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RIDE WAVES AND CAPTURE HEARTS
HANG 20! WORLD-FAMOUS
SURF DOG SURF-A-THON
FUNDRAISES FOR PETS WHILE CELEBRATING
AND THE LOVING HUMAN-DOG CONNECTION
By Lisa A. Bastian
DOGS ARE ADORABLE ANIMALS
with such diverse personalities.
For many, yapping at leaves, playing Fetch or simply sleeping with their pet parents are their favorite activities.
But for a small cadre of adventurous canines, the relatively new water sport of
is by far their Reason for Living.
In September 2006, the
Helen Woodward Animal Center
(HWAC) of Rancho Santa Fe, CA, became one of the first groups in the world to celebrate dog surfing by organizing a competition now known as
Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon
Today, this free, annual event delights thousands of humans (and their dogs) all day long at Del Mar Beach, CA.
“You’ll see dog cuteness everywhere you look and a lot of happy people,” says Jessica Gercke, HWAC’s public relations director. “Knowing they’re all here to support pets is the ‘cherry on the top’ for us at the Center. Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon truly is one of the coolest things to put on your bucket list and see in person.”
"WE MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR ANIMALS AND PEOPLE"
Thanks to about 200 employees, over 300 to 400 volunteers, and many generous donors and sponsors, “we make the world a better place for animals and people,” says Gercke.
Since 1972, the Center has served the greater San Diego community through about 14 educational and therapeutic programs for people, and by providing adoption and humane care for homeless animals.
Fortunately, with fears about the COVID-19 pandemic waning, the 17th edition is expected to be well attended on September 18, 2022. (The 2020 edition was virtual due to pandemic contagion concerns.)
On average each HWAC surfing fun-fest nets $30,000 to $40,000 from entry fees, booth sponsorships, general donations, etc. While not all similar events do this, the Center's Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon gives 100 percent of proceeds to programs benefitting animal causes.
Highlights from the 16th annual Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon, September 13, 2021, by Blue Buffalo at Del Mar Dog Beach, San Diego, CA. (Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center)
While rules for globally held surfing dog contests can vary, many follow the HWAC model.
Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon begins with the water-focused dog surfing contest at 8:30 a.m. Meanwhile, back on the beach, the non-surfing component also starts early with dogs and humans enjoying agility events, costume contests, sandcastle-building contests, interactive dog-focused booths, and plenty of music.
"SOMETIMES IT JUST TAKES ONE GOOD RIDE TO MAKE A WINNER"
In recent years up to 80 dogs have competed as surfers. They all wear life vests, and surf on what’s called a “soft” surfboard that allows their paws to grip the surface easier.
Since dogs have four legs “they really know how to balance themselves,” says Gercke. “Most stay on their boards and ride them right into the sand before jumping off.”
Every time a dog surfs, it has two humans on its team as helpers. The first person helps launch the canine into the ocean and ensures a safe beach landing after the ride. The second person located in the deeper water “catches” the surfer, then turns its around to ride a wave back to the shore.
"DOG SURFERS MAY GET EXTRA POINTS IF THEY'RE EXTRA ADORABLE!"
Canines compete against others in the same weight class: extra-small dog heats, 1-20 pounds; small dog heats, 21-40 pounds; medium dog heats, 41-60 pounds; large dog heats, 61-85 pounds; and XL dog heats, 86 pounds or more.
They all are judged on criteria such as the size of the wave ridden, surfing form, duration of the ride, and obvious enjoyment of the sport.
Other criteria specific to a heat may include the confidence shown by a dog while riding a wave, the complexity of tricks and maneuvers, etc.
SURF DOG MANIA (scroll L to R):
Some of the many heart-warming photos from the website of So Cal Surf Dogs club for surfing canines and their surfing pet parents.
Specifically, scoring is computed on a 1 to 10 scale (six-wave maximum), with the top two waves counted for the final score.
All heats in a weight class are considered as one (e.g., all small dogs compete against each other, regardless of which small dog heat they're in). First place winners from each weight class move on to the "Best in Surf' finals.
For some reason, “bulldogs seem to like to lie down on their boards, while retrievers like to put their butts up in the air,” laughs Gercke.
And yes, there may be extra points given if surfers are extra adorable. “You can tell if they’re having fun out there. Some contestants do really cute things, like turn around without falling and doing all kinds of surprising tricks."
“YOU SEE DOG CUTENESS EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK"
The big day winds down with an award ceremony. First-place, second-place and third-place winners in each weight class receive medals. The top three finalists in "Best in Surf" each get a handcrafted wooden surfboard trophy.
The ceremony includes the induction of a legendary surf dog into the “Surf Dog Hall of Fame" (if one is found worthy that year).
Despite not every contestant receiving an award, lots of encouragement and support is showered upon all four-legged participants.
By mid-afternoon Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon is offically over, but no one seems to care if people and dogs stick around a bit longer. That's because this family-friendly activity with a wholesome party vibe is always guaranteed to be loads of non-stop fun for everyone.
SURFING BUDDIES (scroll L to R):
Prince Dudeman and Flofy (front) ride a wave together as they compete at the 14th annual (2019) Surf-A-Thon, Del Mar, CA (credit: Reuters).
Dog Safety a Priority
People always ask the Center's staff if the dogs enjoy surfing. “Absolutely! It’s not uncommon to see them drag their boards to the water’s edge and bark until their humans take them out again,” says Gercke.
Surfing dogs show lots of enthusiasm, and those who tend to win contests are extremely passionate about the activity.
“The one thing we love about this sport is that so many of the dogs who surf got into it because their people do it," she notes. "That demonstrates the strong human-pet bond.”
