Many trees can be used to make living art. You make the sculpture by using the strength of growing trees, the tree takes part in the creating of the sculpture. The artist need to know the qualities of the tree they work with. Every tree have their own distinctive ways to survive in the harsh environment, each have their own evolutionary story to tell.
The Japanese make art with trees for centuries in the form of Niwaki, Japanese topiary. The artist prune the trees every year to create the shape they want. With topiary you can make any shape you want, such as long you have the patience to prune the growing tree for many years.
The fast growing trees lend themselves for a different kind of tree art. We see many of the fast growing trees as weeds, as they spread so rapidly by seeds. When a tree seed herself in your garden you can even weed her out and plant her elsewhere or make her into a piece of art.
I used a 7 year old sycamore to make the sculpture ‘Net’. The tree was coppice to a hight easy to work from. When new shoots came in the spring, I choose a strong one and pruned the others away. The growing shoot was leaded along a bamboo stick, when bark formed on the shoot, I moved the bamboo stick to make the shoot grow in a different direction.
An other Sycamore, just 3 years old, became the Flag by bending and pruning, two shoots were allowed to grown in the natural direction towards the light. Next to them two Ash trees were used to make Wrap.
Willow has an other force that make them very useful to make living sculptures. They produce a high amount of growing hormones, the old rooting powders to help cuttings root, was made of Willow. This growing hormone gives Willow the strength to root easy and to heal wounds made by eating (pruning) animals. The next few months are the best to take cuttings from Willow and plant them where you want to make a living sculpture. You can cut them as long as you want but how older the branch how harder it is to take root and to bend the branch in the shape you want. The best is to look for an older tree and prune the branches and than wait till next season to prune the new grown branches.
I found a Willow, along the Shropshire Union Canal, which was pollard, the new shoots were woven and other were pruned away. Now a year later I have a great selection of new grown branches I can use for a new piece of work and planting. The woven branches start to make their own sculpture as they grow into each other as one.
The nice thing about making this art in a public area people will interact with it. The Willow hoop I made along the canal was broken yet somebody did like it as now i see this woven willow taken shape in the same spot where I made the last Willow hoop.
Now i will help whoever made this woven Willow and keep on weaving here. The other Willow sculpture is a bit hidden so more safe from judgement of the human eye. By weaving or pruning a Willow you don’t kill her or even damage her you help her to grow even more and stronger.
The pruned Willow you can plant by just sticking it in the ground or in the early spring by putting them in a vase with water to let them make roots. When there are some roots you can plant them where you would like. Willow is brilliant tree to use for land art as a part of the Bridge Land Art Forest.