Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bathgate retirement home.

Towards the end of September we were invited up to Bathgate near Edinburgh to create a woven screen in a retirement home together with the Global Action Plan (A charity that promotes sustainable living) and their sponsor at present Sky television.
They gave us a cavalry of enthusiastic volunteers which meant that over four days we whittled and weaved together a fabulous screen from willow, hazel and sweet chestnut. They were unstoppable!
We camped out of the town up on the hill, Beecraigs country park.
With the solstice wind blowing hard, Spencer (my willow weaving colleague) and I took the trail to Cairnpapple a very old burial mound that in deep darkness has to be experienced. It's the original earth works.

Such a warm crew, big thanks to Tom, Anne and David, all at Sky and me old mate Spencer Jenkins, who on the return journey took responsibility for all the driving so I could rest my bones in time for a weekend teaching at Spring woods!
Thanks all.

Wisley's glass house echoed in Willow.

Over the summer the education team at Wisley have been developing a 'natural' play area for their younger visitors designed with creative investigative play in mind.
I was asked to contribute to this area so got to work designing and building some play structures that echo their breathtaking glass house.
And here they are from rough sketches to fully installed, foundations dug and fixings tightened.

Thanks to Art Fabrications for their skill and consistent support with the steel works.

Rough sketches.

A willow den.

The willow tunnel.

The twist in the tail!

Some close-knit weave to help withstand the kids attention..

Working the willow - Part 1

As part of the Somerset arts week in early September this year, Musgroves the wonderful willow growers pulled together a collection of international willow work. From the very solid functional vessels to the more contemporary, sculptural and experimental pieces weavers came together for 'Working the willow'. All of which drew from a wealth of makers who at some stage have purchased their quality materials from Mike and Ellen Musgrove (I reckon over 150 makers contributed!).

The variety of colour, technique and beauty was overwhelming, some of my personal favorites were that of artist/maker Sarah Webb, coiled work, bound with jewelry wire which was very precise and flowing. Joe hogans work also really stood out for me as well, a stunning 'closed pod' worked onto ash-wood, showing both disciplined and anatomical traits. Also, Lizzie Fareys wall hanging of wagtail sketches really captured my imagination .

Alongside the exhibition I ran two 1 day workshops sharing some of my techniques which proved to be popular, the sun shone the willow was very local and clients were spotted leaving with arms full of their own creations.

There will be more dates coming soon for sculptural workshops 2010, watch this space!

Of course my work had to be fork-lifted into place, proving that Big can be beautiful too!
My Hanging Nest seat is constructed from tightly woven steamed willows around a mild steel frame.

Herrick Primary School revisited

One year on from completing the first stage of this project I was asked to add some important features to the Amphitheatre:
60 metres of gorgeous sturdy green oak seating for the audience
And for the performers a clean dry platform/stage area made from recycled rubber matting, the area is tough enough to be stood on, trod on, danced and skipped on without carving into the mud! In time the grass will grow through to help blend with the natural surroundings.

Thanks going out to Peter wood for his help on this project.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

St.Martin's outdoor classroom.

My old secondary school, St. Martin's, have been busy building a vegetable garden with raised beds. As a teaching facility they want to make this veg plot a fundamental part of the school life, getting in touch with the process of growing, the year cycles/seasons and of course, their soon to be full and very healthy bellies.
I was made up to be invited to build an outdoor classroom for them! Some lovely oak benches a teaching table and a couple of huge cobwebs to screen the space and provide a trellis for some lovely climbing plants has helped transform the space.
The teaching staff intend to cook and demonstrate with the produce outside in this new space and invite guest chefs too. There is even talk of building a cob bread oven to bake their own super fresh pizzas! Wow! Count me in!
It has been great working here as I have so many good memories of schooldays.

Thank you to Doreen Rose for her patience and enthusiasm .

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Westonbirt's 'Festival of the tree'

The 'Festival of the Tree' 2009 took place last week at Westonbirt Arboretum.
In 2007 I had created a huge willow maze based on the growth rings of the tree it was so loved by the little people that this year I returned and built them a new one.

This years festival was based on climate change and I chose to celebrate the humble bumble bee and made a honeycomb maze from a sweet chestnut framework and visitors were then encouraged to pitch in and help with the willow weaving.

Over the bank holiday weekend I ran workshops helping visitors create woven 'bits n bats' for them to take home. There was never a dull moment, at one point I was even asked for my autograph by a lady who explained she'd visited Kew Gardens (blog to come soon!) the previous day, seen my work and was very pleased to then see me at the festival, the day after that I was bitten by a small dog keeping my ego in check!