“DOG SURFING DEMONSTRATES THE STRONG HUMAN-PET BOND"
No matter if pooches take formal surfing lessons from pros or are taught by their owners, the most important thing is that they like the activity.
While some dogs love to surf, others won’t even try it…and that’s certainly should be their choice. The best surf dogs, says Gercke, are those who are both bonded to their owners and find obvious joy in surfing.
WATCHING SURFING DOGS IS THERAPY!
Charlie the Labrador has his own YouTube channel "
Charlie Surfs Up.
" In this video, watch the pup enjoy some of his 2020 surfing adventures; a drone captures multiple cool moves.
surfing lessons are taught by members of
So Cal Surf Dogs
, the San Diego-based club for surfing canines and their surfing pet parents.
During each class, the priority is to ensure the dogs "feel safe and loved by their humans," notes Gercke. That means canines are always in water never deeper than waist-deep on a human, never leashed to a board, never far from the shore, and never left alone.
Generally any athletic-breed dog that enjoys running and playing (Pointer, Labrador Retriever, etc.) tends to do better at surfing. But it’s not unusual for mutts or non-athletic breed dogs to do well on the waves, too.
For example, recent top winners have been a Chihuahua, a Pug, and a Long-Haired Aussie. “One of our top surf dogs is a Labradoodle known as
Derby the Goldendoodle
, who is
,” says Gercke.
Surprisingly, a lot of surf awards have gone to bulldogs. Even though they’re big and heavy, they use their sturdy, short legs to their advantage to really lay low and hug the boards. (Read article "
Top 8 Breeds for Surfing
Derby the Goldendoodle
, a champion surfer dog, is easy to spot in a crowd thanks to his cool blue mohawk and ever-present sunglasses. (Credit: Howard Lipin, San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dozens of dogs and more than 1,000 people showed up for the second annual
World Dog Surfing Championships
(2017) in Pacifica, CA. (Credit: KQED
Surf dog legends
Dogs have been surfing for at least seven decades before the first dog surfing competitions appeared in the early 21st century, according to the
History of Dog Surfing
published on the
So Cal Surf Dogs website.
This resource features numerous cool images, including vintage videos at Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, spotlighting the world's first dog surfer ~ a terrier named
having fun on a surfboard alone and with owner Philip K. Auna.
In the late 1920's and 1930's, Auna and his pup were considered a legendary surfing duo and popular among the media of the day.
Moving on to the 1970's and 1980's, the article celebrates California surfers D.C. Chalmers and
(a Terrier mix), recognized worldwide as beloved early surfing ambassadors.
"BUDDY IS STILL CONSIDERED THE BEST SURF DOG IN THE WORLD"
According to a surfer publication obituary about Chalmers, Max was a "scruff mutt with a bad overbite" who "surfed every major point and reef break from Long Beach to Cabo San Lucas" with D.C. They were frequently featured in major publications, TV shows and films.
"The Ambassador of Dog Surfing," recognized as the best all-around surfing dog who has
lived...so far! (Credit: So Cal Surf Dogs)
The History of Dog Surfing
article also highlights Bruce Hooker and his surfer pooch
(a Jack Russell Terrier) of California.
Decades after this litte guy burst upon the scene, most surfing experts still consider little Buddy to be the
best surf dog in the world
, even years after his death.
In 2011, Buddy was the first dog to be
inducted into the Surf Dog Hall of Fame.
At that time he already had been surfing at least 10 years, won countless tournaments, and made appearances on "Animal Planet," "Pet Star," ESPN, CNN, NBC, the "CBS Morning Show," etc.
Learn more about other history-making pups from this article highlighting
5 famous surfing dogs
published in 2016. Profiles of a few dozen canine club members of So Cal Surf Dogs can be
. Check out a few notable dogs surfing
outside the USA here
CHANGING GLOBAL DOG PERCEPTIONS
In the last 10 to 15 years, dog surfing events have been changing how people view pets...for the better.
Gercke says they not only communicate the importance of caring for orphan dogs, but also show how these amazing and wonderful creatures fit so well nto the fabric of human lives.
"DOGS SHOULD BE LOVED AS FAMILY MEMBERS"
"We believe dogs should be respected and loved like family members. That’s a big reason why the Center is so passionate about Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon."
Another bonus: "It’s slowly changing, but more people are now open to going to a shelter than a backyard breeder for their new pet," she adds. "That’s good for the dogs, and good for legit breeders.”
Contests Span the Globe
Since San Diego, CA, always has been a big surfing mecca, it makes sense that the world's first two foundational surf dog competitions were born here: the Loews Coronado Bay Resort’s “Ruff Riders” Small Wave Competition in August 2006; and Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon in September 2006. (The latter was created with major support from the
So Cal Surf Dogs
In the ensuring years, the fan base for this unique water sport has grown exponentially. Today, such events can attract up to 5,000 people plus legions of veteran and newbie surfer dogs.
Gercke loves that other organizations have copied
Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon
in and outside of the Golden State. "To us, it’s the highest form of flattery.”
"FREE VIDEOS OF SURF DOG CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE JUST A CLICK AWAY
As of 2022, surfer dog competitions are hosted all along the California coast and in Hawaii, Florida and Texas. They’re also found in Australia, the United Kingdom, and other coastal regions far from California.
