Willow and Bamboo have long been used in the garden - from the wigwam structures to grow our tomatoes up, to taller structural supports. When we stumbled upon these stunning cubby-houses made out of Willow recently, it got us thinking about how these materials can be used more creatively outside.
Made by the super talented Judith Needham in the U.K these structures have a strong appeal, which may be due to the actual weaving process involved (this is not a quick, machine-produced item) which in turn imbues a sense of nurturing to the actual space within.
Judith runs workshops - from basket making to willow weaving if you are in the UK and would like to learn. Alternatively, her structures are available to purchase on-line here.
Another supremely talented Willow-Weaver is Tom Hare (also UK based) who was also first introduced to willow on a weekend course. "There's something about willow that's evocative, the smell, the texture, the way it moves". He explains that he was inspired by the endless possibilities that this super-sustainable plant can offer and that the connection with nature, from coppicing through to creating living sculptures (live cut rods or withies can be inserted into the ground and take root) is very compelling.
Tom's work above, was commissioned last year for The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London - titled Fungi Fairy Ring - part of the IncrEdibles exhibit which celebrates native edible autumn fungi. The sculptures were conceived with Kew's Mycologists to ensure accuracy and the various life cycles of seven different species. Some of the willow creations are over three metres tall, giving a fairy-tale atmosphere to the Botanic setting.
Another more playful illustration of his work can be seen below!
Finally, the art of willow sculpting goes to a new level with the work of Trevor Leat who is at the forefront of the craft in the UK with over 30 years experience. He too creates smaller basket- ware and garden furniture, but is renowned for his willow sculptures, from life-size creations to large fantastical creatures used at festivals.
In warmer climates, willow is not so common or popular and so this got us thinking about alternatives - hurrah for Bamboo! This exceptionally fast-growing plant (and therefore very environmentally sustainable) has cultural significance in most Asian countries, and has long been used for it's structural capabilities.
Whilst we haven't found anything made out of Bamboo with quite the same charm as the willow examples (maybe there is an opportunity for someone to start?!) there are of course, many ways that we can use Bamboo to produce exciting results for both children and adults outside!
The bamboo tunnel above is just calling out for children to come thundering through it - could this inspire the more dedicated landscaper amongst us?
Willow (and bamboo) have an intrinsic simplicity and we love the way it has been used it to create wonderful sculptural structures - next time we need to create a hide-away in our own garden, then hopefully this post will have got us thinking about the possibilities!