A Dream of Willow: Tom Hare’s Seed Walk

Any creation is subject to the strengths and weakness of its parts. What does this tell us about our world?

Sycamore seed, Tom Hare, 2009 © Andrew-M-Whitman with CCLicense

Sycamore seed, Tom Hare, 2009
© Andrew-M-Whitman used in accordance with Fair Use Policy

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.

Coppiced willow in northern France @ lamiot with CCLicense

Coppiced willow in northern France
@ lamiot with CCLicense

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.

Lotus seedpod image © Andrew_M_Whitman with CCLicense

Lotus seedpod detail
image © Andrew_M_Whitman in accordance with Fair Use Policy

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!

Star Anise seed pods © Kew on Flickr with CCLicense

Star Anise seed pods
© Kew on Flickr in accordance with Fair Use Policy

Star Anise alternate view © Jim Linwood with CCLicense

Star Anise alternate view
© Jim Linwood with CCLicense

Poppy seed pods © Jim Linwood with CCLicense

Poppy seed pods
© Jim Linwood with CCLicense

Poppies up close © Kew on Flickr with CCLicense

Poppies up close
© Kew on Flickr in accordance with Fair Use Policy

Horse Chestnut Conker © Kew on Flickr with CCLicense

Horse Chestnut Conker
© Kew on Flickr in accordance with Fair Use Policy

Horse Chestnut Conker, up close © Andrew_M_Whitman with CCLicense

Horse Chestnut Conker, up close
© Andrew_M_Whitman in accordance with Fair Use Policy

Banksia seed © Jim Linwood with CCLicense

Banksia seed
© Jim Linwood with CCLicense

© Kew on Flickr with CCLicense

© Kew on Flickr in accordance with Fair Use Policy

Devil's Claw seed pod  © Kew on Flickr with CCLicense

Devil’s Claw seed pod
© Kew on Flickr in accordance with Fair Use Policy

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’post on basket maker Lise Bech.

Weaving the Willow Wand: Baskets of Lise Bech

Baskets  Image © Zoe Rimmer with CCLicense

Baskets by Lise Bech
Image © Zoe Rimmer with CCLicense

Lise Bech is a basket maker who creates beautiful and useful objects from organic and sustainable materials, chiefly from various species of Scottish Willow. Each species has its own texture, pliability, and color which lend character to the work produced. The basket featured in the video below, titled Plantweave, is one of her more traditional designs, made from willows collected by hand from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Her assertion that working with willow branches is “a cooperation” in which one must never “go past what the willow will do naturally” is a fascinating revelation about working with natural materials in general. Bech invites us to share her reverence for the plants which form her creations. She sees weaving as a meditative act which unites her consciousness with her local landscape. It is amazing to see the piece progress from a rough and unwieldy structure to an organized and stable one. Bravo, Lise!

Video via William Robertson on YouTube.