World Dog Surfing Championships
Surf City Surf
(Huntington Beach, CA),
Imperial Beach (CA) Surf Dog
Hang 8 Dog-Surfing Contest
(Flagler Beach, FL),
Ohana Surf & Skate
Pups and SUPS
(St. Augustine, FL)
VetShopAustralia Dog Surfing Championships
UK Dog Surfing Championships
Relatedly, for 25 years pet food company Purina Pro Plan® has sponsored the summertime
Incredible Dog Challenge
. This multi-category, invite-only event for athletic dogs includes a
urf dog competition
held in California, as well several “Olympic-style” events (diving, pole weaving, flying disc tricks, etc.) held in various other states. The overall winner is crowned the nation’s Most Incredible Dog.
Not everyone finds its easy to fit these once-a-year contests into their travel schedules. No worries. Fortunately,
free online videos
uploaded by fans and media outlets alike are just a click away on the Internet.
Surfer dogs don't care how or when anyone watches them catch a wave. But if they could speak, they'd express gratitude from the bottom of their loyal little hearts of love to every person cheering them on!
FIND OUT MORE:
or over 40 years Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon’s organizer, the nonprofit
Helen Woodward Animal Cente
of Rancho Santa Fe, CA (San Diego County), has been offering educational and therapeutic programs for people, and humane care and adoption for animals. The Center receives no government funding and relies heavily on tax-deductible contributions from private donors to continue its life-saving mission.
OF SURFING DOGS:
Petey, a Westie,
oses with his first-place surf board trophy won at the 2021 Surf Dog Surf-a-Thon competition. He was recognized as the best surfing dog of the d
ay, as well as the best surfing canine in the extra-small category.
Read story here
"Keeping It Together" (photo/caption by
Nathan Rupert Photography
SURF DOG ADVOCATES:
Married couple Gigi Bagaporo and Doug Hokstad, here posing with fan favorite Derby the Goldendoodle, are members of
So Cal Surf Dogs
, a San Diego-based club for surfing dogs (e.g., SurFurs) and their owners. The group provides dog surfing lessons whose proceeds benefit the Helen Woodward Animal Center, organizer of Surf Dog Surf-a-Thon. Doug has served as the event's emcee for many years.
SURFUR PLUSH SQUEAK TOY:
Adorable plush toy celebrates the cuteness and fun of dog surfing. Your pet can play with it and dream of catching waves with the dog surfers of California.
Click to buy:
$16.99 (sometimes on sale for $11.80).
All rights reserved; Tropics Lifestyle magazine / Palm Life Publishing.
No part of this article or publication may be shared, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any
form other than that in which it is published; including this condition being imposed on the purchaser of the content.
ANY PEOPLE IN THE
United States associate wicker furniture with the years since the Victorian Age. In many cases, the shape of wicker furniture certainly seems to evoke a certain Victorian sensibility; an emphasis on grace and even an elaborate style.
However, the truth about wicker and rattan history is much deeper. In fact, the history goes so far back that it just may surprise you.
Because wicker is a weaving process, it may be said that the first human beings to build shelter using a palm-weaving process were actually the first wicker furniture makers.
Weaving as a process for survival – building shelters, constructing clothing, etc. – is as ancient to human beings as is agriculture itself.
WICKER FURNITURE'S HISTORY IS DEEPLY EMBEDDED...INTO THE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION ITSELF
So it may come as no surprise in this context to learn that wicker furniture’s history is not only deeply embedded throughout the years, but embedded into the history of civilization itself.
From basket weaving in the Fertile Crescent to Victorian wicker furniture to the modern age of outdoor-friendly furniture, wicker-rattan is a category of construction that has built a strong legacy throughout the world’s history.
But it only makes sense to start at the beginning; and by that, we mean the
beginning with an examination into the roots (forgive the pun) of Rattan itself.
Rattan vines growing in a jungle:
These tropical vines are excellent alternatives to wood products used in the making of high-quality home furnishings for indoor or outdoor use. They're easier to harvest and transport than timber, and grow more quickly than trees.
Rattan: A Botanical History
In the plant kingdom, there is a family you might recognize: that of the
The name might look like a tongue twister, so allow us to translate into a word that might be a little more familiar:
. (The widespread use of the word "palm" has led to many people renaming this botanical family the
This family includes 202 genera and around 2,600 individual species. Move a little further down the family tree and you’ll find the subfamily
, which consists of three further sub groupings, or “tribes”:
The result is that the word “Rattan” actually does not refer to a specific species of plant, but rather an entire group of plants that fall under the “tribe” of
, or Rattan plants.
THERE ARE SOME 600 SPECIES THAT FALL UNDER THE CATEGORY OF RATTAN
In fact, there are some 600 species that fall under the category of Rattan. Many of these species actually differ in their growth behaviors. Some Rattan plants grow as shrubs, while others follow the “climbing habit” typically associated with palm plants.
Generally, the growth habits of rattan plants help scientists classify and separate each species. Rattan utilized for furniture tends to come from the high-growing plants that grow strong, long stems; however, a variety of rattan plants can be used for different purposes.
Unlike many other agricultural innovations that helped spark the agricultural revolution, the utilization of rattan plants did not come about as the result of cultivation. Instead, they largely were picked from wild growth throughout their history, to this day.
Overall, the human harvesting and use of palm plants has a rich history. The natural advantages present in many palm plants, from its generally lightweight-but-strong texture to its easy weaving and strong leaves, can come in handy in a number of ways. Coconut, for example, is a highly useful and edible fruit of the coconut palm.
It’s not unreasonable to assume that many members of the palm family had a vital role in the history of civilization because of their impact on trade. However, rattan stands out in the palm family for its own unique characteristics and uses, and it’s important to review these before further delving into the history of wicker furniture.
RATTAN AS ITS OWN PLANT
Throughout history, rattan was harvested from the wild because of two main advantages: it is both strong and malleable, making it perfect for the structuring of crafts including furniture.
