Interior Craft – featuring Bob Johnston, The Willow Artist

Over the years in my role as an Interior Designer, I have seen the opportunities of mass production and perceptions of perfection take the upper hand. Clients too lost touch with the process of making through the wider procurement routes adopted on larger commercial interior projects.

I believe, for a variety of reasons that are neatly summarized under Sustainability, that we need to push into the open, into the current design process, an awareness of the process in craft and the crafts themselves.

Emotive connection between client and maker can introduce a lost respect, recognize the beauty in the process and the end result, perceive the value received, identify the differences in one over another technical approach and maintain skills needed for social wellbeing.

So we are devoting a post periodically from now on, picking out interesting creatives that are involved in an interior art and craft. We have partnered with the wonderful team at The Creative Source who champion British artisans; starting with Bob Johnston, a willow artist. Feel the texture, the earth and the complete cycle of life, his craft evokes…

Bob Johnston, Willow Artist

Bob Johnston works at the pace that the willow grows in his neighbouring field and the speed that his hands weave his gigantic sculptures.  Whether it is HM The Queen waiting for a corgi or a New York grandmother requesting a life size dragon, nature has to take its course.

Bob was selected in June 2007 to demonstrate at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington as part of a collective to highlight the dying art of the lone craftsman.  Since then, artisans are on the ascendancy and people want to own the bespoke, the one-off, those that will become collectors’ items for the future.  His work is regularly sent from Dublin around the world. Willow artist Bob Johnston spent a year making two stunning dragons for the Ulster Museum, each measuring over 12 feet in length.  Now, he is sending a veritable Noah’s Ark across the Atlantic as the commissions for his life size animals roll in from the USA.

Below is a feature article from Country Living magazine showing the cycle from harvesting the willow to Bob’s finished sculptures. The craft and process as seen, starts from the earth and although is tamed under the hand of man, still celebrates and magnifies its origin by depicting nature in its form.



What Bob manages to do with his anatomically correct animals, is to inject the character of the beast into his willow sculptures.  The response as people first catch sight of his whimsical animals is a joy, such as when HM The Queen saw the corgi especially made for her Summer House, her eyes softened into a broad smile; the hardened Umbrian hunters who depend upon the wild boar for their winter’s stew always chuckle as they see the imposter nailed to the wall.  Bob’s stag’s head held its own when exhibited alongside the taxidermy ones at London’s Royal Warrant holding gun shop, Holland & Holland and the full size pig exhibited at Fortnum & Mason wasn’t the star attraction for long before being whisked off to its new home.

The beasts most in demand are his Aberdeen Angus, stags, warthogs, a gigantic bison as well as a scaled down version of the dragon.  He grows forty different varieties of willow to ensure a large palette of colours and textures. Prices start from £1,000 + postage.

“the dynamic weave evokes the nuance of tissues and muscles”


If you appreciate the craft process and technique, are drawn to the art process, consider what value it may add to an interior in aspects of biophilia and haptic properties.

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