An increasingly popular form of artwork is Willow Sculpture. Willow can be sculpted in a variety of ways. Living willow structures use live cut rods (or withies) which are planted in the ground to take root. Willow sculpture can use green wood but the rods are not planted, therefore the sculpture needs to be preserved if it is intended to last for more than a few years.
Dry willow is biodegradable and will degrade within about five years if left outside without any attempt to protect it against the elements. Willow sculptures can be preserved by placing them in a dry spot during the wettest months of the year. Alternatively, new sculptures should be treated with a linseed/turpentine mixture or a similar preservative. Obviously you need to take care not to damage nearby plants or wildlife.
Willow rods are ‘grown’ by the method known as coppicing. This is when trees or shrubs are repeatedly cut down to near ground level and then make new growth from the stump or roots. Depending on the species, willow rods can grow up to ten feet per year.
Trevor Leat is one of the best-known willow sculptors in the UK. Trevor has been weaving willow for art for over 30 years, creating everything from baskets and furniture to giant sculptures and even coffins! His commissioned pieces are sometimes burnt in spectacular displays such as at The Wickerman Festival, The Edinburgh Hogmanay Celebrations and The Burns Light Festival in Dumfries.
Trevor is based in Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway in southern Scotland. For many of his designs, the willow is woven over a steel armature to add strength and durability to the sculptures. For his larger scale pieces, Trevor often works alongside fellow artist Alex Rigg. They have collaborated on various festival and performance events over the past 10 years under the name of ‘Leatrigg’.
Their most spectacular burning events are sometimes combined with pyrotechnics as their sculptures, some as high as 10m, thrill the audiences. For further details visit www.trevorleat.co.uk