Sunday, May 2, 2010

Doodling With Willow

Originally published by Donna Kallner on 4/2/10 at Two Red Threads.

TGIF. Picture me patting myself on the back (we'll call that stretching), and knocking back a couple of aspirin. This week my to-do list got shorter and the pile of harvested and sorted willow got deeper. The reward for all this industry is giving myself some time to doodle with willow just for fun.

The material I use for doodling comes from the pile of branchy and really curvy stuff I keep off to the side as I sort the harvest. When I need a break from other tasks, I grab pieces from that pile and start bending simple frames that I secure with electrical cable ties and hang in the window to dry. With a dry frame, it's easier to hold a shape and avoid kinks. This trick, along with most of what I know about willow, I learned from Jo Campbell-Amsler, who taught the first class I ever took at Sievers back in, I think, 1994.

I'll talk more about how I use the dry frames in my willow trellises in my next post. Today is about doodling.

In willow doodling, I'm not trying to make anything specific. I just pick up a branchy piece of willow and start going over/under/over/under. I may bind pieces together or spread things apart and add ribs to support more weaving. If things kink, no big deal: I'm using willow from the junk pile.

Sure, this looks like a leaf to you. But the way it landed when I tossed it on the table looked like a shapely leg. I'll make another one later and play around with some ideas for the rest of the parts for a two-dimensional zaftig lady trellis. Think of this as Frankentrellising. It's how I come up with things like the willow witch and her withie familiar who haunt my studio at Halloween.

Really, the process is no different that what an embroiderer does with a doodle cloth, or what a surface designer does with a scrap of fabric used for cleaning brushes, or what a quilter does with scraps cut off while squaring up... Shall I go on?

Willow isn't my primary material. Hasn't been for a long time. But I have enough fluency with the material and techniques that I can doodle without overthinking. There isn't a "value" associated with what I make with willow. My trellises go outside. Birds sit on them, and what happens next is as good a cure for perfectionism as anything. What also happens is I start to see connections between my willow doodles and my other work. Really, couldn't I translate that leaf/leg into needleweaving?

Creativity researchers call this divergent thinking. Having a label for it doesn't make willow doodling any less fun.

So what's your go-to fiber for doodling?

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