Meet the Maker – Anna and the Willow
Anna Cross from Anna and the Willow is a willow artist living in North Yorkshire who draws, designs and weaves with willow. Using sustainable willow grown in England, she creates incredible sculptures of animals, humans and mythical figures, as well as smaller willow decorations, baskets and commissions. Her work has been featured in Country Living magazine and stocked by the National Trust, and she has created commissions for clients worldwide, including The Woodland Trust, the RSPB and the NHS. Here, Anna talks to fellow Folksy maker Beata from oohaah jewellery about the process of weaving with willow and the importance of keeping traditional craft skills alive.
To celebrate being our featured maker Anna is offering 15% off with discount code HAPPY21.
Shop Anna and the Willow on Folksy – https://folksy.com/shops/AnnaandtheWillow
Hi Anna, it’s lovely to meet you. Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do?
Hi, I’m Anna from Anna and the Willow. I’m a willow artist from Ripon in North Yorkshire – my workshop is the perfect place to create, surrounded by beautiful Yorkshire countryside. I’ve been working creatively with English willow for 11 years, combining traditional skills with artistic practice. I predominantly create sculptures of animals and humans. I also make smaller items for galleries and shops, and I teach workshops throughout the year too, as I feel it’s important to pass on my skills.
Willow is natural, sustainable and grown in this country. I love it.Anna Cross, Anna and the Willow
What do you most enjoy about working with willow?
Willow is natural, sustainable and grown in this country. I love it. I use several different varieties for the colour variance in my work, including Flanders Red, Black Maul, Brittany Green, Buff and White Willow. It can vary in size from 3 feet up to 7 feet, depending on what I’m making.
Describe a typical day at Anna and the Willow.
There is a huge amount of prep work that goes on behind the scenes. My day can involve cleaning soaking tanks, soaking willow in advance for workshops, sketching designs, creating work, organising deliveries, replying to emails and teaching workshops. It can be very physical work.
What is your creative process? How do you go from idea to completion?
I start with simple sketches of my ideas and then transfer them to life-size designs on MDF sheets to work out all the 3D dimensions. I have to prepare and soak the willow for up to two weeks before I can start working with it. If the sculpture is large, it needs a steel armature and I work with a blacksmith to make this. Once all those parts of the process have been done, I can start weaving the willow to create the final piece. Once complete and dry, I can treat the sculpture with wood preservative.
I’ve seen that you make large sculptures. How long does it take you to make one?
Depending on size, a large sculpture can take up to four months.
What do you find the most challenging part of the making process?
It’s working out the dimensions. I don’t use any digital software for this, just my eye and what I think is right. It’s good for my brain to work it out this way!
I’ve been working creatively with English willow for 11 years, combining traditional skills with artistic practice. You have to keep the love of what you do alive.Anna Cross, Anna and the Willow
What’s your favourite piece you’ve made and why?
I love making willow deer sculptures. They are very graceful and striking animals – and they have great lines.
What do you do to relax when you’re not working?
Hiking, swimming, biking, being outside in my garden. Anything that involves being out in nature.
What’s been your biggest achievement or proudest moment with your business?
My proudest moment has to be installing my 9ft Spirit of the Medieval Huntress sculpture at Skipton Castle Woods three years ago. It sat perfectly in the woodland and has brought so much joy to many people across the world.
What are your dreams and ambitions for your business?
To be able to keep on creating and to keep it fresh. At the end of the day, you have to keep the love of what you do alive.
What does craft mean to you?
Skill, quality and heritage.
Enjoy 15% off Anna and the Willow with discount code HAPPY21 – for a limited time only.
Shop Anna and the Willow on Folksy folksy.com/shops/AnnaandtheWillow
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions this week is jewellery designer Beata from oohaah jewellery. Beata makes contemporary artisan jewellery from her home studio in Leeds. You can read our Meet the Maker interview with Beata here – Meet Beata from oohaah jewellery