Thursday, 29 November 2018

Living Willow in Euskadi

photo: Carlos Fontales Ortiz
An invitation to return to Spain, or more specifically Euskadi, to create a living willow structure was eagerly accepted by me.

I sometimes wonder why I don't spend more time in Spain because I always enjoy being there so much. Perhaps it's just that the people who work in the basketry field are particularly nice, but I don't really think so, it seems to me that the people I come across just enjoy being sociable more than those of us living further north. A couple of years ago I read an article comparing  primary education in European countries and it suggested that one of the goals of primary education in Spain is to turn children into social creatures who enjoy the company of others and feel at ease in groups. Well if this weekend was anything to go by they succeed, as it could not have been more sociable or enjoyable at Garaion Sorgingunea  near Vitoria/Gasteiz in the Basque region.

Garaion is a an Association that works to preserve the Basque language, heritage and the natural environment through cultural activities and the weekend was full of them. An exhibition of the work of local textile artists, a theatre performance with an audience of almost 100 and a 2 day living willow workshop run by Joan Farre and Carlos Fontales Ortiz. I was invited to join in to create  an artwork in the grounds to add to the collection of living and dry willow structures  done in previous years by Carlos, Joan, Tim Johnson, Quentin Corentin and Karen Gossart. In the summer months Garaion runs an action packed  summer camp for groups of children, many of whom have little other opportunity to  be in the countryside.

'Mirador'  and work done in previous years by Joan and Carlos (photo: Carlos)

photo: (Carlos)

I haven't done a living willow structure for some years, but I had developed an idea for one, for another project, a couple of years ago that didn't in the end go ahead, so I took that as a starting point and developed it further. It is a 'lookout', a bit like a hide for bird watching, a small enclosed space with openings that frame the views for humans of all heights. I have called it 'Mirador', until I find out what the Basque word is.  At the moment it is skeletal but by summer it will be clothed in greenery and become a more intimate space until the leaves fall next autumn when the coloured tubes will reveal themselves again. The tubing is normally used for burying cables and is not designed to be in UV light so I have no idea how long it will  survive in the light, for sure they will fade. But at the moment I am happy with the way it has turned out, we will see what the weather, schoolchildren and the sunshine do to it. The setting of Garaion is stunning as it sits on top of a small hill in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains and fields, rivers and lakes with no other buildings in sight, despite being only a kilometre from the nearest village. The weather can change quickly there and we were very lucky to have 3 dry days to work in.


My thanks go firstly to Carlos for suggesting me for the task and for taking some beautiful photos for me after I had left. Next  thanks to  Amaia and Julia for  inviting me and being such fantastic organisers and hosts, then to the people who helped me make the work, particularly Saioa and Josune, (in the photo above) without whom I could not have finished in time. But also to all the other lovely people I met there who with their big hugs made me feel so welcome.

photo: Carlos



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