Much of rattan's use in ancient history, however, was relegated to basket weaving. In fact, scientists have carbon-dated many baskets to as far back as 8000 B.C., perhaps even further. This predates even pottery, suggesting that rattan ( and many other similar materials) had a key role in shaping human history.
The word “rattan” itself comes from the Malay word rotan. It’s appropriate that the name of the plant comes from this corner of the world, as the plant itself can trace its origins to tropical and subtropical Asia.
As a plant that survives well in the tropics, where heavy rain is part of the annual climate, it’s no surprise that rattan continues to thrive there, being mostly produced in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.
A few of the many hundreds of antique/vintage rattan baskets for sale on
(scroll L to R):
Sculptural Japanese Ikebana basket ($5,500); lidded nesting baskets with carved swan handles ($575/on sale $180); Chinese woven lidded basket ($1,857/on sale $500); Gazelle Chinese lidded basket ($39); boat basket ($80/on sale $70).
Although rattan comes in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the individual species of the “tribe,”
generally shares a number of characteristics, many of which make it ideal for its use in wicker furniture.
Primarily, rattan’s generally slender shape, full stem, and barbed leaves separate it from a number of other similar materials such as palm and bamboo. Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of this tribe.
The long, thin stem of rattan that grows high is very strong, lightweight, and generally easy to shape.
This means that rattan itself is not only ideal for weaving, but also works well structurally in the building of a variety of furniture types (though much rattan furniture also will be reinforced with wood, if need be).
A main difference between rattan and bamboo is that while bamboo stems are hollow, rattan stems are not; they’re rattan all the way through.
Although bamboo is strong, rattan is better suited for furniture because bamboo is more likely to crack and split under more weight.
The leaves of the rattan may be what differentiate it the most from other plants in the palm family.
Most palms are clustered into a sort of “crown” shape. A rattan plan doesn’t look like this. Instead, the leaves are pointed into barbed tips.
Because of the slender stems of rattan plants, the slender leaves contribute to an overall physical difference that makes rattan easy to differentiate from other plants in the palm family.
Like many similar plants, rattan can have a resin, specifically from the fruit of fruit-bearing rattan trees.
MOVEMENT OF EARLY RATTAN
Of course, rattan itself couldn’t have influenced civilization in the myriad of ways that it did (read about in the next section) if it had stayed primarily in Asia and Indonesia.
Some histories trace the trading of early rattan to its original spot of Indonesia, eventually reaching mainland China through trade. From China, it eventually spread to Japan. Of course, tracing the history of rattan trade throughout Southeast Asia is very difficult due to the problems inherent in dating and finding similar artifacts throughout the world.
The spread of ancient rattan may have been aided by the fact that rattan grows year-round; it’s not seasonal like some other plants. (This is a favorite fact for rattan fans, especially those concerned about the impact of harvesting material like wood on the environment).
This encourages year-round trade, of course, and makes trading across oceanic distances favorable, which may help explain how rattan was able to reach the Fertile Crescent, including ancient Egypt.
However, it’s important to remember that while these near east ancient civilizations almost certainly created wicker weaves. They did not necessarily use rattan. It was far more likely to find rattan wicker in ancient China and Japan, for example, thanks to their proximity to where rattan was most prevalent.
ABOVE (L to R):
These three wicker chairs showcase the highly ornate designs commonplace in the making of wicker and rattan during the Victorian period. The third photo is of a "photograher's chair," circa 1890.
BELOW (L to R):
High Victorian six-piece wicker parlour set; Victorian "ball and stick" multi-shelf; small Victorian chair with harp motif back.
Ancient Wicker: Egypt, Rome and China
The history of rattan as a material for producing wicker weaving materials is difficult to trace.
It's unknown just how prevalent the rattan trade was from Southeast Asia and Australasia into the Fertile Crescent, where many of history’s great civilizations would grow to thrive and develop.
What is clear, however, is that wicker furniture and basket weaving was as integral to the formation of early civilization from Egypt to China as was, perhaps, any other method of construction or craftsmanship.
Wicker in Ancient Egypt:
Our first stop is in Egypt, where the oldest examples of wicker have been found. Considering that ancient Egypt’s history dates back several thousand years, it’s not difficult to see the impact that wicker had on civilization.
There is no evidence to link ancient Egyptian wicker to rattan materials. Most scholars believe that ancient Egyptian wicker simply came from the lush source of reeds and fiber materials available around the Nile Delta. The Nile, of course, was the source of just about every material imaginable to the Egyptians, so it’s no surprise that wicker finds its roots there as well.
The Nile wasn’t only a source of reeds, but also entire varieties of “swamp grasses.”
Generally, these reeds were wet (hence the term “swamp” grasses), but it wasn’t long before ancient Egyptians discovered the strength of their reeds after they were dried. Given the abundance of sun in northern Africa, this was not a difficult process.
ARCHAEOLOGISTS HAVE FOUND CHAIRS, BASKETS AND CHESTS MADE FROM WICKER-WEAVING IN TOMBS OF PHARAOHS
The process of drying out reeds that had already been moist not only allowed ancient Egyptians to discover how durable and malleable they were (e.g., the reeds could be molded into a certain position when wet and, as they dried, they would eventually come to hold that shape).
Today’s process of molding rattan is actually not entirely different from this ancient process. As the old saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."
It’s believed that the distribution of wicker crafts varied according to class and wealth. For example, archaeologists have found chairs, baskets and chests made from wicker-weaving in the ancient tombs of Pharaohs. Evidence suggests that the “average” Egyptian family might have only been able to afford a couple of these luxury items.
