PS has a whimsical 1.5m tall white wicker giraffe stand from the 1970s which, when found, was buried in her late grandmother’s plant shed among old gardening tools. When she started restoring it, she found that years ago it had been painted white over the natural buff rattan, white with a black nose and button eyes. Sweet?
No, it doesn’t match her state-of-the-art decor, though she does recall her grandmother’s modern 1970s home. That’s why she questions what vintage modernity really looked like. Having never seen anything like this on her travels through modern furniture stores, she wonders if it is a rare “one-off”. And further, is it wicker or rattan?
First, it’s pasture. Rattan is a material for weaving along with other materials including bamboo, cane and engineered resin synthetic rattan. Wicker is simply a style of weaving that involves the use of the materials listed above. Wickerwork dates back centuries: we find wicker seating in Egyptian tombs, some as prestigious as King Tutt’s.
King Tutt’s wicker chair lasted for thousands of years because he was unable to do the following destructive things to it: it was not left outdoors to be damaged by UV rays, it was not left in the rain or dew, so that it would mold and rot, and it was not washed with electricity.
PS, your willow giraffe is not a “one-off”. This type of plant stand, made in the shape of a thing or an animal, was popular in the 1970s, a very strange era in terms of style and taste. Your animal plant stand tall as you goes with the inexplicable things we liked in the 1970s like Tang; Jell-O; Marg and White Bread; Avocado Green vehicles, can openers, washing machines and refrigerators; Waldorf salad in Tupperware; stuffed eggs in custom dishes; Platform shoes; Chiffon scarves over bouffant hair and Richard Nixon.
Wicker was all the rage in the 1970s. I find wicker plant stands in the shapes of giraffes, short owls, elephants, reindeer, bicycles, turtles, ducks and rhinos. Inexplicable, but one can understand that after the shock of the 1960s, where nothing was comfortable, a cute, unaggressive, dependable form of animal character was comforting. And something like that was a statement against sophisticated minimalism at the time. After the strict geometry of the highest style of modern decoration in the 1960s, a cute animal was a welcome sight, a grown-up female form of a cuddly stuffed animal. Definitely no Bauhaus and no international style at all.
I find these animal willow pieces to be found under the boho chic category today. What does that mean? It’s a look based on “bohemian” ways of life that originally emerged in the 1950s, rebelling against wartime conservatism and promoting an artistic, self-expressive individuality. The chic part comes from adopting the hippie culture, and that means ethnic and multicultural. I don’t need to say more about the “hippie look”. I remember the Sly and the Family Stone concert in Grant Park in 1970.
I also learned that boho chic is different from boho style. Boho is more desolate and wild (think of the wealthy pretty wannabes at Coachella) and reminds us of 100 bangles, headscarves and earrings. Boho chic, on the other hand, is more urban with a more sophisticated color scheme, as opposed to pure boho, which smells of crocheted halter tops, fringes, lace, sheer fabrics, patchwork, fur and peasant dresses that are about to fall off your shoulders. Suggesting that pro-boho interiors are just as artfully scruffy; not so with boho chic.
Boho chic apparently peaked in 2005, with interiors and clothing that featured folk pieces paired with sleek, modern (think Sienna Miller in Alfie) curated pieces. The PS giraffe is now called Boho Chic because it has an ethnic feel and modern look. However, Urban Dictionary denigrated boho chic, defining boho chic as a cheap fashion trend that costs rich young women a lot of money, a trend that has seen hot women modeling crocheted doilies (which originally cost the seamstress $1 at a flea market). ), reworked into sexy bras that sell for $500.
So the same goes for PS’s Giraffe, which was once a whimsical addition to her grandmother’s house, cost exceedingly little then and wasn’t a high culture statement or art at all, but can now be found at 1st Dibs for $800.
dr Elizabeth Stewart’s column “Ask the Gold Digger” appears in the News-Press on Mondays.
dr Written after her father was diagnosed with COVID-19, Stewart’s book, My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos, is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories set in personal triumphs over today’s restrictions end up. It is available at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara.