During dark winter hours we embrace any source of light to brighten up our lives. All over the country cultural hubs and sites are creating enlightening displays to put us into a festive mood. ‘Illuminating Ushaw: Land of Enchantment’ is a magical Christmas light trail set in Ushaw’s Historic House, Chapel and Gardens. Different makers create bespoke light sculptures, working with a wide variety of materials. As part of this year’s Christmas trail Sylvan Skills designed an illuminated rabbit made from willow, running from a colourful archway. Besides using fibre optics for the first time the archway made from wood and acrylic further introduced new materials.
A ‘Creativity Works’ grant gave the opportunity to delve into these new materials and techniques. The grant enables artists to create work that will add value to their business and engage surrounding communities. It enabled myself and my husband Tim to test our idea by creating a unique installation for Ushaw’s ‘Land of Enchantment’. This brought us together with other creative practitioners such as light artist Mick Stephenson who provided valuable training lessons.
Working with light has been an exciting adventure. The various stages of designing, testing and finalising both the rabbit and the archway proved to be a fulfilling challenge. Besides the usual welding of metal frames and willow weaving the project merges acrylic and woodwork, featuring artwork drawn with acrylic pens on acrylic sheet lit by an LED backdrop and fibre optic twinkling stars. We are grateful for support from Shannon Berry of Shannon Berry Nature, and Derek Anderson of Anderson Creations.
Ushaw’s Light Trail Inspiration
The eleven-foot-long rabbit sculpture was inspired by the coat of arms of Ushaw College which features three rabbits. The arch was inspired by the illuminated panels in the manuscripts found in the library at Ushaw with some extra work inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The sculpture is now installed in the gardens of Ushaw Historic House. It can be viewed at weekends as part of the Christmas light trail from December 3rd to 18th. Both the archway and the rabbit’s body and whiskers are illuminated with fibre optics pulsing with changing coloured light. Also, the rabbit’s body is outlined with side glow fibre and white willow.