Just as is the case today, exotic materials created by specific cultures would have been popular throughout ancient history. Wicker materials from Egypt were just as easy to trade as any other material, which helped wicker spread throughout the region of the Fertile Crescent, and even across the Mediterranean Sea.
Given how light these materials were, (similar to the rattan materials of today), it was not difficult to ship and transport wicker throughout the region. This helps explain the abundance of wicker crafts created throughout antiquity.
in Ancient Rome:
Rome conquered Egypt during the civil war between Cleopatra (with her lover Marc Antony) against Octavian (the future “Augustus” and first emperor of Rome). When Octavian won, the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt – which had been ruling since the days of Alexander the Great – came to a close and Egypt came under control of ancient Rome.
The Romans were fond of exotic cultures, particularly that of Egypt. In fact, the Romans were happy to absorb the best characteristics of other cultures into their own; they even adopted the Greek system of mythology, giving their gods and goddesses new Roman names.
Wicker was no exception. Romans not only took to the Egyptian practice but also expanded on it, using wicker weaves to create privacy screens. Some say it may have been the ancient Romans who came up with the idea of creating swings made of wicker, a practice that continues to this day.
EGYPTIANS USED THE ENTIRE COLOR PALETTE TO PAINT ON WICKER; ROMANS FAVORED NEUTRAL TONES, SUCH AS BEIGE OR WHITE
Although the Egyptians tended to be fond of elaborate, exotic weaves, the Romans quickly adapted the wicker to suit their own tastes. Straighter lines and curves now seemed to take over the world of wicker.
While Egyptians used the entire color palette to paint on wicker, the Romans favored neutral tones, such as beige or white colors.
Because Rome contributed its massive infrastructure to the spread of wicker, it could be said that wicker truly gained popularity in the world when it was used throughout Rome.
Ancient Rome was able to unify the culture of the Mediterranean; thus, its influence on the world of wicker can’t be ignored.
WICKER TRULY GAINED WORLDWIDE POPULARITY WHEN USED THROUGHOUT ROME
Specifically, Rome’s control and influence over the entire European continent should be remembered, because Europe would become the foothold for wicker through the Dark Ages, allowing the practice to be spread throughout the world later on. One place in particular wicker would later spread: China.
Wicker in China
Given China’s proximity to the ideal rattan-growing areas of Southeast Asia and Australasia, it may be tempting to presume its history of wicker is even richer than that of Egypt and Rome.
However, despite the abundant resources available for wicker weaving in China, some sources say that wicker did not reach China until the 15th century – well after the fall of Rome and especially after the heights of ancient Egypt.
The chief reason for the lack of wicker in China before then was that they simply weren’t familiar with the process. Trade routes between Europe and China had been established earlier than the 15th century, of course.
Marco Polo, the Italian (specifically, Venetian) merchant, traveled to China and documented these travels in the 13th and 14th centuries. (His adventures did a lot to establish a link between the two continents in terms of culture, trade and exploration.)
CHINA'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE WORLD OF WICKER WERE SIGNIFICANT; ITS PEOPLE USED A SMALLER, THINNER WEAVE FOR STORAGE BOWLS AND BOXES
This may help explain the delay in wicker in China before the 15th century. However, once discovered, contributions by China to the world of wicker were significant. Its people enjoyed using a smaller, thinner weave that worked well for storage bowls and boxes, and were especially preoccupied with creating lightweight boxes to store and protect their writings.
Wicker would go on to have an influence in the continent of Africa as well. However, its contributions to the world of wicker is generally not considered as significant of those listed above, probably due to a lack of resources.
WICKER IN EUROPE & THE VICTORIAN AGE
People who associate wicker-weaving with a more modernist approach – from the 19th century on – would likely appreciate how popular wicker became during the Victorian Age (the period of British history from 1837 through 1901 during the reign of Queen Victoria).
By this time, the American colonies had already become the American states. And while wicker as an art form had already arrived in the colonies during the age of exploration, it wouldn’t be until the Victorian Age that wicker would truly rise to prominence again.
Wicker in this era also would go on to be explored, refined and modified in new and interesting ways that helped ensure its long-term popularity that exists to this day.
In other words, wicker in Europe (and especially in the Victorian Age) went through many of its major formations during the history you’re about to read.
The Victorian Age in England was just one age among many throughout its history; it’s easy to forget the Norman, the Elizabethan, the Caroline and the Georgian Ages, for example.
The Victorian Age is of special relevance to Americans because of its close historical proximity, but the truth is that wicker survived to the Victorian Age thanks to its history in pre-Victorian Europe.
WICKER ENCOUNTERED A REVIVAL DURING THE RENAISSANCE AND POST-RENAISSANCE YEARS
Wicker, of course, survived the fall of Rome (which many experts place around 476 A.D.). Marco Polo (and other European tradesman and explorers) would play integral roles in introducing many popular European customs and cultural influences not just in China, but in the newly discovered continents west of the Atlantic Ocean.
The seemingly ever-shrinking world came to appreciate the antiques of ancient Roman culture, as well as the contribution of resources now available through global trade.
Indeed, as explorers poked and prodded around the Earth, they shortened the trips from India to England, further closing the gap between mainstream Europe and non-European cultures.
With rattan flourishing in Southeast Asia, and a renewed interest in the Roman style during an age of neo-classicism, wicker was one of the cultural imprints of antiquity that encountered a revival during the Renaissance and post-Renaissance years.
Later, when the quality of rattan’s strength as a base for wicker became increasingly common knowledge in Europe, demand for this resource would eventually go up, as would demand for the furniture fashioned from it.
