Wednesday, August 5, 2015



pan·ier [pan-yer, -ee-er]

noun [pan-yer, -ee-er]
1.  a basket, especially a large one, for carrying goods, provisions, etc.

2.  one of a pair of baskets to be slung across the back of a pack animal.

Also called pannier.

1250–1300; Middle English panier < Middle French < Latin pānārium breadbasket, equivalent to pān (is) bread + -ārium -ary; see -ier  

Marchand de Paniers, Carle Vernet, 1820

The French have fancied paniers (baskets) for centuries, even before the art of basket making was formally recognized as a trade in France during the 15th century. Baskets have been used to gather flowers, fruits and vegetables from the fields, to present or display breads in village boulangeries, to transport live chickens to be sold to or brought home from the village markets, to harvest grapes for champagne making, and to carry the daily marketing home. 

Antique French Winnowing Basket

By the 13th century, the village of Vallabrègues, alongside the Rhône River near the town of Arles, was the largest basket producer in France. Most of the vanniers (basket makers) living there were wandering artisans that settled on the riverbank because the soil was perfect for growing willow used to make baskets. At one point, when baskets were the main source used for the gathering, storing, drying and transporting of fruits, vegetables, breads and produce, 450 out of a population of 1,818 were vanniers. Basket makers from all over France gather every August in Vallabrègues to celebrate La Fête de la Vannerie (Festival of the Basketry).

Guy Barbier, Vannier at Fête de la Vannerie à Vallabrègues
Fête de la Vannerie à Vallabrègues

With the emergence of wooden crates and the introduction of cardboard and plastic in the 1950s, however, the basketmaking industry virtually disappeared in France. Today, there are only about 200 vanniers left in France, making antique baskets even more collectible.    

Antique French Gathering Baskets

French baskets come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Originally rustic and created out of necessity, paniers are now functional as well as decorative. They're perfect for storing toys, magazines, blankets, laundry and so much more. Gathering baskets can easily hold firewood or fresh laundry. A French oyster basket looks great filled with towels in a powder room or toys in a playroom. Open sided baguette baskets make wonderful umbrella stands, and French banettons look beautiful when displayed in the kitchen as a centerpiece for dried flowers, fruits or vegetables. Simply line one with an antique French towel and use it to serve a warm baguette.

Antique French Bannetons

Whether large or small, simple or fancy, French baskets always add a touch of warmth and Country French flair to any decor. How do you use or display your favorite panier? Let us know!

À Bientôt!

Lolo & Mimi

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