How to look after your willow project

Here are some of the questions that I often asked

How do I preserve my willow sculpture and How long will a willow sculpture last?

Willow items that are kept inside or under shelter are likely to last for many years and can be brushed or cleaned with a soft brush/cloth, or hoover with a stocking over the nozzle on low.

Keeping willow items outside

All willow by its nature will start to degrade if it’s left outside in the elements and is repeatedly soaked or frozen so it best to place it in a place where there are good air circulation and some protection.

Brown items ( willow which still has its bark ) can cope better with the elements. and if regular treatment is applied is likely to last for at least 5 years.

Items made from buff willow ( willow with no bark) is not suitable for use outside all year round as it will degrade much more quickly so is best to only put items outside in the dry months to extend its longevity.

To preserve your items

Any part of the sculpture that is in contact with the ground will be the first to decay and so attract insects such as woodlice, so placing it on the dry ground such as gravel, or a grassed area that has good drainage where it is slightly raised from the ground or of the ground so that the air can flow around it is the best option.

Untreated items such as birdhouses/ bird feeders, plant trellis, etc. are likely to last for 2- 3 years but that depends on use and where it is sited.

Please note that the willow will change in color and take on different variations in time, this is normal.

Treatments

Make sure that your item is thoroughly dry before you start. Then spray or brush on your chosen preservative. Always be aware of potential allergies etc and suitability and it is practical to use newspaper/ floor coverings, work outside and wear practical clothing and gloves.

  • Traditionally a 50:50 boiled Linseed oil /Danish oil with turpentine/ turps substitute is used for wood preservation.
  • An alternative option is to use a semi-transparent wood preserver that is described as penetrating, whichever you choose ideally you want to choose a product that can be thinned down or is already a watery consistency.

You need to let it dry well (this can take up to a week) then check to see if any areas need a touch-up, this should be done twice a year in the beginning if it is going to be kept outside all year round and then keep an eye on it.  If it is not going outside then you don’t need to treat it although giving it treatment will not do it any harm. One coat of a preservative should be enough, then check and re do as seems necessary. Note linseed oil can smell for a while. 

Please note that willow items can be flammable, so it’s best to use led lights to light them.

After attending your class I’ve been really inspired to have a go at making  one on my own, can you give me some tips on the different types of willow and  how to  prepare it

What type of willow do you use a variety of different types for my own sculptures and either black maul or Flanders red for my workshops mainly because they have a standard soaking time while the others don’t If you are making a sculpture yourself the willow grower that you buy from will be able to advise you on the best way to prepare it.

Where do I buy willow to sculpt with?

The best willow to use for a  sculpture that you intend to put outside and to last for a long time is basket-grade brown willow, buff willow is fine for indoors, or just being out in the good weather. The best place to purchase it is directly from a willow grower if you can,

It is harvested in the spring and then processed and usually available from Late AprilMay onwards, like any crop once it is gone. If they don’t have any left on their website it is always worth checking with them anyway and looking at other growers. If it isn’t available then look for other suppliers as some craft suppliers do stock it but it is more expensive that way and you won’t know how long it has been stored and the conditions that it has been kept in.

Do you offer private workshops for small groups of people?  and 1-1 workshop

Yes quite often please visit my bespoke workshop page

Can I use any willow for making sculptures?

There are many different strains of willow some are more suitable for use than others, many growers and basket makers have chosen to grow their favorite materials because of their particular properties, and many strains aren’t very bendy and so are suitable for weaving. I use basket-making qualities willows in my sculptures.

If you have wild /goat willow growing nearby and want to experiment then give it a go as it’s free to use and it’s great to experiment. The best time to cut willow is in the spring when the sap has started to rise before it starts being covered in leaves, you can try other times of the year just be mindful of any birds nesting, etc.

Fresh willow will shrink so it is best to leave it until the skin starts to wrinkle, bring it is somewhere warm, and then use it while it is still bendy. Most willows can be used when they are still fresh if they are bendy enough , pussy willow which is the type that most of us associate with rivers that droops i an be used but I often find that is not as good and better to use for fine work or as a filler/ weaver rather than for structure and you can combine them with other hedgerow materials if you want to again it is good to experiment.

Where can I buy basket-making willow myself?

It depends where you live but Id always recommends buying directly from a grower to guarantee its quality. Here are some of the larger growers based in Somerset, but there are several smaller growers in different parts of the country and you may have one near to where you live, areas like Devon Wales and Scotland have quite a few and there are others which you can find ain a web search also visit the  Basketmakers Association page. 

 

Do you work with organisations on long-term projects or create work for events?

Yes on occasion, I have a long history of working on art participation projects with organizations as well as working at events, festivals, and multi-agency projects.

I love your sculptures  do you make different items/ exhibit your work

Yes, I create sculptures that I sell, online as well as art exhibitions/ galleries, etc I also create bespoke work to commission,  check out my artwork tab at the top of the page which will take you to my other website