Willow sculpture in the heart of nature
I was lucky enough to attend a willow sculpture course at Zantium studios during my stay at Darley House and wanted to write about it for the Darley House blog as I was so impressed with the location and the course and I would really recommend it for anyone staying in the Peak District.
Zantium Studios is a 15-minute drive from Darley House, hidden away in the village of Godfrey Hole, near the market town of Wirksworth. It’s a beautiful old building with glorious chicken-filled gardens overlooking fields of sheep. On arrival, owner and mosaic artist Alison greeted us with a smile and a mug of coffee and biscuits and then willow weaver and sculptor Eddie Glew (who has worked with Grand Designs) gave us the introduction to the day and showed us to our workstations on the dewy grass in the autumn sunshine. He learned willow weaving from his father who still weaves and was infectiously passionate about the material and the craft!
Within minutes, the 8 of us on the course (all ages, some local residents, a mother and daughter from Gatwick and me from Bristol) were busily weaving willow around the base of our plant support in concentrated silence. Eddie spent time with each of us helping us get the hang of the pattern, which I kept losing on several occasions and before I knew it, I had something resembling the structures I had seen and admired in the garden upon arrival! We were all quite proud of our end results and stepped back to admire them with another coffee and some more biscuits. It was already nearing lunchtime by then, so we stopped to eat a lovely buffet lunch of sandwiches, fruits, and yoghourts in the garden and chat about why we had all chosen the course and what we would all like to do with our new found willow skills.
Then it was on to the bit I’d been waiting for – willow dragonflies! I’d hunted around for willow weaving courses in the past but they were always hens or deer and I wanted to do something smaller and more decorative like butterflies or dragonflies. I loved making them so much I decided to make 2 instead of moving on to try some of the other twizzler and bird feeder designs that Eddie also went on to demonstrate.
Another brief break to sample Alison’s homemade nutella cake with a cuppa and it was already time to head home with a car full of willow dragonflies and a large willow plant support strapped to the car roof! Make sure you have plenty of space in your car to take home your creations!
Alison and her husband Peter have been running Zantium Studios for nearly 20 years and teaching mosaic artistry. They met at art college in London and originally rented studio space at Banks Mill in Derby but their dream was always to move to the countryside and have both home and studio on one site. They discovered Godfrey Hole Cottage, an old farmhouse full of character with a bright airy studio extension, in 2002 and have been there ever since. The setting is perfect for our outdoor courses with its huge spacious garden and glorious views across the fields to Carsington Water.
I left Zantium Studios with a huge smile feeling more relaxed than I have in a long time and very proud of my creations! The day flew by which is always a good sign! I can’t recommend them highly enough – if you want to learn a new skill while you’re on holiday, book yourself on to one of their craft workshops! They currently offer courses in Mosaic, Stained Glass, Willow, Jewellery, Paper Crafts and Textiles, with more new courses coming next year and they can also arrange bespoke workshops for private groups. They also do gift vouchers so it could be a great gift for someone!
1-day courses cost £95 including lunch and refreshments (materials are extra – normally £10-15 on top). All classes are 8 people maximum and very relaxed in structure. Visit their studio website for more information www.zantiumstudios.co.uk