Trade, however, was constantly interrupted in the pre-Victorian years due to frequent wars (including the Revolutionary War in the U.S. and the Napoleonic Wars). It wasn’t until the peaceful trade of the Victorian Age that wicker would truly begin to expand to its current status as a world-renowned furniture style.
Generally speaking, the Victorian Age coincided with the Industrial Age, the period of major changes in transportation, manufacturing and craftsmanship. It’s no wonder, then, that wicker furniture saw major changes in the Victorian Age as well.
Thanks to well-established trade routes and the European Age of Exploration, and the discovery of rattan’s particular strengths, wicker was essentially destined for a renaissance all its own during the Victorian Age.
European and American minds alike found that wicker furniture was conveniently more lightweight, less expensive, and easier to clean than the traditional upholstered furniture of the day.
WICKER FURNITURE WAS MORE LIGHTWEIGHT, LESS EXPENSIVE AND EASIER TO CLEAN THAN TRADITIONAL UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE
Wicker also was a natural match for meeting the stylistic demands of the day. While elaborate furniture designs may have only been relegated to Europe's Upper Classes in the pre-Victorian age, the Age of Manufacturing left a Middle Class that demanded something similar to its style...even if it wasn’t quite the same price as what High Society people paid.
The fact that wicker furniture is easy to paint contributed to its expanding popularity during the Victorian Age, too. Painting wicker white and other natural colors (which, maybe not so coincidentally, was also popular in Ancient Rome) was a standard practice throughout these times, contributing to the styles of wicker we’re generally familiar with today as Americans.
By the time the Victorian Age wrapped up, the world had already crossed into the 20th century. Worldwide trade had become a common practice, and wicker already had cemented itself as a common way to produce furniture throughout the Western world. Additionally, rattan as a material for wicker had grown to an immense popularity, including in the United States.
WICKER ARRIVES IN THE AMERICAS
Before moving on to wicker’s more modern history in the Americas, it may be appropriate to take a step back and ask an important question: How did wicker get here in the first place?
Indeed, wicker’s history in the Americas does predate the Victorian Age. Wicker came here with the earliest of settlers, both as a resource for furniture and as a skill, or piece of knowledge.
Because so much transportation was handled by boat, it was important to have storage bins and other furnishings that were lightweight and, when filled, did not add much to the overall load of a transatlantic journey.
Subsequently, wicker suitcases and wicker traveling trunks became very popular in the Americas. In many cases, this was simply due to the fact people traveled lightly on their way across the ocean.
It may not have been any European’s specific intention to bring over their wicker luggage to the Americas as a method of introducing it to this culture. Instead, wicker largely first arrived in the Western Hemisphere simply because it was convenient to travel with.
With the Victorian Age now on the horizon, and a presence of wicker already established in the Americas, the conditions were ripe for a wicker explosion in the United States in the 19th century.
Early Wicker in America:
With the foundations for wicker’s presence in America already laid by the earliest settlers and travelers who brought it usually as a matter of convenience because of its lightweight properties, wicker was ready to take a more prominent role in the Americas.
The major change here, of course, was the fact the colonies of British America won their independence from the crown in the late 18th century. Americans, however, still retained many of their British sensibilities.
WICKER SUITCASES BECAME VERY POPULAR IN THE AMERICAS AS PEOPLE TRAVELED LIGHTLY ON THEIR WAY ACROSS THE OCEAN
Not only would British and Americans continue to share a common language, but in many ways they would share a common culture as Victorianism. This was going to be very apparent in the way Americans would come to embrace wicker furniture throughout the 19th century.
But Americans weren’t only going to follow in the world of wicker: They were primed to take a role of prominent leadership, primarily thanks to the innovations of one key man.
In just a few short centuries, the idea of wicker in the Americas would be reshaped from European influence, into a newly minted American style. Let’s trace the history of wicker as it underwent its transformation in the United States.
Wicker in Colonial America:
Prior to the United States winning its independence from the British crown, very few citizens thought of themselves as “Americans.”
They were colonists, to be sure, but they were also
colonists, loyal to the crown of Great Britain. It certainly follows that the cultural styling of Colonial America followed this pattern – one that would continue in similar fashion, for many years to come.
To these Americans, wicker furnishings and luggage were part of the culture they brought with them from Great Britain. Not only did colonials bring their own materials when they sailed from England and Europe, but they also brought their skills. It wasn’t long before colonial Americans were producing their own wicker furnishings.
AMERICANS IN THE 20TH CENTURY WERE PRIMED TO TAKE A LEADERSHIP ROLE IN THE WORLD OF WICKER PRIMARILY THANKS TO ONE MAN
Though rattan wicker had been produced before, it certainly hadn’t reached the popularity of today, and for a long time was relegated to mostly baskets and small, storage-based items.
One of the earliest wicker artifacts known to exist in the Americas was a cradle. This layette essential was a popular wicker item in the Americas for a long time before wicker was truly explored to its Victorian and post-Victorian heights.
After the Revolutionary War, the state of wicker in America (for the most part) didn’t change for several decades. However, a transformation was on the horizon – one that would alter the destiny of wicker furniture in America as well as throughout the world.
The utilization of rattan was not uncommon in the Americas or throughout the world prior to the mid-1800s. The major problem, however, was that not many people seemed to recognize the potential of this strong-but-pliable material as a natural resource to be matched up with the wicker process.
In fact, Europeans at large didn’t seem to realize how to properly utilize rattan beyond using it as a way to hold ship cargo in place on their wooden ships. The material was considered so disposable that many sailors would simply dump it once their cargo reached harbor.
Yet it was this very same unwanted material, treated as garbage, that Amercan Cyrus Wakefield would utilize to change forever how rattan and wicker furniture was made.
