I had an email from Ana, a young lady from Spain and woodwork student. Ana spent some time last year working and learning various new green woodworking techniques in my workshop. She went back to Spain with a couple of knives I gave her.
“I have a nice story for you.
I took my knife with me, and went to the river to get some dead branches for making small gypsy flowers in my spare time.
When I made them I put them in an empty water bottle. Now it comes the good part..
After about a week I had a look at them and realised the bottle wasn’t completely empty… And one the small branches had reached some water and started to grow a new plant!! Now I’ve taken it back to the river and put it into the ground 😀
That`s what I call sustainable, collect some willow and carve flowers from it, and display them in a bottle. When the roots have grown plant out and repeat next year, If one person in a hundred did this every year we would soon have more woods. If you stick some willow into the ground it will just grow as will hazel and some other trees. You can cut them to the ground and they will just grow again, weave them into structures, these are very versatile trees.
A gypsy flower, as I call them, is a wooden flower carved with a metal blade. They have traditionally been made by the travelling community and were sold along with their other wares. When making them at shows some older ladies occasionally tell me that their mothers would buy them off the Gypsies when they came through there town or village.
The great thing about them is that are made from hedge row materials all you need is a knife and maybe a drill or awl. The materials are available all year round, hazel is one of the best, but anything works, but I prefer to work willow seasoned. I have also use oak and alder off cuts from the billets I use for the pole lathe, these are first rounded off on the shaving horse and then made using a draw knife.
I have been making gypsy flowers for over 15 years now, and first started by using a knife and thin bits of seasoned willow. These were not very good and some time later I started using a drawknife on a shaving horse, the flowers got bigger. Some of the people I have met over the years have only used a knife to make them, and very often just a folding pen or pocket knife. These flowers are medium size being 3 to 5 inches diameter, I have on many occasions tried to make large flowers with just a knife and find it difficult and painful on the hands.
Small flowers made with a knife, like the ones I used to make.
The picture above are small flowers made with a knife from willow, note that I always leave the bark on, from 1.5 to 2.5 inches across. They are made from dry willow. I also make smaller ones that are only an inch across that are great for button holes etc.
Made from green hazel, and these are 4 to 9 inches across, the bottom right hand side one has the petal curving anti clockwise at he bottom and clockwise at the top. Old seasoned willow can get a bit brittle if kept very dry and it helps if you can increase the moisture content of the wood by keeping wet for a few days.
Again made from seasoned willow, these are 3 to 5 inches across. I love the ones with the bark on, the bark just does its own thing in an unpredictable way, I love this chaos which is in contrast with the tight curls of the flower.
I have already posted some pictures of Sue Hinton making flowers at Westonbirt click here to go to the post and scroll down to the bottom of the page