Any creation is subject to the strengths and weakness of its parts. What does this tell us about our world?
English artist Tom Hare weaves willow stems, or withies, together to form beautiful and impressive sculptures. He began by making baskets, then moved on to larger and more varied forms. Willow is extremely versatile and renewable, growing easily from severed branches and often coppiced for weaving purposes. Coppicing involves the cutting back of the plant to a stump or short trunk and subsequent harvesting of the juvenile branches as they grow back.
Once you have learned how to take advantage of its natural qualities and not twist it where it does not want to go, willow will do amazing things for you. Hare is a master of this cooperative process, which bears a distinctly meditative quality. Like any creative endeavor, translating what is in the mind into physical reality yields surprising results. Design must be altered to accommodate the limits and demands of the material. Too much pressure applied in the wrong direction and the twigs will snap. Creation is not governed by the will of the creator alone, but by the participation of the medium in which it is wrought. Some creations come out far better than imagined because the material responds well, while others take multiple attempts to even approach the original vision. The seed is a rich metaphor for this complex relationship between imagination and reality.
These seed pod sculptures were made for the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in 2009, and are quite spectacular, taking the minuscule and blowing it up to enormous proportions for our wonder and enjoyment. They were commissioned to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the garden and the Millienium Seed Bank’s collection of 10% of the world’s wild plant species. Hare was in residence during the time the sculptures were built, and speaks of “weaving with frozen sticks, digging narrow 1.5 meter deep holes, [and] sleeping in the back of the van.” What a delightful result!
Hare is also a teacher of basketry, furniture making and contemporary willow work. He’s all about connecting with others and sharing the wonders of creativity. Such a generous artist is certainly much to be admired and appreciated. Please take some time to check out his lovely website.
For those who are interested in the meditative aspects of willow weaving, take a look at synkroniciti’s post on basket maker Lise Bech.