How is rattan furniture fabricated?
In order to fabricate rattan furniture, the thorns are removed, which leaves nodes on the stems. Before the stems can then be made into furniture, the outer skin needs to be removed. The advantage of rattan furniture, as opposed to, for instance, bamboo, is that their stems are solid and tough, as well as flexible. Rattan furniture is exceptionally resilient and can last for decades. Both the rattan stems and the outer skin are utilized in the production of rattan furniture, where they are employed for different parts of furniture. These involve the woven elements and the structural framework.
The ancient beginnings of rattan furniture
These ancient techniques date as far back as the rule of the Pharaohs over ancient Egypt. Initially used as a basket weaving material as mentioned before, it was also used to create various rattan homeware for the Egyptians, evidence of this was found in the tombs of pharaohs. This design style inspired the design of some furniture created by the Roman Empire and was spread across its empire.
This material was first introduced to the western world in the 19th century and was ordered by many because of its light tone and texture that gives off a tropical feel. Just to clear any misconceptions rattan is not by any means the same thing as bamboo which was also used to create furniture in the early 1900's.
Wicker is also a term that may lead to some confusion due to its undoubted association with rattan. The term wicker refers to any product that has been created by being weaved together with natural materials such as rattan amongst other plant fibres.
When the British Empire was at its highest peak rattan was brought back to the west with the many families that were stationed in the tropical regions of Asia. The furniture was mostly used in an outdoor environment but then eventually made the décor transition to interiors and became highly popular and created a real craze for the new material. By the turn of the 20th century rattan began to circulate in the US as people making their way across the pond decided to bring their tropical reminders to America.
Ethical issues behind the craze
The supply of Rattan has been called into question in the past and has become limited due to government provisions, to protect domestic manufacturing industries. Indonesia for instance introduced an export ban on rattan sent to overseas manufacturers in order to strengthen their own industry. Aside from the economic aspect that has limited supply, backlash due to the overproduction and consequent deforestation of rainforest where the plant is found. This has contributed to the limited supply of rattan which has slowed down the industry.
However sustainable practices and programs have been adopted by many governments in order to ensure the ethical and sustainable cultivation of rattan. These programs have ensured the long term supply rattan and provide a feasible option to meet the demand for supply.