Elephant sculpture weaves its way into Elephant Park
A new elephant has joined the herd at Elephant Park. Created by artist Tom Hare, the striking willow sculpture can be found in the wildflower meadow, the area’s newest green space.
Tom was commissioned by Elephant Park developer Lendlease to create a piece of public art to reflect the area’s rich history. His answer to the brief was a magnificent elephant, standing proud at 2.25 metres tall. And it is complemented, at the other end of the park, by a sculpture of tulips – a reminder of the time the 18th century gardener James Maddock grew flowers in the area’s then-marshy landscape.
The elephant sculpture took five weeks to complete and, as with all Tom’s works, started life as a series of 2D drawings. A model of the sculpture was then created before he got to work creating the full-size piece.
“I begin with a steel work, which is effectively the outline for the structure and has the integrity to be attached to the ground,” says Tom. “The willow element I liken to the sketching of a drawing as this brings the direction and movement of the piece. On the elephant, the willow represents the skin and that’s what really brings the sculpture alive.”
Once completed, the massive artwork had to be transported from Tom’s workshop in Stoke Golding, near Leicester, to its new home in central London, where it has been in situ since January.
As well as serving as an eye-catching piece of public art, the sculpture is made from willow, making it completely sustainable and another habitat for the park’s birds and insects, alongside the meadow’s grass and plants.
“Over time, moss and lichen will start to grow attracting insects; internally the sculpture will provide warm shelter,” says Tom. “From a sustainability point of view, everything about the sculpture can end up back in the earth or be re-used. The steel frame can be re-worked into something else and the willow will deteriorate to a point where it will rot down and go back into the ground.”
If displayed outdoors, the willow sculptures take about five years to break down and, at that point, clients can decide if they would like the willow element to be re-woven.
It was the sustainable nature of willow that attracted Tom to using the material in much of his work, and he has been using the material for 20 years. He is now passing on his passion for working with willow to a new generation of artists.
“My previous work was ceramic based and involved a lot of expense because of the firing and glazing processes,” he says. “But the spontaneity of willow means you can cut it from a tree that will then re-grow and you can pretty much make something with it on that day.”
His skill with willow has taken Tom around the world with commissions ranging from wildflower sculptures in Scandinavia to holiday displays in America. Closer to home, his work has been exhibited at Kew Gardens, Wakehurst botanic gardens, West Sussex, and Hampton Court Palace.
The elephant has settled into its new home in Elephant Park and has received a warm response from locals and visitors to the park alike – something Tom is very pleased about. “It’s a daunting thing putting a piece in the landscape, because you feel vulnerable about it; it’s something you’ve put a lot of time and love in to, but it fits into the park really neatly and it’s gone down very well.”
For more information about Tom Hare and to see more of his work, visit www.tomhare.net/