Natural materials such as rattan and bamboo are now key inputs to modern designer items. It’s exciting to see these rather robust materials showing their softer side in delicate details or clean, pared-down lines. This makes for some rather special design objects which go with many different styles of interior.
Rattan furniture, wicker baskets and accessories woven in bamboo or grass needn’t appear rough or rustic. Indeed, they are slimming down and adopting the latest shapes, experimenting with colours and teaming up with other materials, drawing inspiration from around the world and weaving it into their very fabric. Rattan and other such materials require skill to weave, and many designers relish rising to this challenge. No single strand is exactly like another: they vary in colour, size and thickness. Expert craft produces aesthetically pleasing objects from this varied raw material. These are renewable resources, so they have a good environmental record: yet another reason for manufacturers to get to grips with these materials and get creative.
New lines are dainty and delicate
You’d be forgiven for associating rattan with roughly-worked boho chic, but nowadays it’s often used for modern design objects which look light and decorative due to the open, airy nature of the weave. This works just as well for a simple side table as it does for a classic cot or a seating arrangement. Danish rattan specialists Sika Design plundered the treasures in the design archive, bringing back 50s designs by Arne Jacobsen, Viggo Boesen and others. They created their iconic collection to combine rattan furniture with a modern design idiom. Incidentally, ‘rattan’ is used to describe the shoots and lianas of the Asian rattan palm, which grow back quickly and are therefore extremely sustainable. Traditional rattan furniture has its roots in Asia – the first rattan furniture arrived in Europe during colonial times from Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Vietnam. Other natural fibres have also inspired fine design objects: Kamaro’an manufacture geometric lamps, which look like Japanese fans and are made from tropical umbrella plant stalks fastened to a metal frame.
Opposites attract: Natural materials in the mix
These raw natural materials get really interesting when combined with contrasting surfaces such as glass, paint, ceramics or fabric. There might be bundles of raffia and pine needles decorating a vase, or perhaps woven wickerwork in the pattern popularised by Thonet’s famous bentwood Viennese coffee shop chair ‘214’, here adorning a carafe. Traditional baskets for rice as used in Thailand and Vietnam can also play with contradictions: a painted look offsets woven raffia. Siberian designer Anastasiya Koshcheeva – one of the 2018 Ambiente Talents – produces outstanding work. She combines traditionally woven wicker baskets with a ceramic vase and bowl with a wicker lid, so all four pieces together make a side table. Weaving combined with cloth can also make a fashion statement, for example decorating clutch bags.
Rethinking colour in woven designs
PI Project designers came across the Cuicatlan tribe in Mexico, itself a country of strong colours. They weave baskets using plastic strips instead of natural fibres, applying traditional handicraft techniques and patterns to new materials. Dutch fairtrade label Handed By has years of experience with weaving plastic and bamboo into exciting visual combinations in small workshops in Vietnam and China. Colourful, metal-framed raffia baskets and lively-patterned seagrass containers by Serax show in their own way how creative weaving can be.
On a style journey – loose connections or intricate interweaving
Weaving is entering many settings, in creative interpretations from classic colonial style to modern statement lamps. It brings a natural charm and sense of wellbeing. The different style worlds and knotwork techniques take you on a journey. Rattan and bamboo objects with straight, graphic lines, inspired by Japanese and Scandinavian influences, are represented just like upbeat, striking handicraft with vivid style borrowings from Africa or South America.