Tag Archives: willow

Corn dolly braiding with willow

I’ve been testing out the method for properly preparing my dried white willow and seeing how well I can manipulate it – initially using the same pattern as I did for the last ‘desire line’ experiment. It has taken a few attempts to test the soaking and mellowing times, and I’m still not able to get the simple weaves done without some stems breaking. Not sure what (whether my skills or the dryness of the wood) is causing this yet. It is also really hard to get the new weavers in neatly unlike the invisible joining you can achieve with straw.

Some pics of the latest tests are below – you can see clearly where some of the weavers have snapped mid-bend.

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My initial reaction is mixed: firstly, I really like working with the willow. There is something mysterious and elegant about it as a wood which I really enjoy. However, with the spiral braiding, I am really not sure what this offers that the wheat straw doesn’t already. I wonder if doing a modern corn dolly plait works better for me with the corn itself. This said, I will continue to try some different forms using the willow. Perhaps something more suited to it as a material. Also, I have a whole bundle of steamed willow as well, so that’s something else to have a look at too.

This all brings me back to my current ‘challenge’ which is to try to understand other sources of inspiration for forms. I did try something based on a new idea which has been floating about my head, that of interlocking identities through interlocking repeated forms. This was an initial 3d sketch (for lack of a better description). Is there something to work with here?

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Stripping the willow

I have been looking into the work of contemporary basket weavers, initially to see what people do with willow as a material, and see who resonates with me – both as inspiration and also as new references for my project proposal. I have also been keeping an eye on how these artists create their form – what inspires them, how do they decide on the form? I think now that I have begun to understand the ideas of materiality, grasping how I can develop form is my next target.

Lizzie Farey

I am fascinated by Lizzie’s work – the forms appeal to me a lot. Her statement tells that she has “a fascination with living things and natural form. For me, willow has become a medium for an interaction with nature that is deeply personal….my work ranges form traditional to organic sculptural forms”. I also noticed with interest she calls herself artist / designer / maker. These photos were of my favourites. I particularly liked the site-based one below, called ‘spirit of air’.

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Lewis Knauss 

Lewis doesn’t generally work with willow, but I spotted his work and he works with ideas of identity and place. I noticed immediately that his statement sounds like my essay!: “The significance of place in our lives is central to my work. The textures, materials and processes of textiles allow me to explore ideas about landscape, identity and belonging…The time I spend attentive to landscape translates into process and the labor of making. Images are created thread-by-thread, line-by-line, so that my work can be viewed as landscaped textures that are naturally created, blade-by-blade, leaf-by-leaf”.

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Caroline Sharp

Her work uses natural materials and is strongly influenced by natural forms, containment, growth and movement. Materials used include: stone, clay, chalk, willow, poplar, birch, hazel, and dogwood stems, leaves and wood. She also notes that she has been making work “in response to the craft of charcoal burning and my auto­biographical journey in relation to walking the land and the memory of place”.

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Joe Hogan

Joe’s work is strongly influenced by the landscape of Connemara, where he lives and works. His robust, increasingly sculptural pieces are woven from native willow, and often incorporate twisted bog wood – reminiscent of bleached horns or antlers – from an area of bogland near his home. They are strong, physical pieces with a raw beauty. I also quite like the traditional baskets he makes as well.

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Tim Johnson

Tim has a fascinating website with a wide range of stuff he does. He seems to make baskets out of everything (from willow to rushes to grasses) and all over the world. Here were a couple of my favourites. I particularly like the idea of the ‘woven paths’ (first photo) and wonder if I can make something inspired by this – it completely resonates with my desire line concept I think.

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