It's a great event made better by the volume of live making and doings of 12 chainsaw artists, sundry turners, axemen, furniture makers and story tellers. All very inspiring.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Basket making at Spring Wood

Set within the beautiful Spring Wood in North Leicesteshire/South Derbyshire lies the Greenwood Days centre where all things green and crafty are produced from pole-lathing to coracle building, long bows to rustic furniture and of course basket making!
The centre is set within the Staunton Harold Estate nr Melbourne, South Derbyshire ran by Peter Wood a fine chair maker and evidently an extraordinary soup maker too!

Twice yearly I tutor a simple basket making course, it runs over two days and is a great introduction to the sport, not only do clients leave with their own wares, but also the knowledge to continue their newly found craft.

Now, although we are talking about some seriously ancient technology here, the centre has it's own website and there is a basket making course running in September this year (26th and 27th) with a few places left, so if you're feeling the urge to get involved, click on the link and reserve your space now.

Below is the result of our last session from the 17th and 18th of August. Everyone from curious folk entering the woodland to obsessive weavers in just two days!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire.

I was recently commissioned to build this gorgeous little pear on site at the Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire. This is home to the well known Art in Action festival where some of the UKs finest makers get together for a giant exhibition .

The pear stands proud opposite Pear Tree Restaurant, so parents can indulge in their fabulous home made cakes and pies, of which I can recommend the apple pie an all time favourite of mine mmm......pie... whilst the children of course can play in the pear tunnel!

During it's construction I ran workshops sharing the weaving with visitors to the garden, then on day two I was fully absorbed in the calming surroundings weaving until nightfall.
The evening before the garden hosted an outdoor play of Wind in the Willows, next year it's The Railway Chidren, I'm booking early!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What a Treat! I was invited back to RHS Wisley for another residency throughout spring.
This year I brought together a drift of woven bullrushes, a village of giant pine cone dens and a Huge acorn producing a sapling:

- Week one of the Easter holidays I worked with visitors on site in Seven Acres, weaving the bullrushes and acorn components and with the weather on our side we were able later install these soon after, near the Pagoda which were then framed with a hazel loop border made from some of Wisley's own hazel freshly coppiced on site!

- Week Two of the holidays I worked in the Pinetum, creating pine cone dens which were then installed inbetween some very tall Scotch Pines towards Howards Field.

All the pieces seemed well recieved by Wisley visitors young and old.
It was also great to see some faces from last years residency.

Special thanks to RHS Wisleys education team, logistics onsite : Simon and Andrew, Art Fabrications and everyone who came along and paid such high praise!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wakehurst sheep

Blimey what a year! Wakehurst Place, Kews Gardens country gaff commissioned a flock of sheep to replace the original ones that I'd made as part of the Big Draw '07 with visitors from the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew .

After a couple of late nights weaving in the shed, here they are arriving on site 7am may 1st.

jostling for position to get onto the juicy grass..

they were very keen to get out of the van and make their way to the new meadow exhibition opposite the Millennium Seed Bank.

The timber frame buildings on the left here were built on site by Wakehurst staff and all the hurdles were built with the gardens own hazel top marks Ian! very inspiring.

At last, the tasty green stuff!

Thanks to Spencer Jenkins for back up with the weaving and a big thanks going out to Annette and Glyn for putting me up for the night!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Willow planting!

It's been so long since I wrote on this pretty little blog as I've been working on a very secret project (if I told you, I'd have to kill you etc.), but it's a biggie and all will be unveiled soon.
For now, I thought I'd just jot down some words and show some pictures of my new plot of land that I've 'borrowed' to grow some willow on. That's right growing my own willow!
In a couple of years, this should all be good to go, I'm very excited.

Step one, get the membrane down to stop the weeds taking over the willow twiglets.
It was actually very windy when we did this, this is a moment of photo calm.

Step two, get friend (Ed Garland) to cut over 900 sticks to plant in your soon to be forest.

Step three, plant out over 900 sticks and in no time you'll have your very own willow forest!

Action shot of willow taking root in their new home, you might have to get real close, if you can't see it, your screen resolution is too low!

Thanks to the willow, Ed for pitching in a day before he was due to fly to New York when he should have been packing etc. and Mother Nature.
Incidentally, I also organised 2 willow forests in miniature at Barley Croft School in Leicester during the same period, thus my tree planting over the last 7 days has been over 1,000!