Tuesday, May 28, 2019

I was looking for a word

that describes when you love to do a particular task or job so much that it baffles the brain to understand why there is such a pull towards that thing.

Willow (salix spp.) weaving is like the for me-- but even more specifically, I LOVE peeling willow bark off the wood, and this is what I have been doing these last couple days.

This task is best done this time of year when the sap is rising and the new leaves are just popping out-the bark is loose from the wood and comes off easily, leaving pure white willow rods behind.

I will be using the bark to make cordage, for basket making and (hopefully) will do a bit of fiber dyeing too.

I have been splitting or riving the willow in half, this too seems to be very easy at this time of year. You can tell if you've done a good job because you will see some of the pith on both halves. I seem to be doing a very good job of it! Splitting is accomplished by making a small cut in the center at the butt end of the willow then carefully prying the 2 sides apart. If the split gets off center, so you have a thicker and thinner side, you just need to bend the thicker side and it will go back to center. It helps if you keep a hold of the willow below the split so you have a bit more control to keep it in the center.

I am hoping (to finally) have plenty of time this summer for basket making, and will use this split willow for that purpose. The pure white will make a great contrast pattern!

I still have a small harvest in a bucket, here at home waiting to be peeled and split. Hoping I am able to harvest again before the bark attaches to the wood... mid to late June.

This is such a satisfying thing for me. The willow sap smells so deliciously sweet. I'm in heaven!
I hope there is something in your life you love as much as I do this!
till next time,

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Olathe, Kansas - Living willow play structure

...leaves already popping!

An exciting thing happened recently. An old college buddy invited me out to Kansas to help with the installation of a living willow play structure at the new Natural Playground that is being built at Lake Olathe Park. Just part of a huge renovation of the entire park.

It was an awesome experience from beginning to end.

I adore flying. The trip out was sunny and practically cloud free so I could see the changing landscape below. From the forested and snow covered mountains and valleys of Vermont with its curvilinear arrangement of roads; a unique perspective in the winter months when the trees on a mountain look like whiskers on a big mans chin. And then there's Kansas. The other extreme. Roads and fields organized on a grid for the most part. I love seeing the checkerboard of different greens--early crops already growing contrasted with fields of brown grass or dark tilled soil. It's easy and fun to spot the watersheds from above, they are fingers of green, native trees and shrubs know to grow where the water is. From far above you can see the rivers where all those waterways lead, winding their way along to the distant horizon.

Just to see Mike and Jean (who graciously hosted me during my visit) after so many years, since our time studying Landscape Architecture at KState, and to meet their children and grandchildren. That was, by itself so heartwarming. Especially after the long, cold, solitary winter of hibernation up here on the mountain.

The living willow installation was scheduled for Friday. Thursday we had thunderstorms. I had forgotten what it is like to experience lightning strikes in the wide open spaces. It is pretty awe inspiring. In between the downpours and lightning Mike and I managed to get the structure sited and staked out. Friday's weather was supposed to be more of the same, starting at noon. Mike and I met the rest of the crew on the site at 8:30, I explained what we would do, showed them how to make the holes, how to plant and how to make a clove hitch and they were on it!!! (and that truly does deserve 3 exclamation points too :-) We were done by 11. "Many hands make light work!"
The rain started at noon.

And a few pictures:
staked out

Tanner  in background, Chad, Isaiah and Michael clovehitching!

Mike B., Liz, Moi, Johnny

Jim and Michael sorting and prepping willow

Johnny and Moi-- clovehitching

halfway there!

Jim and Tanner

Liz, Johnny, Jim

Jim and Mike B

working on the last joins at the top

finished! view from wheel chair accessible end

What an absolutely phenomenal group of people! Tanner (maroon hoodie) Isaiah (with beard behind tanner), Chad (brown hat), Jim (away at the back!), Michael (yellow raincoat), Johnny (crouching), my buddy Mike Latka (yellow vest), Mike Burson (black sweatshirt) and Liz (grey hoodie).

The project finished, the rest of the trip was relaxing and fun. Jean and I visited the Heritage Center Museum and Mahaffie House (https://www.mahaffie.org/) where we saw a newly born lamb about 5 minutes old.

