Rachel Carter – willow weaving

Chris Hardy © 2010If someone tells Rachel Carter it can’t be done then she most certainly will show them how.

If they tell her it can’t be done because she is a woman then they had better stand back because they will have lit the blue touch paper.

Rachel is a woman with an indomitable spirit and nothing gets in her way.

Her drive is coupled with an easy-going nature that has helped her to make willow sculptures her life.

She is a working class girl who finds herself designing art for stately homes and has a regular slot at the Chelsea Flower Show. Her CV now lists private commissions in New York, France and Connecticut as she becomes the darling of the ethical collectors.

But she hasn’t forgotten her roots and a great deal of her work is for community projects and public displays such as her most recent sculpture which will be unveiled in Mickleover shortly.

The award winning artist may now be reaping the rewards of years of hard work but she is not resting on her laurels and is sticking to her business plan and moving on to the next stage in her career.

“I knew that I wanted to be self-employed and I set myself realistic goals over 12 years. I can see the middle of the hourglass but getting to the next level is difficult. But I will do it,” she said with her trademark determination.

Rachel spent more than ten years of her life making sensible choices. She went to catering college after leaving school and built a safe career for herself but she always hankered after the life of an artist.

It was in 2000 that she finally plucked up the courage to give it a go and took an A Level in fine art followed by a foundation course in the subject and then she signed up to a 3D sustainable design and practice programme at the University of Derby.

By this time she was a mum with a second child on the way and her husband gave up his full time job to become a house-husband.

“He is my rock and I couldn’t have done this without him. His support has made it all possible and that’s part of what drives me on to become even more of a success.”

Their children Chloe and Molly are now 16 and nine-years-old respectively and Rachel is part of a co-operative of artists based at Shed 2 Studios in Ilkeston.

The nature of her work is to design and create sculptural pieces for gardens and landscape settings using steel, willow and her passion for the environment and art.

Her inspiration comes from plants in her garden, the countryside and more formal botanical gardens.

“Nature creates fluid shapes and I build these into my designs. It was while I was on my foundation course that one of the tutors realised that although I was good at art I was a maker at heart.

“I have always enjoyed metalwork and woodwork but of course at school in my day that was not considered suitable for ‘a girl’. Being told you can’t because you are a girl gives you the drive to prove them all wrong. I think I have done that now.

“It was my dad who fostered my initial interest in the subjects. He was a miner and worked hard but anytime he did have at home was always spent fixing and making things. So if I had any time with him it would have probably been while taking apart a motorbike.”

Rachel’s willow rods are entwined and woven on to a welded mild steel frame which creates a structural skeleton for the sculpture. The metal frame slowly changes colour as it is weathered by the elements and blends with the willow which is preserved with linseed oil.

The new Mickleover sculpture has been commissioned by a house building consortium to be a public piece of art on their new housing estate.

Part of Rachel’s research and development plan was to look into the history of the site, to uncover more about its heritage and she was told that a sculpture which had been created by a local artist used to stand on the area of land which was formally owned by the University of Derby.

“I was fascinated by the idea of a sculpture previously sitting where my work will eventually feature, so I set about researching the sculpture and the artist and joined the local History Society and mentioned the mystery sculpture.

“My search then took me to the University of Derby and I found a photo of a group of students and in the background was a faint image of the sculpture, the next photo I came across was a full sized photo of the sculpture which appeared to feature two intertwined figures.”

The missing sculpture, ‘Duo’ was by Melbourne artist Ronald Pope, who drew his inspiration from the Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales and Rachel found it safely on display at the university’s art, design and technology department.

“I knew very little about Pope before that but now I have researched him further and I realise our art has a lot in common. I am thrilled that my work is in the same spot.

For more information about her art go to http://www.rachelcarter.co.uk.