Willow Coal Miner Sculpture
Making a willow coal miner sculpture at Burnhall Wood, Durham.
At Burnhall, near the city of Durham, the Woodland Trust has recently planted a new woodland on the banks of the River Wear, where myself and Anna Turnbull recently made a sculpture of a coal miner out of willow. It is twice life size, sitting on the edge of a steep bank, overlooking the river. We enjoyed the challenge and having to come up with solutions on the spot in order to construct him. It took four days on site to make. On the first day we began with a frame of gnarled holly and black thorn boughs attached to two oak posts. To these we fixed hoops of willow to form the initial outline of the legs and arms. Anna had the forethought to pre make a head out of buff willow and a large flat cap out of coloured willow. On the second day we continued attaching the hoops and also made the structure of the bottom half of the jacket. This was done by sticking rods in the ground in two sets, woven through each other diagonally. We also made a scarf by constructing a long, thin, curved woven panel stuck in the ground. This was then removed, and alternate upright rods replaced the other way round in order to weave a border of the same thickness along the two long edges. On day three we clothed the legs and began weaving the jacket. We used thousands of rods of fine willow, including a lot of branched three year old Elegantissima which gave the texture to the legs and arms. On the final day we made the boots and attached them to the legs, installed the hands and finished the outer layer of clothing. The jacket, waistcoat and scarf we contrived to look tweedy with a variety of coloured willow set off with two purple Irrarata buttons and two purple boot laces. Despite it being only March the temperature hovered in the low twenties, so the willow was drying out by the hour and the whole structure shrank and twisted slightly, but this has added to the character of the piece. We had many comments from passers-by. Some people were really drawn to him. I imagine he will become a focal point in the landscape. Quotes: Local man wearing a flat cap.I was sitting on the bank looking at the view, and then walked along here and was shocked to come across him doing exactly the same! Walker.He wont be able to play the piano (Stubby crude hazel fingers). Estonian opera singer.He is very sexy, I will come here and tell him all my troubles. Two ladies with dogs.He looked like a real person from down by the river. We could not believe what we were seeing as we walked up the path! He definitely needs a pipe to smoke, or a bottle of beer.
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