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!

 

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