Saturday, 30 March 2019

Rudolph's Cousin

I was going to tell you about a wire bird I made but then when trying explain why on earth I would bother I realised I never told you about Rupert (apologies to Vivien's brother). The WI Federation offered a class in making a willow reindeer back in November and for some reason I bit. I think because of willow being a natural material I didn't feel so bad about using it to craft something useless. Obviously such noble reasoning went out the window concerning the bird, but that's another post.

I took a series of pictures thinking I would remember how to do all this and maybe make some more. That's not going to happen and I'll tell you why later. 

First you have a heavy board with holes at the corners to pack in a bunch of willow sticks. We had to really pack these in so they wouldn't have room to spring back out. The 'ankles' were then secured with plastic cable ties (so much for natural materials).

We were given the technical names for parts of said sticks (but it wasn't called a stick). I remember the thick end is the 'butt' and the skinny end is the 'tip' and there is a name for the bendy bit in the middle, but it's escaped me. That's what comes of writing four months late. It has a natural bend that you have to work with, I remember that much. Also that it has to be kept damp so that it remains flexible.

Then you pull some strands across to form the beginnings of a body. And then make some circles or rings, wrapping the tip around the circle to secure it. Those circles go inside the frame of the body.

Then you make some smaller circles that are put together in such a way as to make a sphere. That forms the basis of the face.

Then you deal with the back end and the chest, just generally filling them in.

I think it was about here that the woman in front of me declared that her hands were swelling and she was having an allergic reaction to the willow. She'd told me earlier she was a bit concerned whether this might happen, as she is allergic to Christmas trees. I was thinking about all the work during the holidays she was able to avoid, unless of course the family agreed to a fake tree; but then one could simply develop an allergy to that. And on this day the instructor kindly came over and finished her reindeer for her. I was rather tired by then and quite envious of this woman's allergy. I was thinking I must remember to get one of those myself. Now, I'm not saying I don't believe people have allergies to things, only that she didn't seem to display any of the usual symptoms and my hands were equally as red as hers.

I can't tell you which end this is - they look remarkably similar so I've not shared the other photo.

Make some triangular shapes for the ears and tail. The left over bits not used for the face or chest become antlers (of a sort - I think you have to use your imagination there).

The most perverse part, I thought, was that you get all this work done and then you have to clip away the front bit of the face (talk about nervous!) in order to stick in a red pine cone for the nose. And of course add the red bow.

The most interesting part of the class, other than the revelation of the construction techniques, was when the instructor was chatting and telling that they had a farm where they grew their own willow - and sheep. It sounded rather idyllic until the reality of all that work dawned on me.

So, Rupert took about four hours to make. He'll not be getting any siblings because this is terrifically hard on the hands, not to mention you can't do this sitting in a comfortable chair. I felt as though the skin had been stripped off, though I had no real injuries to speak of. I did give myself a few stinging slaps in the face with the tips of willow and that wasn't very pleasant either.

He went on display in the front garden as part of the Christmas decorations. We tried to place him so that he was seen by occupants of the house but not necessarily by every passer-by. I expect I was flattering myself about the risk of theft. I wouldn't so much have grieved the loss of Rupert, poor guy, so much as the hard work (and £60) that went into making him. I must remember to 'paint' him with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine before he goes outside again. 

So, Rupert will have to be an only child. After all, it hasn't done me any harm.

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