Posted at 09:17 on 4 Jul 2008 by Pandora / Blake
I was recently responsible for constructing an outdoor installation for a national arts event. During the design process, one of my team members suggested weaving willow withies to create a couple of the sculptures. I've never worked with willow before, but I was grateful to my friend for the suggestion - the finished sculptures looked amazing, and it turns out willow is a common material in traditional crafts and construction.
I ordered two large bundles of it, and it arrived a couple of weeks before the event. Several hundred willow wands, each about eight foot long, tapering from a fingers-width at the thick end to a narrow point at the top. I was very excited about working with them, and when I had to supervise another part of the installation and a couple of the other artists in my team ended up doing all the weaving, I was pretty disappointed. As a result I made sure I salvaged as much of the undamaged willow as possible during the de-rig, and it came home with me. It's currently in bundles in my back garden, and I'm looking forward to spending some quality time weaving with it.
Of course, the alternative uses of willow withies haven't escaped me either. Right down to soaking the long wands before you weave them, the process of preparing willow is very familiar to those who share our interest. And I don't intend to waste the opportunity. I'm looking forward to selecting a couple of dozen long wands, cutting them down to size and dividing the resulting switches into a couple of birch bundles, one made up of thicker wands and one of thinner. I'm looking forward to putting aside a couple of the switches for use on their own. I'm looking forward to leaving the birches to soak overnight. (I have to say, though, that I'm definitely not looking forward to clearing the floor after my birching. Switches make a hell of a mess!)
Whether I'm looking forward to the birching itself is much more uncertain. At the moment, very much so - but then I've just been reading Zille Defeu's delightful write-up of her first ever birching, and I'm craving the sensations she enjoyed so much. Closer to the time, however, I'm sure I'll be much less keen...