Wicker is a material made of young willow stalks, which are cut in winter and used for basketwork. Wicker became a booming business here at the end of the 19th century, when the area’s former wine-growers converted to spring fruit and vegetable farming. The need for containers to export local produce induced the development of basketwork. Willows prospered in the damp soil of the valleys. This activity, which involved both farming and craftwork developed in Corrèze and in 1933, Saint Viance became France’s 5th wicker producer. After World War 2, the demands for basketwork declined. Wicker farming became more and more industrialized and there were only a few local farmers left.
Today, Saint-Viance has revived wicker-farming thanks to Serge Mazaud’s business…
Serge Mazaud interview :
« Wicker is a fabulous plant because it takes a cutting quite easily, even when the willows we use are extremely long. So, when you have a few basic weaving skills, you can end up with huge structures which grow and continue to live on, in your garden. Just to give you an idea: last year, I harvested wicker that measured over 4 metres long. This gives me enough freedom to plan ahead and consider large live wicker structures.
To obtain top quality wicker, the plant has to grow continuously, without ever stopping. That means no ramifications. The stalks must be as long and as thin as possible. And the bark must not be injured. Which means that when I am out here mowing, I have to pay attention not to damage the sprigs. The most annoying plants around here are t morning glories. They have a tendency to leave marks on the sprigs…
I have about 30 different varieties to produce from, plus a collection you can see right behind me, with 67 types of wicker and botanical willow I’ll use for plant architecture. I make cabins and fences for different types of climate and soils.