Wakefield not only realized rattan was ideal for creating wicker, but also that rattan wicker furniture was an idea with a lot of potential. He took the discarded rattan and shaped it into products he made himself until his enterprise was successful enough to begin manufacturing on a large-scale basis.
HIS SAME UNWANTED MATERIAL ...WOULD BE USED BY CYRUS WAKEFIELD TO CHANGE FOREVER HOW RATTAN AND WICKER FURNITURE WAS MADE
Wakefield eventually established a factory for producing his products in South Reading, Massachusetts. Later, the town changed its name to simply “Wakefield” in recognition of the businessman's accomplishments and local influence.
Wakefield’s influence on the world of rattan and wicker can’t be understated. As other furniture-makers began to realize the possibilities of using rattan for wicker as well as for support (sometimes deferring to wood for straight-corner items) – even in furniture that people could sit on for leisure – the industry of wicker furniture in the Americas would take off...this time, for good.
WICKER LEADING INTO MODERN TIMES
In 1897, Wakefield’s company would merge with Heywood Brothers & Company, forging together two of the most prominent makers of wicker furniture at the time.
The two companies, now working as one, went on to create a highly influential wicker furniture catalog (dubbed “Classic Wicker Furniture”) that would help set the tone for wicker in the modern United States.
FURNITURE ONCE RELEGATED TO PHARAOHS, NOBELMEN AND THE UPPER CLASS WAS NOW AVAILABLE TO EVERONE
By now, wicker and rattan were not limited to being used on transportation. Instead, they were being utilized to their full potential in a full range of items, from chairs and end tables, to couches and swings. With all of these options printed in one place (the new catalog), a modern age in wicker furniture was being developed.
The catalog utilized the best assets of both businesses. One supplied the artistic designs, while the other handled much of the manufacturing as well as the logistics of the orders. With this new company providing just about everything wicker customers needed, wicker furniture was now much more readily available to a larger market. Furniture that had once been relegated to pharaohs, noblemen and the Upper Class was now available to everyone.
That is largely the state of wicker furniture in the modern world. The 20th century would see real modernization for wicker furniture. With the Industrial Revolution infusing the manufacturing base for widespread sale of wicker furniture, companies like Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Company were now able to reach a much wider base.
This sets the stage for our final chapter in wicker history: explaining the modern history of wicker furniture and why wicker furniture finds itself where it does in the 21st century.
Modern Wicker and Rattan
If you really want to understand your new wicker and rattan purchases from a historical context, we’ll have to take a look at modern wicker and rattan history, especially the decades throughout the tumultuous and ever-changing 20th century.
innovations in the Industrial Age changed how products could be produced. There was greater efficiency in manufacturing for a number of items; wicker furniture was no different. And though wicker furniture would still often be hand assembled, the growing influence of machines meant it could be more affordably produced as well.
JUST AS WICKER WAS ABOUT TO UNDERGO AN INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, AN UNEXPECTED OBSTACLE AROSE
Moreover, a new devotion to arts and crafts would shape the destiny of wicker furniture too as it entered the modern scene.
Wicker in Early 20th Century:
After the merging of the Wakefield and Heywood Chair Manufacturing Company, wicker was poised to make its national presence known. Because the Heywood Company had developed a way for wicker to be weaved mechanically, wicker was about to undergo an industrial revolution much in the same way automobiles would arrive on the scene.
But even as these plans were set in place, an unexpected obstacle arose. The problem? Wicker began to experience a slight decline in the popularity during the early 20th century. Wicker patterns which had been popular during the Victorian Age weren't as attractive to modern sensibilities that favored a more simplistic style.
Popular wicker companies of the time (including Wakefield and Heywood) changed their wicker patterns for chairs and similar furnishings that attempted to offer the new looks customers wanted.
During this time of upheaval a competing designer, Marshal Lloyd, came up with a new innovation to further boost the popularity of wicker. His game-changing idea was to create wicker furniture made from synthetic materials. This innovation cointnues to define the development of wicker furniture throughout modern times.
Using synthetic wicker had a distinct advantage over many natural types of wicker because the synthetic materials (in many cases) were more durable, especially when exposed to weather elements like sun or rainfall.
This great innovation led to a renewed interest in wicker. Modern furniture of all types was expected to be versatile and to able to handle a number of different environments. Now that synthetic wicker furniture had joined that group, many people considered this lightweight wicker furniture to be a viable option for their homes.
And because wicker furniture looks as natural outdoors as it does indoors, this new material option added an element of versatility for those wanting to bring some of their in-home furnishings outside for picnics and similar events. This renewal of wicker’s popularity was sustained throughout the century.
Natural vs. Synthetic:
The creation of synthetic wicker gave customers another choice for their furniture in addition to natural wicker. The choice, however, revealed some advantages and disadvantages to each type of furniture materail.
Natural rattan or wicker furniture has a number of distinct advantages. In addition to being lightweight, strong and durable, it's also porous like wood. This means rattan is especially ideal for painting, coloring and even sealing. That's why it has a reputation as being a highly versatile material for making quality furniture in a number of ways. (One caution: Being porous, rattan should not be exposed to rain or intense sun.)
QUALITY SYNTHETIC WICKER IS BETTER SUITED TO THE ENVIRONMENT THAN NATURAL WICKER AS IT WICKS WATER AND MOISTURE AWAY EASILY
Synthetic wicker – also known as “all-weather wicker” – typically is made from an artificial material known as “resin," and often is made of plastic. There are many types of this man-made substance out there; one of the better-quality synthetics is HDPE (high density polyethylene).
