Willow sculptures galore

gruffalo5This year we’ve been lucky enough to be commissioned for several lovely sculpture projects. Some have been a lot bigger than others, a hard old slog at times, but nevertheless all very rewarding.

Gruffalo – Dare Valley Country Park
Set in 500 acres of Welsh woodlands and pasture and bordering the Brecon Beacons National Park, there stands a willow gruffalo peaking out from the trees overlooking the children’s play area. This handsome fella was lovingly created by adult and children helpers who worked with us to build the main structure and fill in with a creative bit of weaving during May 2013. The head, which took a whole day, was done at home and attached a couple of days later, hopefully no children were traumatised by the sight of the headless gruffalo in the interim.  Last reports were that both children and adults were enjoying his company.

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Willow tree take two at Pendoylan Primary School
Back by popular demand a willow tree has sprouted at Pendoylan Primary School.

Over two days all the children had a go at weaving the main structure of the tree whilst some wove beautiful leaves which were attached to the branches at the end.  Sitting in a corner of the yard the tree is a place for reflection and storytelling.

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Yes, it’s a willow Toto
We’ve been asked to do some unusual sculptures over the years but never a lifesize willow Toto. Residents of  Ty Enfys care home in Pentwyn joined in the afternoon session of weaving to create the famous furry canine as part of their Wizard of Oz themed garden display.

IMG_7552The residents are pretty experienced willow weavers as this is the third time we’ve been back to run a workshop.  Willow garden trugs are filled with the fruit and veg from the garden, at Christmas willow decorations hang on resident’s doors and at 90 years old Naomi, our star pupil had her first willow experience making a beautiful basket for her granddaughter.

Butterfly emerges at the RHS Spring Show in Cardiff
Last but not least, as part of the Wildlife Trust garden at the RHS show, we wove a giant willow butterfly. Lyndsey Maiden from the Wildlife Trust came up with the idea of having the butterfly overlooking the garden and large enough for people to stand behind and poke their heads through a hole in the butterfly’s head, making a  perfect winged photo opportunity. Slightly bonkers but right up our street. Weaving took place two days pre-show and with the much appreciated help of Leigh’s wonderful directional weaving skills, was completed five minutes before opening 🙂

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Beautiful willow sculptures

 

 Who’d of thought of a willow tortoise, Rachel did and look how fabulous he (obviously) turned out.

By popular demand we had two Willow Sculpture courses running in September and what fantastic creations our participants came up with. Following on from ‘Four Herons and a Dolphin’ on last May’s willow sculpture course we’ve now had five ducks, butterfly, heart, cormorant, hedgehog, mushroom, peacock, chicken and of course the lovely tortoise.

 

Willow sculpture is very time consuming but very worthwhile and as these photos show a whole manner of shapes can be achieved. It’s also very lively as shown by Christine, holding on for dear life to her lovely duck, she didn’t want to let him loose!

Our next Willow Sculpture course is on 25 May 2013, look out for more willowy creations.

What’s been happening ‘3’… the final chapter

AUGUST – Willow Storytelling tree, Roman Military Spectacular (just look at those Gladiators) the Eisteddfod and the Vale Show

Nearly up to date – August was quite a busy month as well with The Eisteddfod and the Vale Show. We had a rather fetching teepee at the Eisteddfod and spent a very relaxing week on the Maes Gwyrdd. Les Llewelyn, our famous Cyntell maker demonstrated for two days making a beautiful white cyntell.

What better than willow swords and shields for a Roman Military Spectacular at the Amphitheatre in Caerleon. The event lasted for two days and we were treated with fantastic Roman Soldier battles and sparring Gladiators.

Another lovely project was a sculpture of a Storytelling Tree in Dare Valley Country Park. Spread over three days the workshop was for local children who either worked on the tree or made leaves which we attached at the end.

Finally the Vale Show which is an agricultural show held in Fonmon Castle in Barry, another event we’ve attended for quite a few year’s running. Always a very busy day which this year was made joyful by the return of someone very special… 🙂

 

 

What’s been happening….

How time flies, can’t quite believe it’s six months since we last posted. So here’s a quick update on what willowing activities have come our way since March 2012.

 APRIL – Willow Crafts for the Garden, Beginners Baskets and the wonderful RHS Show
With the living willow season finished it was straight into the willow craft season which included the RHS Show in Cardiff and lots of willow courses. Willow Crafts for the Garden is always popular and although every time we say remember the size of the car you came in, quite often this happens.
Beginners basket making are also very popular and we had some lovely baskets made in April at the Heritage Coast Centre in Southerndown. We even had two lovely ladies fly all the way from America. Back to the wheelie bin for soaking though.

