​Wicker and Willow: sustainable and fabulous

​Wicker and Willow: sustainable and fabulous

Posted by The Wares Team on 17th May 2021

What do you know about wicker; the ultimate sustainable packaging? If you're keen to style your home with a beautiful, eco-friendly and versatile material, then it's worth looking at wicker and willow products. This stylish and natural material is enjoying a resurgence in popularity again as customers seek out 'greener' alternatives to plastics and other industrial products which damage the environment.

What is wicker exactly?

When we talk about wicker, we're actually referring to a method of weaving things from pliable plant materials, such as willow, bamboo, rattan and reed, although synthetic materials can be used too. The word 'wicker' is believed to have Scandinavian origins; with the Swedish word, 'vika', translating as 'to bend'. The techniques of wickerwork date as far back as the Egyptians and were often used by people who couldn't afford materials such as clay or grass.

How is wicker harvested?

Willow trees grow very fast and can be ready to harvest in as little as six months when the stems are six feet high. The base of the plant has around 30 stems and these will immediately carry on growing, meaning that a steady supply can be harvested. This versatile and hardy plant is also grown all around the world, helping to explain why wicker products are used as sustainable packaging almost anywhere you go.

Where is wicker grown?

Willow is grown everywhere from the UK and Europe to the Far-East, although its appearance will vary according to the way that it is finished. Unpeeled willow is dark in appearance because its outer layer of bark is retained, and after being carefully dried, it can be woven with the bark intact. This is often called rustic, or unpeeled wicker, and it's often found in garden baskets.

White wicker is the second finish which is achieved when the bark is stripped before weaving. This finish is clean and fresh in appearance and often used for food shopping baskets. It can also be painted or sprayed - most commonly in whitewash which is very popular for countryside and coastal-inspired interiors.

The most common type of wicker is the ever-popular buff wicker. It is recognisable for its traditional golden or honey colour, which actually goes through a complex process to achieve this finish. The harvested willow is boiled with its bark in place, which leads to the bark's dark tannin soaking into the underlying white wicker and providing a rich golden finish.

How is wicker eco-friendly?

Because willow grows so quickly, it is naturally sustainable. This natural sustainability is enhanced by willow's resistance to disease which means that it needs very few chemical treatments. Furthermore, as a natural product, it provides an obvious route to eco-friendly packaging. In fact, this very traditional material and weaving technique is now being adopted by younger customers who love its beautiful appearance, durability, sustainability - and the fact that it can be used in place of plastics and other less eco-friendly materials.

What sort of wicker products are there?

Wicker baskets and chairs may be the most obvious example of willow products, but our range of wicker products has recently expanded to include everything from wicker trays to sustainable packaging. Look out for our wicker food baskets and trays which provide everyday storage as well as an eco-friendly packaging choice that keeps plastic out of the equation.

How do I care for wicker?

As willow is a natural material, it's best not to soak it in water or it will split and crack. Try gently dusting it with a soft cloth, or even a vacuum. If your wicker basket becomes stained, try dabbing it gently with a cloth dampened with the smallest amount of washing up liquid. The important thing is to keep it from getting too wet. If wicker is stored in direct sunlight it will gently fade in time, but remember that this is a functional material that is designed to be used!

How should I use wicker baskets?

Let your imagination guide you here! Why not gift a homemade hamper in a basket instead of using cello or other non-recyclable packaging? A wicker basket makes a great storage choice for bathroom toiletries, kindling and firelighters, kitchen cloths and all of those other items around the house that can create clutter.

Keep any wicker baskets or boxes that you receive and store them up for reuse. Why not also invest in a wicker basket for your grocery shopping? It will be a lot easier to remember than those bags for life which invariably end up remaining at home or in the boot of your car! Wicker is also far more durable, so these beautiful items will last the test of time before naturally biodegrading.

Willow and wicker are truly sustainable, beautiful, eco-friendly and highly functional sustainable packaging solutions and we are extremely proud to stock them! How will you use yours?