Some months ago I booked myself onto a willow craft workshop to be run at the Kingcombe Field Centre of the Dorset Wildlife Trust. I have often been tempted to sign up for a basket-making course but seldom has the date been suitable. This time I was seduced by the image of a life-size badger, woven in willow, on the DWT website. And so it was that I boarded a ferry at Cherbourg for a 5 day sojourn in WK.
The workshop was due to take place on Sunday but I woke on Saturday and it being a fine day I phoned Maddy to see if she would join me in a walk. As it happened she already planned to walk with her neighbour Gaise, a tall, elegant woman with amazing bone structure, a former model and the owner of a quietly presented Georgian house within whose walls grows the most amazing Stephanotis that I have ever seen. In the conservatory there are 4 small holes in the floor which give directly to the ground. From each arises a Stephanotis which climbs the walls and clambers across the ceiling. It is covered in blossom and the perfume, on entering the house, filled my nasal passages with the aroma of furniture polish.
Maddy has offered me supper and bed which is brilliant because on the morrow I will be driving up to Kingcombe for my willow course. And what fun that was. Over coffee I chatted to my fellow students and we all voiced the same sentiment: the hope (but doubt) that we would be able to produce something resemble the model Kim Cresswell has put on display. It looks so complex so where to begin……..
Well you start by forming 3 tear-drop shaped hoops which, together with 3 circular hoops to hold them together with form the basis of the body. Around this inner structure you weave lengths of the dark Somerset willow, feeding the ends round to create a cylinder with a pleasing curvature at the rear end and a domed end onto which the head will be attached. Before you do that you insert sticks to form the legs and feet. The head structure is formed by the attachment of 3 smaller tear-drop shaped hoops to the neck end. These are whipped together to create the snout and then a similar technique of weaving willow sticks to bulk out the head is used. Sticks of stripped Dorset willow introduce the white colouration of a badger head and it’s a technique of trial and error until it looks right. The ears are attached during this process. The tailpiece to complete the sculpture is the addition of the tail.
Completing the sculpture in our allotted 5 hours is something of a scramble and Kim offers us sticks of both willow types to take home to finish the sculpture at leisure. I leave the sticks soaking in the bath overnight and then work on the badger intermittently. One of the last things is the addition of some curvy dark willow sticks to create my badger’s ‘hams’. I am finally happy with my result.