The Size of a Cow

A very excited young woman turned up at my workshop at the end of last year to tell me all about an exhibition she had just been working on, The Droving Project. It seemed to involve filming a group of cows being herded along an old droving road and ending up in our local village. Film, music, with an accompanying exhibition and now she was looking for someone to make cow lanterns, as big as possible for a procession?
After she left I looked at the card she had given me and started seeing large willow cows dancing in front of my eyes. The size of a cow….?


The art department at Doon Academy is littered with bits of willow from the times I have made things for exhibitions and events with the students. The after school art group volunteered to help, and between us we began to create a series of cows of varying shape and size. Bemused staff watched me hauling willow carcases through the building each week, reassuringly commenting ‘it’s a cow’.


We finally completed six cows which resplendent in LED lights paraded their way through the streets of Dalmellington to the sound of enthusiastic drumming. The parade finished with one of the most magical fire performances I have ever seen.

Picking Apples

It has been one very abundant summer with lots of fruit and vegetables sprouting out of the garden. Even now as the leaves begin to turn we still have fruit that needs picking and some of those stumpy apple trees seem to have grown rather tall in the last few years. No wobbly ladders for us, instead a nice long willow apple picker.
Jane picking apples
Jane in action
Geoff Forrest apple picker 1
I made one of these several years ago and it lies under an overhang outside the workshop. Recently I did a course for an orchard group and this seemed like an applicable thing to make.

They are quite fun to make, I start mine with a mouthwale followed by French randing but you can start with pairing and then single rod randing. If you decide on the single rod randing method make sure you have an odd number of uprights as it is a lot easier. Eleven or twelve uprights will do from six foot rods, I use a small wooden former, remember to leave the butt ends long as they become the tines that actually hook the apples. A few ties on a long pole and the job’s done, now catch your apple!
Geoff Forrest apple picker 2
Geoff forrest apple picker 3

On the Rails

The 27th of September 2014 sees the opening of This Beloved Earth, an exhibition of baskets and fibre weaving at the Barony in West Kilbride. As part of the build up to the exhibition, and to draw attention to its content, Lise Bech decided to organise a weaving session to decorate the railings outside the Barony building.
Barony 25.9.14 2
Lise asked me to join her for one of the days, which was a great excuse to do something I have not done for several years i.e. plaster some railings in willow. When I arrived on the Thursday there had already been a group the day before making some stunning architectural designs to highlight those of the building. My brief was to make something 3D giving the impression of rolling hills.
Barony 25.9.14 3
At the other end waves were appearing with the obligatory fish and some boats.
Barony 25.9.14
The Scottish Basketmakers’ Circle will have their AGM and Autumn meet at the Barony in October when some of the artists and makers involved in the exhibition, such as Lise Bech, Mary Butcher, Joe Hogan and Barbara Ridland will be in attendance. It is hoped work will continue on the railings during this time.

Tree Nursery

Over the years I have made various structures for St Ninian’s Nursery, starting with a living willow dome, followed by ‘fedges’, tunnels, and ‘twigwams’. What was once an open area of bare grass is now an exciting play space with added tyres, sand pits and growing areas. However a recent school inspection felt that there was not enough natural material in the classroom, despite the fact the children use their outdoor classroom on a daily basis!

So there was nothing to do but take the outside inside.

Tree St Ninians

A tree trunk den was the commission, small enough to fit in the classroom but big enough for several small persons to sit inside.

Tree St Ninians

I made most of the structure outside, well it was too nice to be indoors.

Tree St Ninians

Finally we lifted it through the double doors, just about fitted, and I finished off the detail in the classroom. Suffice to say things began moving in before I even finished, there were a few teddies resident when I crawled in to trim off.

What goes round, comes round

This summer I was lucky enough to be involved in an event called ‘Corroboree’, “…an art festival celebrating people, indigenous culture and ecological diversity among the Commonwealth Nations.” I did two events one at The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and the Botanic Gardens at Dawyck.

The brief was to work alongside the Maori weaver Veranoa Hetet, who does some wonderful work from New Zealand flax.

Veranoa Hetet 2014

As well as Veranoa there were also some other Scottish willow weavers taking part, Lise Bech and John Cohen. I had not seen Lise for some time and it was great to actually spend a whole day in her company. More importantly Lise was the person who introduced me to basket making and was my tutor during the early years of my career.

Lise Bech Basketmaker 21.6.14

John Cohen is doing some great work and seems to have developed an individual style in quite a short time. His first few lessons in basket making was with me and it is really great to see someone young taking on the craft with a passion and desire to learn.

John Cowan Dawyck 2014

Over the two days I decided to make a sculpture of New Zealand flax, not instantly recognisable, except for Verenoa who was delighted with the reference to her own material and country. However it did draw people in and gave me an opportunity to discuss the process of willow sculpture. To be honest it was too small, a large representation would have had more impact, but it had to go back in the van at the end of each day. I never did finish it.

New Zealand Flax sculpture

A Quick Leaf Through

Last year I did a commission for some ‘leaf’ gates for the opening of a new viewing platform at the recently landscaped area in the grounds of the Forth Valley Hospital, Larbert. The idea was to have a variation on cutting the ribbon, so the leaves hung across the walkway then swung open when the ribbon was pulled. For extra effect the ribbon was attached to a willow heart.

Forth Valley Hospital 2013

Next month I am taking part in a pop up gallery in Cumnock so I am looking for something quick to make but big in effect so I thought of the leaves. A quick trawl through my images produced these reminders which I took when I did the original commission.

Leaf construction 2 Leaf construction 1 Leaf construction 4 Leaf construction 3