On Willows And Shovel Handles

It must be one of your most recurrent observations, how low peoples/farmers/government in this country think of Willows.
You remember your youth, comes late autumn/winter, the work in the fields quites down. Is the time for the cleaning, the keeping warm, the reassessing your tools and machinery you are going to use and abuse so much in the forthcoming spring again.
Is the time for harvesting willow branches.


There are purposely planted willows in field’s corners, which every two or three years get pruned, harvested.
Salix Alba, White willows for craft purposes.
You never harvested Golden Willow for basketry (Salix Alba Vitellina), that was already a dying practice, too laborious, not enough need for baskets anymore.
What you needed was branches for handles.
The 2/3 years old new growth got cut and peeled while stil green, it’s easier.
Then stretched and tied in the shape you wanted it.
For pitchforks you want a slightly curved handle, not too big, you selected the handle by holding the branch in your hand, feeling it, feeling the weight and the balance.
When you make your own handle you make it exactly how you need it.
For axes you want a straight and shorter one, quite sturdy, you crop the lower part of the branch, less flexible.
For hoes you need a longer one, straight but somewhat thinner. hoes need to go up above your shoulders, behind your back, to then be catapulted down in the soil, you want an handle which will run freely through your hand, no knots.
And then there are handles for sledgehammers (strong and short), hammers (strong and much shorter), rakes (very long and thin), barn brooms and so forth.

You think at that while looking at willows, in a country where handles are streamlined and averaged, supplied by chains of hardware stores, never the right size for your hands.

You think at that while looking at willows in this country, a Weed of National Significance, a pest, a nuisance, useless, worst, an impediment.

You think at that while you dig in your garden with handles always too small, and think why dont they have long handle shovels in this country?

About info

Diego Bonetto is a multimedia artist living and practicing in Sydney, Australia, and is a key member of artists' collectives SquatSpace and the BigFAGPress. -The SquatSpace collective has been producing ground-breaking events and projects since 2000. The group has been curated in a number of shows both in Australia and overseas. The current initiatives, the Redfern-Waterloo Tour of beauty (www.squatspace.com/redfern) tackle issues of social representation and the politics of space generated by gentrification. -The BigFagPress (BFP) is a publishing facility housed in Wooloomooloo, Sydney. The BFP is a salvaged 4-tonnes Off-set proof press. The press allows for the creation of countless artworks by keen printmakers and self-started publishers. www.bigfagpress.org Diego has also been working with WeedyConnection, an environmental art campaign. The project involves an online resource (www.weedyconnection.com), short documentary films, cooking shows, blogs, installations, prints, facebook interventions and various site-specific installations in the form of self-guided tours. WeedyConnection tackle the anthropocentric view of what environment should look like. Based on research and data provided by disciplines as far apart as biology, anthropology, paloenthology, social ecology and ethno botany it formulates ethical questions about cultural representation in times of environmental urgency.
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