Meet the Wicker Man from the south of Scotland

Working with willow enables Trevor Leat to weave his magic and create stunning sculptural works of art.

From giant sculptural pieces to the ancient craft of basket and creel weaving, there’s no one who deserves the title of Scotland’s wicker man more than Trevor Leat.

Based in the village of Auchencairn on the Solway Coast, the sculptor was born in Chelsea and has also spent time on the Isle of Eigg, which is where his passion for working with willow was born.

‘Wicker is just so versatile and flexible,’ he says. ‘It is a lovely colour and working with it is almost like life drawing. Each piece is like a pencil line. So that’s what I see when I make very large sculptures, large pencil lines built up with shading.’

Being able to grow his only materials also appeals to Trevor; there’s no heavy industry involved and no pollution. The willow is harvested by hand in January and February.

Willow is also firmly rooted in the history of Scotland. ‘They say it’s been used for longer than pottery,’ Trevor tells me. ‘Ancient examples have been dug out of bogs in Scotland and Denmark.’

From baskets to coffins and huge projects like the wicker man, which is burned at the festival of the same name, Trevor turns his hand to it all.

Recent commissions include wicker peacocks for Scone Palace and a sculpture of Mary, Queen of Scots for Falkland Palace.

The wicker man sculpture takes him and business partner Alex Rigg between two and three weeks to make, using scaffolding and a steel armature.

‘I think the quickest burn has been 12 minutes,’ laughs Trevor. ‘It’s really spectacular. I think people are quite moved by the burning of such a graceful sculptural piece.’

Thankfully not all of Trevor’s work goes up in flames. With work in exhibitions at Eskdalemuir, The Whitehouse Gallery in Dumfries and Galloway, and sculpture on Eigg, Mull and in Calgary Forest as well as a life-sized elephant at Glenkens, there’s plenty to see.

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(This feature was originally published in 2016)

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