Photograph of Emil Gottliebsen's wicker display.
This acquisition documents the craft of wicker work and the gradual development during the second half of the 19th century of an Australian wicker industry manufacturing furniture, baskets, perambulators and other household items. Its significance comes from its association with Ralph Gottliebsen's family company Gold Medal Wicker Works between 1867 and 1996.
Tiodor Gottliebsen emigrated from Germany in 1867 bringing with him his family's wicker making skills and tools and established a business making baskets, furniture and perambulators in Carlton, as part of a growing local industry. He also exhibited his work, winning a gold medal at the 1885 Melbourne Jubilee Exhibition for cane baby prams and furniture. His son Emil Gottliebsen (1879-1966) established a successful business in Norwood Adelaide and won a gold medal for wicker furniture at the 1910 South Australian Exhibition of Manufactures, Arts, Products and Industries. After winning this award Emil Gottliebsen renamed his firm Gold Medal Wicker Works.
Emil's sons, Lance, Norman, Paul and Ralph all worked in the wicker business. In the 1930s Ralph moved to Sydney where he continued to use the name Gold Medal Wicker Works. In 1965 Gottliebsen opened a new shop called Wicker Wonderland. The shop was presented as a showroom and family museum. Gottliebsen decorated the walls with tools, wicker work and photographs illustrating his company's long family history. In 1981, some of these items were incorporated into a display case in the new showroom. A sign proclaimed, 'We are the Oldest Wicker Works in Australia, since 1867 Look Here'. Ralph Gottliebsen's carefully constructed historical display case and photograph album are useful interpretative presentations of the family's business history. Importantly, they are also material evidence of his sense of identity, history and pride in his family's working heritage that extended back before his grandfather Tiodor emigrated from Germany.
Gottliebsen's emphasis on tradition and history in the Leichhardt shop was a clear statement of pride in an identity grounded in a long familial craft tradition. But it was also a marketing strategy. By proclaiming the longevity of the company and the two exhibition awards of 1885 and 1910, Gottliebsen was attempting to compete with the growing influx of cheap Asian imported wicker products.
The collection also documents the transfer of crafts and skills by European migrants to Australia in the nineteenth century.
Adelaide, South Australia