Thursday, May 20, 2010

Willow Elephants in England

The Brits are miles ahead of us in North America, when it comes to the use of willows for sculpture (though Patrick Doherty and Alastair Heseltine are two notable exceptions).

Here is my latest discovery, from a post that is no long available on The Guardian's website:

"A herd of life-size wicker elephants arrives in Hyde Park today for a two-week stay. The 13 elephants are specially commissioned by charity elephant family, which is working with the Royal Parks Foundation and The World Land Trust to raise awareness about habitat protection projects in the UK and India. Here we chart the elephants' journey from the workshop to the banks of the Serpentine."

There are 9 more photos on The Guardian's website, including some of how the elephants were constructed. There are a few more interesting details on the BBC website.

On our website, I have more links to artists who are creating willow scuptures.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How to Build a Living Willow Dome

When Harriet sent pictures of her living willow structure, I was so impressed that I asked if I could put them on our blog. She not only agreed but sent along a wonderful set of instructions! Thanks Harriet!

Building a Willow House

"Coming from England, I have seen and admired Willow structures for a number of years thinking one day I would build one myself. Having our children rekindled the idea and I searched for a place to find the Willow rods. I finally found Bluestem and ordered my rods for delivery in Spring this year! I ordered 50 rods in total. This is what we did...

What you need:
  • Willow rods
  • Garden twine
  • Weed membrane
  • 12" Planting Dibber or stick to make holes in the ground
  • Compost
  • Bag of Flour!
Step 1
Pick a spot about 40' away from your house or any other structure/building and lay down a membrane to make the floor of the house. Our floor was 8ft square and the rods I think were 8'-9' long.
Note: due to US Post Office shipping restrictions, we ship rods 84" long; in Canada 200cm.

Step 1

Step 2
Find the center of the floor and use a piece of twine and the dibber as a guide while you make a circle using the bag of flour :-)

Step 2

Step 3
Decide where the door will be and choose some sturdy rods to make a doorway (wider than your shoulders so big people can get in too!). Make two holes in the ground through your flour circle with the dibber (about 10"-12" deep) and place your rods in for the doorway. Bend the rods into a cross and twist/weave together.

Step 3

Step 4
Select 6 more strong rods and place them in the ground at equal distances around the circle pointing straight up.

Steps 4 and 5

Step 5
In between each upright rod two more rods need to be placed in the ground; one on a diagonal to the left and one on a diagonal to the right. So when you are done you should have an upright rod, a right and a left rod repeating all the way round.

Step 6
This is where you need 6 pairs of hands, the more people you have to help the better! (we did it with two adults, a three year old and a 7 month old, it was rather amusing, more adults and less kids would have been better) You need to gently bend in your rods so that they have a window about 2' round left open at the top for growth and weaving when the structure grows. While a few hands bend in the rods, another set of hands has to secure the rods in this position with twine whilst weaving the rods in between each other in a very loose basket weave type effort!!

Steps 6, 7 and 8

Step 7
Fill in any gaps you can see with left over rods. Apparently it is best to plant them on the diagonal for maximum coverage when they grow, rather than straight up.

Step 8
Once it was complete, I trimmed the flooring into a circle.

As it grows, I plan to weave in the growth at the top and eventually release the twine holding it together at the moment."

Growth during the first season, along with some happy little girls

Visit the Living Willow Structures page at Bluestem Nursery to purchase rods and for more info regarding all the neat things that you can do with willow rods.