Saturday, 7 May 2011

Willow The Wisp

This week I spent a day with Debbie Hall, a willow artist, having some one to one tuition in how to create willow sculptures.  Well, the basics really, it takes a long time to master the art of weaving willow well. I had first been inspired by Laura Ellen Bacon's work at the basketry exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. Wow I thought I must learn how to do that. Laura produces amazing, flowing organic shapes from the willow, stunning. Anyway, Debbie was a very patient teacher (and superb willow weaver) and managed to drum in some fundamental techniques in a short space of time.

These are just a few pieces dotted around her garden. More examples of her work can be seen on her website Salix Arts. I particularly like the fish, which were made using very branchy, branches! Parts of the coppiced willow that was too uneven to use in the more structured pieces. 

The willow in buckets of water to keep fresh, has been harvested to be used in 'living' willow structures. Things like garden arbours or 'growing' garden chairs. Normally for basketry and sculpture, the willow is harvested in the winter when the trees are dormant and the sap is not rising. This gives the finished sculpture lastability and it is more supple and easier to work.

So, here are fruits of my labours ! No...don't laugh... the intention was not to make a finished piece, but learn all  I could in the time, using the basics for developing a sculpture. Circles slotted inside each other can be made into globes, many globes can then be  lashed together. The start of  many structures. 

The next basic shape is a sort of a tower. this can be used to give height/length. The shape of it can be altered as you go along. So for example, I could  have given the tower a waist, stuck a globe on the top and already you have the makings of a simple figure. Or horizontally, it could be the start of an animal. All that is need then is to weave more and more withies in to the structure, until the desired effect is reached.

This (above) is a very useful knot for lashing pieces together and also has decorative qualities that can be utilized in the design.  Obviously a great deal more practise is need but I'm very excited about working on this. I went down to our lake this afternoon to cut some withies, just so that I can have something to work on, before I spend a lot of money on buying in bundles of willow! I hope that in the Autumn I will get round to planting up some different varieties for future harvesting. Looks like a long term project!