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Gently continuing to connect with nature, within myself and my surrounding environment, I am feeling inspired to reflect on and capture some of the wisdom that I have encountered working with this special plant . It keeps revealing itself, and I notice the call it makes to others who see it's inspiring and imaginative qualities.  

In this little information post, I'd like to share some forthcoming course information, a living willow project gallery, some poetry, aspirations and reflections about the year.

A little story of the day

Creating a part time meaningful livelihood from making Living Willow structures was born out of intuition. I have made the most of what resources have been available to me, adopting a solutions focused approach to meeting my wellbeing need to be outdoors in nature, and taking steps towards deeper cultural and spiritual understanding. 

The approach i've taken is not one that has been planned out with exact precision, it has had more of an emergent quality. Unfolding into my learning zone, giving myself permission to feel my way through, allowing time and space to make mistakes and be imperfect, acting with the potential to fail. I have organically moved towards a direction that resonates in me, which is primarily making and tending to Living Willow structures with people in my local area.

I have learned so much from embarking on this work. I celebrate the skills I have developed such as creative problem solving and finding a framework to be creative within. It has taken me a while to identify my boundaries and limits regarding my interest and capacity for this work, I am in deep appreciation of the cultural history willow work brings to me.

Part of my work over the last decade has been running community courses for adults, usually in a creative subject and with an ever increasing slant on wellbeing and nature. The organisation I work with (Worker's Education Association) has had a significant change in funding in the Liverpool area. This means that the focus is now on courses that more directly develop skills for employment.

Through Autumn last year, along with many other local tutors, I went through a redundancy process with WEA. One of the options through this process was to explore fulfilling a similar type of role. Out of this conversation, there has been a shift in direction for how I am able to deliver courses through the WEA for the near future, being developing my offer of an Employability skills course. The first of these courses will be called WEA Grow: Employability Skills for Working in Community Horticulture.

Using creative thinking to adapt to change, and working in alignment with the work of land based projects around us, we can identify who can support our various emergent employment routes through this course.The course being a framework to bring people together to share experience and skills and to focus some energy to strengthen connections between organisations and individuals who are locally cultivating the ground and each other. 

New Course
WEA Grow: Employability Skills for Working in Community Horticulture

Starts on Tuesday 25th February, 1-3pm at John Archer Hall, Toxteth until Tuesday 19th May 
(Two weeks off for Easter on 7th and 14th April)
Course fee support available for those on low income or benefits. Please contact WEA on 0300 3033464 quoting course number C3843856
Or book online here
 

 

Winter Magic
The sense of magic flows through me when I start working with willow again each year. Each winter, I remember how much love I have for it and how it restores me when the sun no longer shines as brightly into my bones. It's like an inner brightness that reveals itself to me. Imagination opens and leads me to discover folklore and myth which supports expression to unfold. Thank you willow. 

 

 

Structures
With each piece of work comes new learning. This season I have started working with children to build the structures. 60 young nature protectors helped plant this beast over a few Fridays as part of their Forest School session with Grow Wellbeing.   

 

 

Toddlers

Invited to create a play space for a nursery and pre-school I worked along side the staff to share the skills how to make this dome. It fitted perfectly behind an existing structure and allowed for creative licence to make two types of doorway, a crawl through circle and an adult sized threshold door way which is concealed at the back. We had fun making it, a small group of bright toddlers planted a young willow rod each whilst singing a song to it to help it grow.
 
Down down down we go, down to the water we go

We also sang a beautiful song called Trees Bend Your Branches Down - check it out here on this amazing song resource.

I adapted the weave pattern into a squiggle to allow for an alternative approach.

 

Materials

The time has finally come to grow some special willow varieties. I ordered from The Willow Bank again and chose some finer varieties that can be used for crafts and basket making. These are planted on my allotment for now for personal use and will take a few years to establish. Another opportunity to slow down and observe a more sensible perspective about time.

The picture on the right is a willow stand at Moorside Park in Crosby. You can see where we had harvested some of the willow in preparation for a workshop. Sadly the weather took a turn for the worse and the community day was cancelled.

 

Maintenance

Part of what I do is to maintain existing structures and this is work i'm learning a lot from. Each structure reveals different lessons to me. Recently this 8 year old structure was host to many insects and had lost its shape, a bit of balding you might say. The lengths of willow had died back and had been held together by plastic cable ties which in places had cut through the bark. I took great pleasure in removing the unwanted plastic constriction and lovingly restoring some vitality and shape to the structure. The staff team got a shock when they saw it but I reassured them that it will grow back healthy in the spring with fresh leafy growth. Read a bit about coppicing here
Find Out More
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