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Willow Weaving with Victoria Westaway in Coddington

Leaning against the door of Victoria Westaway’s shed are two sheaves of willow stems ready to be woven into her next work of art. ‘Its a beautiful thing to work with’ she says, ‘Even the smell of live willow is amazing!’

Based in Coddington, Victoria creates striking sculptures of people, animals and even giant apples. ‘Coddington is a lovely place to work’ says Victoria, ‘we see the sun rise over the Malvern Hills and set over Hay Bluff in the west. I love the fact this feels like a ‘hidden village’, tucked away in the landscape.’

After completing a degree in Theatre Design Victoria went on to work for a theatre company. ‘Part of my work was to create giant puppets using willow as the structure’ she says. ‘That was the moment I began to work with willow and realised what a versatile material it was.’

A career break to head off travelling in South America gave Victoria time to reflect on just how much she enjoyed working with natural materials. ‘You see people working in this way in virtually every culture in the world’ she says, ‘I’m originally from Somerset where weaving is a part of rural life.’

‘Last year I exhibited my work in many places, including Dragon Orchard (near Ledbury) and in gardens including an Open Garden event here in Coddington. Its really begun to take off, people passing my garden even spot items and push notes through the door, asking if I can make them something!’

‘My work has been focussed on life here in Herefordshire’ continues Victoria, ‘so I made giant apples, a ram and I’ve completed two wassailing men, who wouldn’t look out of place at the Colwall wassail celebrations!’

Recently Victoria extended her talents to weave a six foot high running man using metal wire. Its now on public display in a park near Bristol. Bending and shaping the metal was hard work. ‘I got through several pairs of gloves while creating that!’ she laughs. ‘It needed to be able to withstand rough treatment as it’s on permanent public display.’

One woman in north Worcestershire asked Victoria to create a sculpture of her children, sitting side by side on a bench in the garden, using willow from a tree that had been felled. ‘I get all sorts of commissions. For smaller gardens, sculptures of birds are popular while figures running, sitting or reading are popular for bigger spaces’.

With a regular coating of linseed oil and a little tender loving care, a willow sculpture can last up to ten years, perhaps more if its moved inside during the winter. ‘Of course the best thing about willow is that its a renewable product. If a sculpture did eventually start to look tatty, the willow could simply be replaced, giving it a new lease of life.’

This year could bring wider recognition for Victoria’s work, as she’s been asked to create a sculpture for a show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show which takes place in May. ‘Its really exciting’ she says, ‘My work will form part of a garden being created by Olivia Kirk, a garden designer from Worcester, who’s previously won Gold at Chelsea for her work.’

To see more of Victoria’s work,
go online to www.victoriawestaway.co.uk