Report: Feather Workshops… and a special date is announced!

The RSPB Frampton Marsh installation is in full swing with cammdesign working away at their workshop and the piece is really coming together. Whilst they are creating the sculpture, Julie Willoughby has been working with the local community on three different engagement projects to contribute to the celebration event, which will unveil the final sculpture. As well as holding drawing and knitting workshops, Julie has most recently worked with three local schools to create larger than life feathers, made from willow and tissue paper.

On Thursday 12 March we arrived bright and early at Spalding High School. The students, all 43 of them, flocked into the school hall and assisted as we set up the tables. The session began with Julie demonstrating the construction of the basic willow frame. The students were shown how the feathers size could be determined by how wide you set and secure the willow to the bamboo cane. The students worked mainly in pairs, assisting each other with the fiddly job of securing the frame. Every feather, even at this stage looked completely different ranging from very tall, slim feathers to large pear shaped ones that had a lot of movement and span!

After making the basic frame, Julie demonstrated how you manipulate the soaked willow to create a multitude of shapes. The students got stuck in and once again created some really interesting designs. Some opted for very strong straight lines and others for sweeping curves and circles.

Once they were happy with their designs and Julie had ensured everyone’s was sturdy and secure, the students were shown the next stage of feather making. Julie presented them with a stack of wet-strength tissue paper which was pasted with PVA glue before being peeled off the table and placed onto the structure. This was stronger than normal tissue paper to strengthen the structure further. Layering their tissue, the students could start to see their feather come to life and the covering highlighted how beautifully individual they all were. With all of the different shapes and sizes, the first covering took longer for some than others, so they were set tasks to sketch and reflect upon their progress so far.

Once everyone had covered both sides of their feathers, the students left their structures standing to attention at the back of the school hall while they had lunch. Even unfinished, they looked quite impressive all together.

After lunch Julie instructed that the students would now move onto decorating their feathers. There were many different images and books for reference that the girls looked through before getting stuck in. Laid out across the stage was a rainbow of coloured tissue paper to choose from, which had to be more delicately applied since it was not the same strength as the white. There were many different approaches, some making detailed plans of where each colour would go, others just spontaneously ripping tissue paper and discovering their direction as they went. All of the methods however, were full of enthusiasm, creativity and much talent!

After hours of ripping, cutting and sticking the students had completed their feathers. Some sooner than others, meaning a united tidy up from those who had finished. Once again the wall of feathers slowly grew as each girl finished and the results were just beautiful.

Thrilled with their creations, we headed out onto the school field for a group photo. The short journey there was a special affair in itself, seeing the feathers bobbing up and down in a line as they processed together, full of energy and smiles across their faces. You couldn’t help but notice teachers stepping out to admire them and excited faces at classroom windows. Battling with the wind, they managed to come together for what was a wonderful group photo. The brief walk from the school hall to the playing field was like a sneak preview into the final celebration parade; a wash of colour, shapes and design.

If you would like to create one of these wonderful feathers and be part of the parade, keep your eyes peeled on our website, as Julie will be holding two open workshops in the up-coming months.

The celebration day and unveiling is on Saturday 23 May 2015 from 2pm – 4pm at RSPB Frampton Marsh.