Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tree house

With the new workshop space functioning well, it became apparent that a meeting room and sandwich scoffing area was now required.
So we set about weaving one, in our old faithful horse chestnut tree, before it developed its crown this year.

The build took the best part of two days to complete. The timber and the steps were all salvaged from the wood burning pile and the frame created from some stouti-sh osier and woven in a Triandra willow. Scale wise the specification had to be 'Tom sized'! It contains seating for three with plenty of floor space and a pulley system for supplies.

So, on the evening it materialised, I waited until nightfall, then lit the tree with candles.
The kids were the first to lead the way into the darkness, to find what looked from a distance, like a giant glowing nest that had fallen from the sky and landed in our tree!
Hot chocolate awaited them in the glowing egg shaped den to take the chill of the evening and we agreed this was arguably the best den in the village...
...yes of course we let the kids play in there, they just have to book it in, in the diary in-between board meetings and various business luncheons!

Please note the pulley system for raising supplies up into the tree :

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Giants

I was given a tip off by a friend that some Giant puppets were walking the streets of Liverpool. "Puppets,  I said, "Giant!",  I said, then all prior engagements were cancelled. En famille, we are hitting the 'pool!

The puppets are designed, built and performed by The Royale Deluxe Theatre Company based in Nantes, France. Their visit coincided with the 100 years remembrance of the Titanic .

The story played out over a three day event, saw a 50ft man named 'Uncle' surface from the docks, dressed in a full diving suit dragging with him a container, in which he had a letter for his niece.
The little girl giant (30ft) was searching the streets of Liverpool for her uncle awaiting news of her deceased Father, whom had been stowed away on the titanic as it took its plunge to the sea bed.
We caught up with the 'Uncle', about an hour from the centre of the city and followed him through the streets, he was sitting on the mailbox container with a crew over 40 folk dancing on the crane that operated him. A live band blasted out some great tunes behind him. And then the procession drew to a halt, the music stopped.
The crew started organising themselves directed in French over a loud speaker, the giant began to stand and he took his first step...
He walked fast, so fast we were literally chasing him through the crowds to keep up.
The story unfolded over that weekend and the feeling of witnessing something truly exceptional and magical, inspired me to make some willow puppets!
This is 'Legkiker' my first puppet, pre-strung.
He makes use of some old hacksaw blades, wire, hawthorn, sweet chestnut and of course willow.
And.... This is 'Tapgurl'!

Crude and teeny in comparison, but So much fun.
Here is a video of 'Legkiker' in action:

Blood Brothers.

We went to see a play this weekend and were completely spellbound. There were no frills here, no lights, no trickery...  Just human folk, acting out 'real' life. The experience affected me so much that I just had to give it a mention, here, publicly.

Our local theatre, The Concordia in Hinckley, has a reputation of delivering shows to a ridiculously high level, when you consider nearly every aspect of it is ran voluntary. That said I am not a big fan of musicals, my family are deeply rooted within the theatre and as a wee little Tom I have been to tread the boards myself. 

I was tipped off by my mum about this play and as she attempted to describe it to me, she was lost for words... this is highly unusual! However, she then went on to inform me that it was possibly the strongest group of actors that she had seen in one play... Geesus that's strong I thought, none of my family are in it!

The New Theatre Players presented, Willy Russell's 'Blood Brothers', produced by Joanne Holt, with a very small cast of enormous talent. The play thankfully was brought back by public demand to be shown last Saturday in Broughton Astley and we were blessed with tickets, to what was another 'Sell Out' performance.

Now having sat down to share this with you, I realise why my mum had struggled how to best describe the play, as when I connect to the raw emotions of Saturday nights experience, I'm welling up now, and its not just me! The audience were in pieces and as for the clean up after, it must have been messy, wading through tear-sodden tissues and hankies.
So instead I will take this opportunity to Congratulate all involved, to say Thank you and Bloody Well Done!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Vegas Willow Fantasy Trees

In July 2010 I was asked to Supersize a tree that I had designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and then times it by three! With each one stood at 25ft tall this was no mean task And they had to be shipped 5224 miles to Las Vegas!

Rising to the occasion and putting in some monumental long hours with a tight deadline were a large crew of colourful creatives, (you know who you are), Team ArtFabs and Hare's 'weaverbirds'. Humble respect and thanks to you all.

Now, I'm not one for glitz and glamour, but installing the trees with Andy ArtFabs and the installation professionals at the Bellagio was an incredible experience. Hard work, without much sleep, no casinos and not much else seen, but still incredible, thanks to all those involved at the Vegas end.

And here was the very large shiny result during their first installation ready for the autumn display, within the Bellagio Conservatory, Las Vegas September 2010.

Right, where to next...?

Willow Fantasy trees during production in the UK:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Willow pods!

I just rediscovered these wonderful little things, while going through some photos of old work, I thought it best that I share them:

Back in 2010 I worked with the Sir John Moore Foundation in Derbyshire, I've ran workshops with the foundation and at the school here many times, Izaak (my son) and I even had guitar lessons here for a term.
It is an incredible set up, the building itself is Grade I listed. Originally built by Sir John to provide education for what was then an all boys school, now the building houses the Appleby Magna Primary school.
The foundation running beside this delivers a diverse programme of events and weekly clubs to the community and as part of this designed and built with me, these pods!

They're based on the form of some dissected medicine bottles discovered on an archaeological dig onsite. The portholes in the pods have been strategically woven to provide views of the buildings and grounds.

One of the pods has even had a trip out to Nottingham's Light Festival and they've also been used within the castle grounds as a backdrop for the musical crew from the foundation.