~ willow weaving

The Sheepfold for Exposed 2014 at Helen Day Art Center. Stowe,Vermont. USA
 Willow has become one of the great loves in my life. I love it because it really wants to live. It's flexible. It's adaptable... I think we could all learn a lesson from it.

Since 2011 I have spent  a total of a year in England, (2-6 month chunks) taking workshops and volunteering with an Traditional Greenwood Craftsman in Kent. Most of that time I was in the woods learning traditional woodland management techniques (coppicing), with traditional tools (billhooks, slashers) and learning to make the traditional woodland crafts with the harvested willow and hazel again with traditional tools (froes, axes, shave horse, drawknifes, spokeshaves).

Not only do I love the work... I love the names of everything!

My particular focus was growing, harvesting and making things from willow. Hurdles, continuous weave fences, fedges (living fences), and other living structures such as bowers, domes, tunnels and seats and benches both for play and relaxation.
Here are a few examples of willow weaving... and other related work.

(below) Looking East, 6 Degrees North for Exposed 2013 at Helen Day Art Center. Stowe, Vermont. USA.

(below) The Sheepfold for Exposed 2014 at Helen Day Art Center. Stowe, Vermont. USA.

Baa baa black sheep.

(below) Cocoon for Exposed 2015 at Helen Day Art Center with Stowe Elementary School. Stowe, Vermont. USA.

(below) Living Willow Tunnels for Fayston Elementary School. 2015. Fayston, Vermont. USA.

(below) Living Willow Shelter for Laraway School. 2015. Johnson, Vermont. USA

(below) Genesis 1 for Sculpture Fest. 2015. A 4 ' diameter honeysuckle berry, made from honeysuckle branches harvested and woven on the land at Prosper Road in Woodstock, Vermont. USA.

(below) Willow harvest from pollarded willow. Shoreham, Kent, England. Spring 2014. This is just 2 years growth! John and I had harvested from these same willows in the spring of 2012. The length on some of these willow rods is a good 16', maybe more. As you can see, one pollarded willow yields an incredible amount of material! And of varying sizes and lengths-some good for living structures, some for woven fences, hurdles or trellises, and some for continuous weave fences.
Pollarded willows add a very unique element in the landscape--with or without branches.

I am snedding (removing the side branches with a billhook) the willow rods.

Jake (atop the willow) and John, there was more willow to be harvested but the Land Rover was full... not bad for a days work! 

(below) Woven willow fence and compost enclosure redo at Quebec House a National Trust Property in Westerham, Kent, England. March 2014. With no preservative of any kind a woven willow fence can last 10 years or more, depending on climate conditions.

A beautiful idea for hiding unsightly compost--don't you agree?

(below) Otford Primary School, Sevenoaks, Kent, England. April 2012. 3 Living Willow Structures-a large bower, a dome/tunnel-play structure and very large dome-outdoor classroom.

Living Willow Bower (3 bays) - approximately 6' deep and 24' long

Play Structure with 3 tunnel entrances 

Yours truly (pink shirt) at play structure under construction
Large Dome/ Outdoor Classroom (2012)

(below) The same large dome, 2 years later, 2014. Prior to and after maintenance (weaving in of all new growth).

Continuous weave bee hive enclosure using beech saplings. Gatton Park, Reigate, Surrey, England. April 2014.

(below) Continuous weave fence-willow, hazel and apple weavers, chestnut posts. Godalming, Surrey, England. May 2014.

(below) Living willow playground structure - Fordcombe, Kent, England. November 2011. My very first Living Willow Structure ever with John Waller, Underwoodsman.

(below) A similar school play structure installed 3 years previous by John Waller, we were called in to do maintenance of weaving in the new growth... this gives you an idea of what a healthy structure looks like after a few years... it has filled in a good bit, creating a wonderful shady play spot for the kids.

(below) A living willow seat (planted in a friends courtyard garden), creates a shady space to sit and read (makes a great storytelling spot in a schoolyard too!)... or for your chickens to roost... or whatever the case may be. March 2012.

(below) Another living willow seat, just made and a garden obelisk. England 2014.
That is the look of one contented individual...

(below) Living willow fence and arch planted at Southborough Preschool in December 2013... and in May 2014!  5 months and growing vigorously!

(below) Continuous weave hazel edging along the walkway edge and and whole rod hazel panels separate the garden from the car park at a high end home in London... (the one where I set off the Underwoodsman's Land Rover alarm trying to get my snack... very memorable moment in my life.)

(below) Woven willow fence... nr Sevenoaks, Kent, England. 2014.

(below) A continuous weave fence, nr Shoreham, Kent, England and a close-up of weavers. This fence- predominately woven Hazel- is providing screening of the leggy growth of the neighboring hedge and retaining wall. 2012.

(below) A living willow fence, living archway and woven willow fence at a school in Bromley, a suburb of London UK. Installed March 2014.
the woven willow fence in progress
and, taa daa! 

The infamous John Waller, Underwoodsman, weaving the 'basket top' on the living willow fence...

and a view of the whole living fence... or as much as I could get in the camera frame... a very long fence!

My first ever traditional hurdle... approximately 2'X5'

A mini garden hurdle, utilizing the gorgeous colors of the 'osier' willows.

(below) Participants in England workshops where we created small sculptural pieces and obelisks... and I gained experience in teaching!
Flowers and obelisks at WoWo Campsite, Uckfield, East Sussex, England. April 2014
Flowers and bugs at Beeche Forest School, Bromley London, England. April 2014
And, for good measure... a few of my baskets!

 laundry basket

 kindling basket

 a cooling rack/tray


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