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WILLOW SCULPTURE INTRODUCTION This guide takes you step by step through the process of creating willow sculptures with young people. Mayfield Arts Newbury House uses this technique to enage young people in the creation of sculptures that communicate messages of importance to them. It is a fun and engaging process and we hope that you find this guide useful and inspiring!


BEFORE YOU START! Plan where and how the work will be located. How will it suit its location? What materials will you use? If the willow sculpture is created in the winter months it will become a living sculpture. If it is created in the summer it may not take root and eventually rot. What time of year you chose to plant depends on how long your want the sculpture to last. Prepare by exploring possible themes with the group. At Mayfield Arts we use non-formal learning methods such as role-play, forum theatre and discussions to consider themes in more dept. Giving time for the group to critically reflect on what they learn supports them to come up with authentic messages that they want the public to hear. We also examine the work of other artists and previous youth art projects to consider how they get their messages across. This gives young poeple inspiration for ways they can visually


Researching the theme: Resource images - printed or shown on a projector Computer Camera Printer Internet Paper Pencils and Markers Creating the sculptures: Recycled materials to create a frame if required (e.g. cardboard, plastic bottles, cans, etc) Gardening gloves Cutters Willow Soil Wire e.g. chicken wire Large outdoor garden pots

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE STEP 1: Exploring the Theme

Explore the chosen theme using creative activies such as theatre games and discussions with the group. Show the group example images that relate to the theme, and images of other youth art and sculpture projects that explored a similar theme. Encourage the group to research the theme themselves on the internet and in the library if this is possible. Pin down what exactly is the message they want to express through the sculpture and draw a visual plan. What will the final sculpture look like? How will you construct it? If you want to make a frame what recycled materials do you need to collect to make a frame? Divide into pairs to sketch ideas for the sculpture, then pool the ideas together to create the final design.

STEP 2: Building the Sculpture

If your sculpture needs a frame to support it begin cutting out the shape from strong card or a similar material and tape more recycled materials to this cut-out. Wire can also be used to strengthen the frame. It might work best if the facilitator does this before the workshops because blades will be required and it is time consuming. It should act as a good base on which to weave the willow. Remind the group that they are working on a 3D object and that they need to pay attention to all dimesions of the sculpture. Does the shape look right from all angles?

STEP 3: Weaving the willow

Willow is ideally planted between November and April, as it is much more likely to take root and become a living sculpture during these months, and the willow itself is also a lot easier to buy. It is not recommended to plant willow closer than 10 metres to a dwelling or drainage system because the roots can interfere with other structures. Mark out the complete area you want to cover with your willow sculpture using sticks for example. You can lay down weed-suppressing mesh on the area you want to build the sculpture in, and then plant the upright rods of willow first, by creating deep holes in the mesh. Two-year old willow are best for this. Then weave oneyear old willow in and around the upright rods to create your sculpture. If you have created a frame out of wire and other materials, weave the willow around and in and out of gaps in your frame, until you have completely covered the frame. Continue weaving the willow until you have built your desired shape. Keep your plans and drawings with you to keep your original plan in mind. Use garden cutters if you need shorter rods of willow, but if you are building a large structure longer rods of willow will strengthen it.

STEP 4: Maintaining Willow Sculptures

It is important to prune or tie down any new growth to maintain the shape and strength of the sculpture. Rods of willow that are not planted in the ground, for example the top of a dome or tunnel, may wither and need to be replaced. If you haven’t put down weed-suppressent mesh you will need to weed the area to keep the sculpture visible and beautiful!

Art Action Toolbox Technique: Willow Sculpture  
Art Action Toolbox Technique: Willow Sculpture  

Technique developed by Mayfield Arts on how to carry out a willow sculpture project with young people.