Living in Somerset my whole life, not being far from the levels I have grown up with willow trees on the horizon. When we were children I remember learning about the willow tree and its value in both medicine, creating versatile baskets and beautiful sculptures.
When walking with my family around the National Trust property Barrington Court last year we came across some truly amazing willow sculptures, which had been placed creatively around the grounds. My children just loved them and spent the afternoon seeking them all out and giving them names.
The willow artist Jo Sadler is local to the area and so when my shop was ready for an Autumnal display I couldn’t wait to contact her and ask if she would like to showcase some examples of her work in the shop window.
Much to my pleasure she agreed and we now have 3 deer looking out at everyone walking past.
Such amazing skill goes into making these sculptures it helps a little if you know what processes are involved.
Firstly willow has just the right properties making it perfect for these sorts of sculptures. It’s flexible, hardwiring and its ability to be twisted means it can be turned into a multitude of shapes.
Jo builds her sculptures on a metal framework to enable it to be adjusted into slightly different positions which is really handing when positioning them. It also means that the integrity of the sculpture isn’t compromised if placed in a windy part of the garden.
Firstly you will need some green willow which in Somerset is grown locally. It is then soaked in water for several days to soften up and allow it to become flexible. The willow has two ends the blunt end is called the ‘butt end’ while the thinner end is called the ‘tip end’.
Starting the sculpture usually requires a series of wreaths to be made which can be interlocked together to make the basic skeleton. These can then be fixed to the wire frame and the body of the sculpture will start to take place. The gaps are then slowly filled by wrapping more willow around the basic template. Stripped or white willow can be used to create different colours and textures within the sculpture which can really add to the effectiveness of the piece.
For anyone interested in trying their hand at willow weaving, I would highly recommend contacting Jo for a place on one of her courses.
They start at £65 pp and are 9.30am – 4pm this includes all materials.
Then you too could enjoy making unique pieces of art for your garden.