Willow sculpture faq

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.

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 an area that is well drained and  has good air circulation and some protection from the elements

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

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.

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.

To preserve willow it  needs to be nourished rather than sealed

  • Traditionally a 50:50 boiled Linseed oil /Danish oil with turpentine/ turps substitute is used.
  • An alternative option is to use a semi-transparent wood preserver that is described as penetrating as it will help to preserve but not seal whichever you choose ideally you want to choose a product that can be thinned down or is already a watery consistency.
  • Note that both options have a strong smell and can take a while to dry 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 not going outside then you don’t need to treat it although giving it treatment will not do it any harm , it depends on the conditions that it kept in . . 

I would never recommend using varnish in a climate that has lots of rain such as we have in the U.K

Please note that willow items and treatments 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

I  use basket grade willow as it is more flexible and black maul is my preference for workshops as it has a standard soaking time and is more reliable for workshops I use lots of different strains in my own artwork and they all have different soaking times so it is often a case of experimenting. I recommend purchasing willow from growers who can advise about the willow that they grow

Willow is harvested in the spring and then processed and usually available from Late April May onwards. If they don’t have any left on their website it is always worth checking with them anyway and looking at other growers you can purchase from some craft supplies but that would not be my preferred option.

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?

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 stems can be used when they are still fresh and if they are bendy enough and doesn’t snap easily, pussy willow which is the type that most of us associate with rivers that droops can 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,  you can combine them with other hedgerow materials if you want to again it is good to experiment just check that the plant isn’t poisonous first.

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,

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 via a web search also visit the  Basketmakers Association web page. 

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

Yes on occasion, I have a long history of working on art participation projects 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