Some of you who may have been following my blogs for a while may remember my WOW! Club (Water Orton Wildlife Club) winning The Woodland Trust ‘Artventure’ competition earlier in the year. Our prize was to work with an artist. I was lucky enough to meet Tom Hare, a willow artist, whilst at Gardeners’ World Live and I asked if we could have Tom come to our school and work with us, as he is local. This week, we were lucky enough to have Tom visit and my WOW! Club past, present… and future were able to join him in willow weaving.
I have never worked with willow, yet it is something that has always interested me and when I saw some of the amazing sculptures that Tom has built in the past, I was very keen to have a go and see what my KreATivE side could conjure up! Take a look at Tom’s Website at www.tomhare.net to get an idea of what is possible… and you can see why I was so inspired!
Tom started us all on some simple techniques, learning how to manipulate the willow withies. These had been soaked to ensure they were soft and pliable and it is a surprisingly easy material to work with, once you get the ‘feel’ for it. We started by making some simple willow leaves, built on a willow withy that had been bent in the middle. We then wove the willow in and out to create a leaf shape.
Tom and I had already discussed some ideas, but when we got together, our artistic and creative minds soon went into overtime! I had wanted to create something functional and lasting in school so we decided to see if we could use the willow to make a feeding station for our feathered friends. Tom had suggested making willow spheres, possibly for nesting, but I felt these would be better suited to feeding, so we soon had the kids weaving willow spheres, based around two woven rings. The kids came up with ideas of creating windows for the birds to fly through and some of us attempted to weave perches as well…. it was amazing and we were delighted with what we produced!
In the afternoon, another group of children joined us and we wove snail shapes to initially build up our skills, then worked on weaving some deeper leaf shapes that we thought we could put food on. The children worked really well and, whereas a couple struggled and needed some support, some of them were absolutely flying and creating some amazing pieces.
The day went too fast and as the children left for home, Tom and I took all the willow creations into our wildlife area. There we banged some hazels sticks into the ground and mounted the spheres on these by weaving the thin willow like string. As the willow dries, it hardens and tightens, forming a really strong attachment. I wove some moss into the top of the structure to form a roof over the food and we tied some pots and a bird feeder inside the spheres. Tom drilled holes through a post we had at school and we attached the leaf bowls in a spiral to create a very pleasing effect.
We spent about an hour arranging all the things we had created and I then finished it all off with the WOW! Club the following day.
We have ended up with what I thin is an amazing willow bird feeding sculpture!
My WOW! Club blog post can be seen HERE
All of our photos from the day can be seen HERE on our school Flickr account.
I am going to book up for one of Tom’s training days and I can guarantee that I will be continuing to build my willow weaving skills! Watch out for some of my creations in the coming months!