The Sustainable Art of Willow Weaving

Basket weaving it one of the oldest and widest spread crafts in the history of any human civilization, but it is very difficult to state exactly how old the craft is, because natural materials such as wood and grass decay naturally and constantly.  It is worth having a brief look at the history behind this very traditional art.

The oldest known baskets have been carbon dated to between 10,000 and 12,000 years old.  These were discovered in Faiyum in Upper Egypt.  During the Industrial Revolution in the UK, baskets were used in factories and also for packaging and for delivering goods.  Wicker furniture became very fashionable in Victorian society and this led to the development of various different uses for it, other than industrial use, such as aesthetically pleasing items – ornamental baskets and sculptures.

Basketry is made from a variety of fibrous, or pliable materials.  Basically any material that will bend and form a shape.  It is usually classified into four types:

– ‘Coiled’ basketry – using grasses and rushes

-‘Plaiting’ basketry – making braids using plams, yucca or New Zealand flax

– ‘Twining’ basketry – material from roots and tree bark.  This actually refers to a weaving process, or technique whereby two or more flexible materials cross each other as they weave through some stiffer upright spokes.

-‘Wicker’ and ‘Splint’ basketry – using reed, cane, willow, oak and ash

It is this latter process that has been adopted and developed by the Creative Green  tutor and environmental artist, Dave Gosling. Dave uses a variety of materials to create his sculptures, but when

Willow Sculpture of Man Standing by Dave Gosling

Willow Sculpture of Man Standing by Dave Gosling

teaching newcomers to the art, he uses willow.  Mainly because it is much easier to manipulate.  We have sourced the willow that we are using through Musgrove Willows.  For almost a hundred years the Musgrove Family have been growing willow on the Somerset Levels.  It is a renewable and sustainable crop, annually harvested from a stump in withy beds.  It is the ultimate green product, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere as it grows.

Dave has developed his work from a weaving background to one that weaves itself into the the natural landscape.  This is much in evidence in a lot of his work, including the more permanent pieces.  Dave insists that ‘impressive structures can be achieved in a day’ for even a beginner.  He has been commissioned by many Local Authorities to bring the natural environment into urban town centres by using his sculptures in either wire, or willow.

We are hoping that some amazing sculptures will take place at our Al Fresco Willow Sculpture Event at Clue Hill Farm on Friday 3rd July, under the expert guidance of Dave Gosling and Tony Davies.  The willow is currently soaking in our pond, for at least 10 days (the pond is fed by natural springs, so the water should be really pure) – this is what Dave has advised us to do.  So everything is ready and waiting for the sun to come out and then we can begin!


Is it Difficult to Draw a Naked Body?

Life drawing, or figure drawing is considered an essential component of an artist’s education. It is the act of drawing the human figure from a living model and the model is always in the nude. A living person has a very different energy to it than an inanimate object.

It is when we engage our right-brain.  It is the side of our brain that enables us to draw, a non-verbal action and takes place mostly outside our conscious awareness.

Life Drawing by Jan Harvey – Creative Green Tutor


It is considered to be essential practice for the aspiring, or professional artist.  It trains your ‘eye’ and your hand.  Often the poses from the model are dynamic ones (short), this means that you have to draw very quickly.  This enables the artist to ‘loosen up’.  It enables your analytical brain to disengage itself and your creative brain starts to become liberated from any restrictions.

What are the benefits of life drawing?

  • Life Drawing teaches you how to see
  • Life drawing teaches you how to draw what you can see
  • Life drawing enables you to develop your own style of drawing

The type of representation is wholly subjective.  It may be highly detailed, anatomically correct interpretations to loose and expressive sketches.  For those new to figure drawing, or those who have not used their skills for some time, it is beneficial to have some guidance.  Jan Harvey shares her experience and knowledge at our al fresco Life Drawing events

What also makes a life drawing class easy to follow and participate in depends very much on the life model being used.  Life models come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Arthur Lowe, the Creative Green life model has been posing for several decades now. The number one criterion though, is the light.  Using the correct type of lighting make a huge difference to the model.  In a studio this will be artificial and can sometimes be quite harsh.  Using an al fresco setting, such as the woods at Clue Hill Farm, ensures a distinct subtlety in the lighting and there will be clear light and shadow patterns and much more of a distinction between light and shadow.  One of the most important skills to learn in figure drawing is the ability to accurately observe light and shadow patterns. This should result in some impressive drawings.

Jan Harvey - Creative Green Tutor - Life Model II

Jan Harvey – Creative Green Tutor – Life Model II

It has been said the ‘drawing the human figure for an artist is like a musician practicing scales’.  All pianists, whatever their ability, practice their scales and this is the same for any artist.  What better opportunity for scale practice than an idyllic woodland setting.  There are not very many locations in the UK where this is available.



How Art helps us to Relax

Everyone has been moved by art at some time in their life, whether they consider themselves to be ‘arty’ or not.  Art is a form of expression and just as it has been created in a specific frame of mind, so can it influence mood when viewed.

Art can also be used as a tool to help people to relax, unwind and take time out from our very busy lives.  When it is translated into our natural surroundings it can have an even deeper influence.  Richard Long, the Land Artist states: ‘I have the most profound feelings when I am walking, or touching natural materials in natural places’.

wood lounge

Clue Hill Farm Woods have been used for all sorts of Installations

What better way to relax than making an effort to let simple creative expression ease out that inner tension and work you into a state of inspired self-possession?

To take time out of a hectic schedule to create a work of art, when you have absolutely no idea where to start, or idea of whether you might even be able to paint, could be quite a challenge for some people.  However, if you were to attend a specially designed course: introduction to watercolours  you will start to feel more comfortable with your own individual artistic style (there is never a right or wrong way with art – just your conviction that this is how you want it to look).  Even better, if you can be inspired by natural surroundings.  Often we look at the nature around us, but rarely do we ‘see’ it.

Pablo Picasso said: ‘All children are artists.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up’

There is an unpredictability and uncontrollable nature of watercolour painting that makes it probably the most exciting and expressive medium in art.  There is the opportunity to wander somewhere between mastery and complete lack of control during the course of a painting and this is what makes it one of the most engaging mediums.   For the first timers, it is useful and insightful to have the benefit of some instruction from a professional tutor, for example: Keith Dunford  who is the tutor used by us at Clue Hill Farm.  The woods, pond and surrounding hayfields provide the most inspirational back drop for any aspiring artist.

‘Life is the art of drawing without and eraser’ John W Gardner