything, including sudden temperature changes, and survives perfectly to moisture, which is mainly used in outdoor furniture. However, as it is also hot, it finds the fitting counterpoint in the coldness of the tiles and the predominant metal in the bathrooms. All these fibers combine wonderfully with wood since both are natural elements. If we add to the set chairs or industrial lamps of colder aspect, we will create a contrast between all these materials and textures.
The Extremaduran craftsman Javier Sanchez Medina thinks that in the last years, the works of all the life, the handmade thing, the recovery of materials are returning to value. They are giving them the place and importance they deserve. "Undoubtedly, wicker is making a strong comeback. It is increasingly present in our environment, both decorative and practical because it has many possibilities. In the case of my mirrors, they adapt to each room naturally and practically." The outdoors is their natural environment because they are exceptionally durable compared to other raw materials. Designers such as Patricia Urquiola, Benedetta Tagliabue, Óscar Tusquets, or the Campana brothers -authentic experts in experimenting with all kinds of materials- have also dared to use these versatile materials.