Mike and Jean took me to Kansas City and out for bar-b-que. We visited as many of the other Olathe parks as we had time for that Mike has either designed or had a hand in as Parks Project Coordinator over the years he's been in Olathe. We three spent days and evenings talking, catching up, and
reminiscing. We laughed our heads off...  and that truly was a good medicine.

Sunday we met up with their kids and grandkids for brunch. It was great to finally meet them all and put faces with the names. The biscuits and sausage gravy was the best I've had since I lived in Kansas oh-so-long-ago. Here's the whole Latka crew!

The one thing I hoped to see while I was there was the Redbud trees (Cercis canadensis) in bloom. They are so beautiful and one of my fondest memories of my time in Kansas--there is nothing in the world like them. I missed them by a couple weeks, they are blooming now. Mike and Jean have both sent me pictures so I'll include them here.
somewhere in Olathe, Kansas

Redbuds in full bloom at Seaton Hall-home of the Landscape Architecture Department at Kansas State University!
until next time-
peace out

Monday, August 27, 2018

Taking Wing #1 @ LandART Lab

The first of several flying creatures joyfully hand woven/crafted from willow for LandART Lab 2018 that opened this past Saturday at the King Farm in Woodstock, Vermont.

more to come...

Thursday, August 16, 2018

LandART Lab 2018

Opening Saturday August 25th at the King Farm in Woodstock, Vermont.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

better late than never...

or so the saying goes.

When I returned from England in April 2012, I was anxious to get a workshop set up and start willow weaving regularly. Well, 6 years, 1 month and 21 days later and I am finally getting there. I am in the process of moving house again. (This makes, lets see, 9 housing changes in that same 6 years which is about 8 too many). Another time maybe I will talk about the sorry state of the housing situation in Vermont. But for now, I just wanted to share this one good thing with you.

I am moving to a peaceful place in the country where there is space available for me to finally set up a workshop area.

To that end, and because I am working on a sculptural piece for Sculpturefest 2018 in Woodstock, I just bought a beautiful galvanized tank to soak my willow in.

And here it is on its maiden voyage with 2 bundles of willow... along with the view... So far, so good, she's holding water!

signing off for now--
one extraordinarily happy willow weaving woman high up in the hills of Tunbridge, Vermont.

this may not seem too exciting to you, but trust me, it is exciting to me--and a long time comin'.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Willow Sculpture @ Helen Day Art Center

My willow sculpture "For the Birds" is in the member show at HDAC in Stowe, VT. Opening reception and show details below... please email, call or text me if you think you might attend the opening reception 'cause i'm not sure if i'll be able to attend or not! Love 'til next time-susie

Opening reception

Friday, December 1st 5-7 pm

Please join us in celebrating the season with an eclectic group exhibition featuring the artwork of our members amongst community-sponsored, artisan-decorated evergreen trees and a beautiful Hannukkah display of menorahs, games, and dreidels. It is the perfect opportunity to find a unique and meaningful gift!

Enjoy a feast of hors d'oeuvres generously provided by local restaurants, music to ring in the holiday cheer, and the festive community atmosphere that makes the Art Center what it is - a place to gather and celebrate creativity.

+ + + + + 
The show runs from December 1 - December 30, 2017 
Members' Art Show curated by Chiyomi McKibbin and Amanda Marquis
Festival of Trees & Light organized by Lisbeth Bruce, Kim Dreslin, and Molly Triffin

Monday, October 9, 2017

Willow Weaving with One Planet Afterschool Kids

I am having the greatest time leading a "Wonderful Willow Craft" program for kids aged K-6. Our current project consists of a willow "loom" onto which we are weaving more willow, grapevine, day lily leaves and whatever other natural weaving materials we can find along with stips of 100% cotton and wool yarn, also natural materials just in their processed state of being...

Our previous project were miniature (fairy) doors created with willow sticks and decorated with a bit of raffia! Lots of fun!

some of us might have gotten a little carried away with the hot glue gun... 8-)

Next up we'll be working on our own willow stick creations! Check back and see what we make!

As always, i'm having fabulous fun weaving willow in the mountains of Vermont. I hope your days are filled with something you love to do too!

Until next time-