Good synthetic wicker is dyed/colored all the way through; has a nice, thick wall to each strand; and gives a nice, soft feel when touched. If you lean back against it you'll experinence some "give" (not rigidity), which makes the furniture more comfortable. The less-expensive synthetic wicker often is loaded with plastic. It has a firmer, less comfortable feel; may dry and crack easily; and generally has a shorter life.
Quality synthetic wicker is better suited to the environment than any natural option, considering it wicks water and moisture away easily; doesn’t rot when left out too long; and is highly resistant to sun damage. For owners who want to leave their furniture outside, these are all excellent features. That's why synthetic wickers are often preferred for the outdoors, while natural rattan furniture is chosen primarily for indoor use.
To read more about synthetics vs. wicker, please
PRESENT-DAY WICKER AND RATTAN
Once only enjoyed by those with the highest social status, wicker and rattan is now available to just about anyone who is in the market for new furniture made of natural or synthetic materials.
Visit any serious wicker outlet today, and you'll see the results of thousands of years of history and innovation. Offered for sale will be a variety of wicker rattan furnishings, ranging from end tables, couches, beds and mirrors, to chairs, desks and filing cabinets.
Hopefully, after reading this brief history, you'll continue your education to find the perfect wicker and rattan furnishings to make your house a home.
Villagers in Vietnam making baskets to sell.
"Mariner" five-piece natural rattan
wicker furniture set;
swivel glider conservation set;
Oceanview natural rattan
Capri" five-piece round
dining set with cushions.
WE FOUND LIGHTING EVOKING THE LOOK OF BEAUTIFUL OCEANIC
AND SOOTHING BLUE
PERFECT FOR ANY ROOM OF YOUR HOME
Bubble Cascade Glass Lamp
~ Possini Euro Design (Target.com).
Crafted of Clear bubble glass (Black shade) or Blue bubble glass (White shade), this striking table lamp was made to impress! Uses one 100-watt bulb
Bubbles Chandelier (L to R)
~ Regina Andrews (
). Multiple bubbles enclose one halogen light. Glass: Green or Clear. Metal: Brushed Nickel or Natural Brass. 27.5" W x 27" H x 27.5" L
Glass-Encased Bubble Droplet Flushmount Light
~ Matteo Lighting (
. Contemporary / modern chrome 6-light indoor ceiling light with glass shade. Halogen. 9.75" H x 16" W x 16 D
Roselyn 20" Table Lamp
. Gold base and iridese white, clear bubble base. Max. 40 watt bulb. 20'' H x 11'' W x 11'' D
Glass Twist Crystal Lamp
(L to R)
. Looks like a spiraling ocean wave in motion! Luminous blue-twist glass body rests on crystal base; off-white linen shade. 60 watt max. 26" H x 14.5" W
WP-2 Bubble Panel Lamp
Light Energy Studio
). Streams of illuminated bubbles rise effortlessly through water-filled chambers via a quiet air pump hidden within the base. Many bubble designs available from seller.
Cordell 20" Table Lamp (L to R)
Bubble glass lamp with mesmerizing blues, greens and purples that change with viewing angle. 60-watt bulb. (Editor of Tropics Lifestyle owns two; placed in tropical-themed rooms.) 19.5'' H x 10'' W x 10'' D
Blue Ocean Glass Table Lamp, set of 2
Looks like frothing ocean waves are gently rolling inside the glass! 14" W x 14" D x 28" H
Ocean Table Lamp
Brings turquoise-green waves to any room. Custom order. 31" H printed canvas encased in clear acrylic. Man-made linen shade. 3 way, 150 watt max; type A bulb.
Coastal Chic Bubbles Table (L to R)
~ Regina Andrew
(Saks Fifth Avenue)
Clear glass bubbles adorn polished nickel rod base. Crystal pedestal. Steel components. Aqua option. 17'' W x 31'' H x 17'' D
Staggered 5-Light Floor Lamp (L to R)
Milk glass glass bubbles wind around steel body in Antique Brass finish. Art Deco. 13" D x 60" H
Foundational Glass Table Lamp (L to R)
. Single bubble lamp in 3 options: Art Glass White, Clear, Reflective Smoke. 10" D x 17" H
Tiffany-Style 2-Light Table Lamp
Serena D'Italia (
). Shade features 120 hand-cut royal blue stained-glass pieces evoking ocean waves plus 105 cabochons. Antique bronze finished metal base. 22" H x 14" W x 14" D
Marble Base Task Lamp (L to R)
Pottery Barn Teen.
Stunning iridese bubble task light for office or side table. Adjustable height. 9 watt LED. 8" W x 6.5" D x 12.5" to 18.5" H.
Iridescent Globe Table Lamp
(L to R)
Pottery Barn Teen.
Glass globe is hand-plated with iridescent-brushed, champagne-gold finish. Nightlight inside base. Overall (with shade): 10" D x 17.5" H
Chandelier With Sea Bubbles (L to R)
A happy bouquet of see-through resin sea bubbles creates a stunning visual display. 6 LED bulbs. 20" W x 8" D
4-Ft. Faux Aquarium Bubble Tube Lamp
LED lights, color changing-bubbles and faux fish evoke wonder!
Simply fill column with water, insert fish, plug into AC outlet. Remote controlled.
Glass Bubble Island Chandelier
Shades of Light.
Handblown clear glass bubbles float with modern elegance. Chrome hardware; White fabric shade. 6x40 watt & G9 bulbs included. 17.75" H x 32" W x 11" D
Buoy Rope-Netted Sea Glass Table Lamp
~ Elegant Designs
Classic Aqua glass bubble lamp with real rope netting inexpensively brings a nautical / coastal vibe to any room.
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