A WILLOW sculptor has sent a heartfelt message to people living in
flood-hit Somerset, from where she sources much of her raw materials.
Caroline Gregson, of Tarvin, near Chester, said she is one of many businesses across Britain affected by the devastating floods which have left villages in Somerset under water for weeks.
Mrs Gregson is a freelance sculptor who works mainly in willow and has her own studio and website.
She takes commissions and runs workshops, three of which will feature during a festival launched at Chester Zoo this spring.
The Bloom festival is a celebration of gardens, birds and UK wildlife, with a series of themed events scheduled until June.
They include activities under the umbrella title ‘Inspired by Nature’, based on how artists have been influenced by the natural world.
Mrs Gregson is invited to contribute, as her ornamental willow sculptures are based on wildlife figures, birds, animals, human forms and mystical creatures.
She said: “I will be doing three workshops as part of the festival, one for adults and two for children, in which participants will be making their own sculptures under my guidance.
“I will be supplying the materials for the workshops. Fortunately I have enough in stock for this important event.
“But, although I grow a little of the willow I use here at home, I get the majority of it from Somerset and currently much of those supplies are underwater. I can only hope conditions improve quickly for everyone down there.”
On her website Mrs Gregson has posted an open message, saying: “I am keeping my fingers crossed for all the unfortunate people affected by the terrible floods in the Somerset Levels. I source much of my willow from Somerset and know my suppliers are struggling with their willow harvest uncut and under water at the moment.
“I hope the situation improves soon, we basketmakers need them.”
A member of the Basketweavers Association, Mrs Gregson used to organise its training sessions which attracted weavers from all over the world.
She swapped a career in electronic engineering to become a sculptor.
Her innovative, original works in willow are now sought after for commissions and she runs monthly workshops in the area.
She chose to work in willow after went on a basket making weekend in Macclesfield.
“I was immediately hooked, though at first it was more a hobby and I concentrated on functional items like the baskets,” said Mrs Gregson. “Then as my skills developed I moved on to more artistic pieces.
“Willow is a fascinating medium to work and very flexible. The ironic thing is I have to soak it for four days so is becomes flexible enough to sculpt with.
“It is very tolerant of water and has the capacity to survive these harsh conditions, but that fact does not make life any easier for the willow farms and all those whose homes and businesses which are being so deluged at the moment. I really feel for them.”
l Her Chester Zoo Bloom festival workshops are on March 15 and April 15. The class on March 15 from 10am to 4pm will be for adults and cost £60 per person, including zoo admission and lunch. The two April 15 classes from 10am-noon and from 1-3pm will be aimed at children and cost £9, plus zoo admission.