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Stour Valley Art Project

Location: King’s Wood, Challock, Kent

Artist: Giuliano Mauri


Sculptor Giuliano Mauri, from Lodi, Italy, was in residence in King’s Wood for three weeks in summer 1999 when he made three enormous basket-like structures for the Stour Valley Art Project. The two largest are 3.5 m high by 6 m wide at the open top, and the smaller one is 3m high by 4 m wide. Each ‘basket’ is based around a coppiced sweet chestnut stool and is entirely made from recently harvested chestnut saplings running vertically, horizontally and diagonally and woven together to create a strong framework. The chestnut stool will continue growing within the chalice of the ‘basket’, at first gently enfolded by it and eventually becoming entwined with it as the new chestnut trees grow through the structure.


For the first annual residency in King’s Wood, submissions were invited through advertisements in artists’ magazines in the UK and Europe and Richard Harris was commissioned as a result. Since then, because of the particular aims of the Stour Valley Art Project, Sandra Drew, the co-ordinator, has researched artists who might make interesting work for the woodland setting and has made direct approaches to them. She had heard of Giuliano Mauri through Chris Drury, a previous artist in residence, and was excited by his work. She spoke to him on the telephone to discuss the idea and as a result invited him to work in King’s Wood. He was interested in the proposal and made a two day visit to King’s Wood in March 1999 to familiarise himself with the wood by walking and experiencing the possibilities of the location.

Giuliano returned to Italy and soon sent over proposals for two works. These ideas were shuttled back and forth between the artist and the SVAP co-ordinator over the next couple of months while the proposals became more developed and the practical needs of the project became clearer. He provided detailed annotated drawings of his proposal and its construction, and was quite precise about the location he wanted and the materials he wanted to use. He refers to these works as ‘Imprints’ which he is making as an artist in the wood.

Planning Phase

In the meantime Sandra Drew and the Countryside Officer from Kentish Stour Countryside Project and officers from Forest Enterprise were having meetings to negotiate use of the site that the artist had identified, look at Health and Safety issues and arrange for a supply of newly cut chestnut. Giuliano’s proposal was very ambitious for the short three week construction period he had available and he needed a team of two able and knowledgeable people as full-time assistants. An ex-forester and a freelance worker (through the Kentish Stour Countryside Project) were engaged as his full-time core team. Peter Crawford, the new Countryside Officer at Kentish Stour Countryside Project and a student apprentice from Kent Institute of Art and Design also assisted with the construction work. Giuliano had no English language and no-one connected with the project could speak Italian, so a reliable translation service also needed to be put in place for him. This was provided by a locally based artist and her husband. They were offered the normal rates of pay for translators but declined because of their interest in being involved in the project.

The Residency

Giuliano Mauri visited again in June 1999 for just under three weeks, by which time everything was agreed and materials and the construction team were in place for him to work with. Despite the language barrier, his construction team had little difficulty in following his demonstrations of what he wanted them to do. The ‘baskets’ were constructed by creating a foundation structure of interwoven stakes laid out and secured on the ground to anchor the lower end of the vertical poles. These were held in place by horizontal bands of fresh chestnut saplings woven between them at intervals up the height of the ‘basket’, and with diagonally saplings interlaced with the internal and external surfaces to create a strong and self supporting the structure. As the structure developed, scaffolding planks were supported on the horizontal bands to enable the workers to reach a higher level of the baskets. The saplings were wired together using black carpenter’s wire.

The first ‘basket’ took several days to complete as Giuliano refined the construction methods and his team learned what he was thinking and what he required. As the residency progress, construction speeded up and the smallest structure was made in just a day and a half. Normally, an artist in residence would give one or talks on his work at Kent Institute of Art and Design (KIAD) which would be open to students and the public., but the late timing of Giuliano Mauri’s visit in June did not permit this.


Peter Crawford was new to the Kentish Stour Countryside Project when Giuliano’s residency was being planned and he admits to being sceptical about the value of the art project at the outset. His experience in helping to create the three works has given him an understanding of how and why they have come about, and seeing the schools education programme in progress has won him over. He is now firmly committed to the art project as an important part of his wider countryside management remit.

David Sykes of Forest Enterprise reports that the experience of working with artists has been generally a good one for him and his staff. The most harmonious collaborations between artists and Forest Enterprise have been when artists requiring a good deal of support have been clear in advance of their visit what assistance, advice, materials and equipment they will require, as was the case with Giuliano Mauri. Or alternatively, when artists have gone into the woods and managed their own work without needing to call on Forest Enterprise except for permission to use timber or a particular site. The frustrations have come when artists have wanted to respond flexibly to the situation but have also expected Forest Enterprise staff to be available whenever required. This approach does not combine well with the business functions of Forest Enterprise.

© Copyright Joanna Morland 2000