Deborah Walsh weaves wild willow creatures at Refinery
Wander into the sculpture garden at the Refinery ArtSpace and you'll meet some very interesting animals, reports Judith Ritchie.
A pack of quirky looking dogs, a giant leaping rabbit and a gentle faun have taken their place in the garden outside the Refinery ArtSpace on Halifax St. Made by sculptor Deborah Walsh from woven willow wands, some of her animal characters have names like Nipper, the whiskered dog. Walsh also weaves willow into large heart wall hangings, along with wacky skulls and crossbones.
Walsh has settled into the outdoor space for the summer, working daily from 10am to 4pm, and looks forward to having people visit, watch her at work, and ask questions.
"It's a lonesome business working in the studio at home alone," says Walsh. "Here I hope to activate this beautiful garden space by working outside every day."
Using mostly willow, she also favours dogwood and hazel nut suckers. She collects the willow from the riverbanks around Nelson but laments that many willows have been cut down.
"I can only grow and harvest so many in my own garden, and the rest I find on riverbanks," says Walsh. "So I'm always looking for more sources if anyone has any."
Willow fronds are cut green in autumn and woven during winter, keeping the willow in the shade to remain supple. By spring the cut willow starts to dry out, which requires soaking. Walsh uses her swimming pool to soak the willow wands, before the annual pool emptying and clean out.
"Weaving for me, I think ticks the same box as people who knit," says Walsh. "The results are so satisfying, often unexpected, and it's about switching off your brain and letting your hands take over."
Walsh studied at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, graduating in 1996 with a Diploma in Jewellery. She has taught herself all the weaving techniques used in her sculptural pieces.
Works sell from between $350 for a small wall heart to $1,500 for a large woven garden animal.
Walsh also offers workshops, weaving flax hearts or balls as well as teaching weaving techniques such as the traditional corn dolly.
Deborah Walsh, Refinery ArtSpace sculpture garden, Halifax St, Nelson. Weaving daily between 10am and 4pm. Anyone interested in a one day flax heart or ball weaving workshop priced at $120, or who can offer willow, please contact Deborah: 0211139156