'Unbind the Wing' at Bodnant Garden: Suffrage in sculpture

In September 2018 artist Trevor Leat created a willow sculpture for ‘Unbind the Wing’ our celebration of women’s suffrage at Bodnant Garden. The giant figure stands on the Lily Terrace, the centrepiece of our autumn open-air exhibition at the garden and a tribute to this centenary of votes for women.

Our celebration is part of the National Trust’s wider year of Women and Power celebrating suffrage stories across Britain. The creators of Bodnant Garden played a lead role in the suffrage movement from the mid Victorian to Edwardian period and earlier this year we invited artists to submit designs for a commemorative work of garden art.

Charlie Stretton, events and engagement officer at Bodnant Garden, said: “The idea for our willow sculpture was born not only out of a wish to see some kind of physical representation of the extraordinary women of Bodnant Garden but also to convey the spirit of this quote from one of Laura McLaren’s speeches: ‘A nation ruled by men alone is like a bird that tries to fly with one wing bound…Unbind that wing’

“After extensive research, we commissioned Trevor Leat to construct the sculpture. He was given the theme, the story and several ideas to consider, and returned with some sketches of his ideas, which fitted perfectly with the concepts we wanted to convey.”

Traditional techniques

Trevor Leat is one of the foremost creators of willow sculptures in the UK. Based in Galloway, Scotland, he has been weaving willow for more than 30 years and his work is exhibited widely in galleries, gardens and festivals around the UK and beyond.

Trevor created the sculpture here at Bodnant Garden in around ten days, by erecting a steel frame and cladding it with his own willow from Scotland.

Charlie said: “Trevor arrived at Bodnant in early September, to blazing sunshine, and worked in full view of the public, who were able to see the figure appearing before their eyes. The 18-foot high woman, releasing three white doves into the air, is currently the most- photographed element of the garden. She is a thing of great beauty – and beneath her graceful curves and flying sash lies a hidden core of welded steel, firmly anchored to the earth. We hope that Laura McLaren would have approved."

The sculpture forms part of our installations around the garden this autumn about women’s suffrage and will be on display this autumn and winter. For more information about Trevor Leat and his work see his website http://www.trevorleat.co.uk

'Unbind the Wing' willow sculpture by Trevor Leat at Bodnant Garden
'Unbind the Wing' willow sculpture by Trevor Leat at Bodnant Garden
'Unbind the Wing' willow sculpture by Trevor Leat at Bodnant Garden