This knot was harvested in cassandra public school while the snow was blowing over a workshop on planting a living willow tunnel for the evergreen all hands in the dirt forum. In four months I have woven around 150-200 knots mostly from the material harvested at cassandra.
Since I was 12 or so I have been drawing celtic inspired knotworks mostly drawn from the book of kells and similar, though I would get through a letter sized knot and lose patience after 3-4 hours, because the drawing had a predictable end.
As I have said elsewhere the willow knots are waste material because of the way the were pruned or chewed in years past, and are not prime for fencing or basketry. Each break in the leader shoot produces two or more off-shoots which are the structural basis for each knot, and there are few options for weaving and tying these knots other than in the configuration I have made them. The only limitation to this statement is that I have noticed through time that as I become proficient and evolve different means of attaching willow to itself, different patterns evolve.
This, coupled with the awe-inspiring male or female catkins (or in the case of the dogwood I am working with now rosette style flowers) followed by leaves, brings the impetus to continue making knots far beyond my early drawings.
I am not sure if you have looked at the book of kells, but many of the illuminated knots represent animals, people or other symbols, and in this practice I will continue to create increasingly representational forms.
The first experiments have taken forms of insects, but recently I made a small beaver out of red osier dogwood.
Literally every day I am learning from the progressive revelation of growing stems and leaves, which I think of as knots growing out, like problems solving themselves.
I will post more revelations as they progress, hopefully into massive scale living representatives of animals subsisting on willow and dogwood in the don (like the beavers living in the mud banks of the don-1.5m long!).
The design for a 15′ tunnel for preschool kids to run their tricycles through. each pair of uprights is twisted to form somewhat equal arches which are then woven with thin saplings to make the arches conform to a tunnel.
supported by a 5′ cedar palisade dividing the preschool kids from the toddlers in Brampton, ontario, this hut is designed and built to demonstrate various traditional building materials, such as sheets of white pine bark as roofing, woven grape vine and cedar branches, all adapted to c.s.a. childcare standards.
These images are from the ymca in brampton, ontario, who have empowered evergreen to reform the toddler and pre-school outdoor daycare spaces with some space suitable for healthy kids to grow in; a living landscape of plants, trees, and details which makes me greedy to have something similar when i was a kid. it is an odd desire, since i grew up in salmon arm, b.c. and my elementary school had forests attached to it to the tune of about 5 acres. so evergreen has now commissioned me to design and build out a brush hut, whose structural spine is a 4′ cedar fence, and each side of the fence dividing the toddlers from the pre-school kids has a little hut.
All of the material was sourced from an adjacent property called cedar glen, and when i initially arrived i thought i was looking for two trees (for the brush huts) and enough willow to make 2 fifteen foot willow tunnels. When i arrived the willow was in short supply, and what maple i could find was either relatively rare on the site, unless it had been recently cut down and was sprouting up again, a process called coppicing. (more precisely coppicing is taking advantage, and creating annual cycles between coppice areas which you cut down, of trees which re-sprout from the bark collar after a tree is cut. it is an old technology of farming trees which has been practiced for over 2000 years.) the property being called ‘cedar glen’ you could guess which young saplings i was cutting out. that’s right, the eastern white cedar. there is something infinitely satisfying, and somehow right, or ethical about using the materials of small scale forest management to effect such beautiful little children’s spaces. I walked through the woods, populated with large black cherries, white ash, and literally thousands of small cedar saplings, growing together as if for comfort. others call this growing competitively, though it was useful to release the larger cedars of their competition while harvesting for the willow, now cedar tunnels. it may be a stretch of the imagination, but i sincerely believe that this ethic carries over into the material, and thereafter into whatever is created out of it. this balance of the application of differing traditional technologies through understanding different uses of the living pars of plants and trees is, in my opinion, of great effect to children learning, since more intellectual concepts may be harder to ‘sink in’ to their excitable minds.
in the coming two weeks, which mark the beginning of june, i will continue to upload images of these shelters. right now you can clearly see the woven grape vine, cut by a crew of 250 volunteers at cedar glen, the maple, ash, white pine and other upright structural poles, though what you cannot see in the image is the small binding cedar rope, laboriously made from the inner bark, and lashed in to prevent kids from getting their limbs stuck in the hut.
“Land design and management informed by permaculture principles tends to regard naturalized species of plants as assets that should be managed to stabilize water and soil, build biomass, fix nutrients, ameliorate microclimate and provide habitat, fodder, fuel and food in the early stages of system development.While naturalized species may be given a lower value in permaculture design than species regarded as indigenous to the site and region, the typical designation of naturalized species as ‘invasive species’ or ‘environmental weeds’ is typically rejected as anti-ecological thinking.”
David Holmgren quoted from “Weeds or wild nature: a permaculture perspective” in