Angela Morley

Portrait of Angela MorleyAngela Morley woven crescent formsAngela Morley woven spheres
Angela Morley woven panel
Angela Morley workshop

Horticulturalist Angela Morley works as a garden designer and also makes sculptures from willow and other natural materials. Both strands of her work are informed by her great affinity to nature and her delight in the potential beauty of everything in the natural world from fungi and mosses to feathers and seedpods. She says, ‘As a child I spent most of my time wandering the meadows and woods in awe of all the wild plants and as an adult I am still happiest outside. My love of nature is my greatest inspiration’.


Why did you decide to branch out from garden design and start making sculptural willow work?

I initially studied science (Morley has a degree in horticulture from the University of Bath) as I was very negative about art when I was younger. My mother is an artist and my anti-art feeling was a reaction to her, I felt safer with science. However about five years ago I went on a drawing course and it opened up a whole new world for me. I felt free as it didn’t matter what the picture actually looked like and I could express myself creatively without fear of being criticised. I then went on a sculptural willow course at West Dean which was even more liberating. I didn’t know what I was doing with the first piece I made but it just worked – it was like magic! That encouraged me to go on and do a Foundation Course at Surrey Institute of Art and Design and from then on my willow work became an equally important part of my practice.

What is the relationship between the two strands of your work?

My love of nature and great respect for it is the inspiration for all my work, whether it is garden design or willow work. I am deeply moved by nature and most of my life has been a search for ways of releasing this enthusiasm. I want to show people how beautiful natural objects – like acorns for example – are. All my work is about opening people’s eyes to the beauty of nature and I hope that if people can see how beautiful it is they will be able to respect it more.

What attracts you to the materials you use?

I use natural materials in my work and try not to buy anything - even if I have to buy a small piece of copper I feel like a fraud. I want to show people what there is out there and how many potential uses it has. I find natural materials so beautiful and I love working with them. I find it really fulfilling being in direct contact with natural materials – it is a way of getting closer to nature for me. I use willow as a frame for my pieces. It is so malleable and you can use it to support other things like seedpods, mud, clay, feathers etc. You can do anything you like with it and I am fascinated by the strength that comes from the process of weaving.

Are there particular problems inherent in working with such fragile materials?

The problems are really commercial rather than practical. People don’t want to spend lots of money on pieces that won’t last, even though many of the materials I use are not as fragile as people think, especially if they are not handled too often. I have to design most of my pieces to be seen indoors as if they were displayed outside they would only last a couple of years which would upset the buyers. I don’t mind having things that are naturally ephemeral but most buyers do.

Are you more interested in making functional forms or more abstract pieces?

I recently made the commercial decision to make some semi-functional, leaf-shaped baskets as a way of getting my work into a gallery. They were pretty successful as people seem to like pieces which are strong and interesting but can also be used – even if they chose not to use them - however I don’t want to end up making really functional pieces. If there is no function to distract them people are forced to look at the materials more closely and so can appreciate their inherent beauty.

Do you have any long-term projects or plans for developing your work?

I recently bought a small wood and am coppicing the hazel there. I would like to try working with it and, although hazel is much harder to work than willow, it would be very satisfying to use my home-grown material. If I want to make bigger, more durable pieces for the outside I will have to use hazel so I will start experimenting with it. But I am very happy working with the materials and forms I use now and am content to just see what happens - I have always worked in a very intuitive way and tend not to plan things too much so I will probably just let things take their course.