We’ve been lucky enough to have a stand at The RHS Spring Show in Cardiff for the last four years and although a tiring three days, it’s always a lot of fun. This year the weather wasn’t so kind and it ended up a bit like Glastonbury outside our marquee. Many thanks to all our helpers, especially Sarah who stuck it out for the three days and most importantly helping to take the stand down, something not easily forgotten 🙂 We also made a willow badger for the Wildlife Trust Garden so it seemed as if we were living on the show ground for about a week.

MAY – Willow Sculpture course, Forest School sessions and Jubilee Crown

Four herons and a dolphin were made on our sculpture course, how amazing are they!

Forest School sessions started again, one afternoon a week for ten weeks taking a group of ten and eleven year olds to experience the outdoors and learn about their environment and to have fun of course. Some lovely tree art went on in the first session, sadly rained every single Thursday afternoon for ten weeks!

We were also asked to make a replica of the Queen’s Coronation Crown for the Physic Garden in Cowbridge to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee.

 

Jenny Crisp, Roy Youdale and Tom Hare

Mel and I have had some superb teaching recently from three great tutors, Roy Youdale, Jenny Crisp and Tom Hare.

Roy is an old friend who has spent many days with us teaching us advanced techniques and coffin making. He also taught our very successful residential coffin making course in September last year. The course is running again this year from September 19th to the 23rd.  This time, after a delicious lunch, Roy was teaching us how to make the traditional welsh tea basket which has a small cylinder in the centre for cutlery and is shaped like a scandinavian doughnut so that the tea set fits around the edge. The basket is much more straightforward than it looks! As always we were so impressed by Roy’s attention to detail and tips for weaving the perfect basket. Roy must also now be getting used to our constant barrage of ‘yes but ‘why’ do you do it like that? ‘ ‘what are your hot tips for …’ ‘how do you do ……’ – I think he is always left exhausted by our thirst for learning everything basketry! On the way home there was a shriek from Mel ‘OMG Daffodils’, I knew instantly what she was talking about – the cylinder shape is perfect for weaving a daffodil flower ………


 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent an inspiring two days at Jenny Crisp’s house in Leominster learning her distinctive technique of scallomed baskets with deep borders and an additional foot.

Jenny’s baskets are extremely chunky and satisfying to handle and look at – not only did we make beautiful deep fruit baskets ourselves but found ourselves arriving home with four of her baskets that were just too irresistible to leave there.

It was the first time we had met Jenny and stayed at her beautiful house.

Not only is she a thorough, patient and inspiring teacher but a fabulous host as well – we can’t wait to go back soon for another two days learning to make her wonderfully complex square fitched shopper.

 

 

 

And finally ……………. what a wonderful two days we spent at Musgrove with the breathtakingly talented sculptor Tom Hare.  Tom’s stunningly beautiful sculptures of flowers and seed heads are featured at Chelsea.

Tom is a very laid back tutor who makes you feel like you can achieve anything (fantastic for me as I was actually just tagging along with Mel who is already brilliant at sculpture).  We started by honing our skills at making random weave far less random and much more regular, weaving with multistrands of willow.  We then learned a finishing technique called ‘directional weave’ which took a lot of practice and was incredibly time consuming covering about 10 cm in an hour but very pleasing and regular.

On day 2 we worked from a basic hoop to form a circular flower shape – I called mine a Ranunculus – as I am not so comfortable with things being abstract and  it looks lovely sitting amongst my hedge outside my kitchen window.  We finished by sculpting giant flower shapes onto a metal frame as Tom does for his huge sculptures – I finally got to achieve my longstanding desire to make a giant sculpture of a daffodil.  The shape is now waiting to be filled with a random weave (regular of course!).  It was supposed to be finished in time for the Royal Welsh Show – but I think I had better set myself a target of the RHS Spring Show in Cardiff 2012 instead!  It was the end to a great two days and boy did we get some funny looks coming up the M5 and over the Severn Bridge with a giant daffodil on the roofrack!

Thanks so much Roy, Jenny  and Tom – here are the links to their websites if you want to know more about them:

http://www.willowbaskets.biz/

http://www.jennycrisp.co.uk

www.tomhare.net/