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Rachel Carter, Derbyshire willow sculptor - Preparing for Chelsea Flower Show

PUBLISHED: 13:06 08 June 2010 | UPDATED: 11:49 28 February 2013

Rachel Carter, Derbyshire willow sculptor - Preparing for Chelsea Flower Show

Rachel Carter, Derbyshire willow sculptor - Preparing for Chelsea Flower Show

Clare Bampton takes a trip to Rachel's studios in Ilkeston to find out what she's been sculpting and why her local community is playing a vital part in her trip to Chelsea

Its amazing what you can find down an alley in Ilkeston... Im following my instructions to find Shed 2, the creative dirty workspace that is home to Rachel Carter and four other artists. I find the alley just off Heanor Road and I locate a red brick building with the Shed 2 sign hanging above a blue door. Inside I find Rachel Carter, as well as the most amazing open space.

It gets really cold in the winter! Rachel tells me as she hands me a cup of coffee. All around me there are striking creations and out of the window I can see the courtyard is packed, too. Nothing is polished here though, its definitely a raw creative workshop, not a showroom.

Rachel has a really interesting story. She hasnt always been a professional artist, in fact, shes only been running her business for less than three years. Spending more than 10 years making sensible choices, Rachel initially went to catering college and built a career for herself but this was not her dream life. Rachel began to explore the arts, firstly with an A level and then a Foundation Course in Fine Art.

Finally, with one child and another on the way, Rachel signed up to a 3D Sustainable Design and Practice programme at the University of Derby, supported by her husband who gave up his fulltime job to work part-time and become a house husband. Now just a few years later Rachel is an innovative, award-winning sculptor and her work has been enjoyed at exhibitions across the UK.

So how would Rachel describe her work? I design and create sculptural pieces for a garden or landscape setting using mild steel and willow. Sustainable materials and fluid designs, combined with my passion for the environment and my local community, are at the heart of my work.

As well as taking commissions, I run a community-based programme as a visiting artist. I teach and demonstrate sculpture using different workshops to encourage the use of sustainable practice across a variety of age groups and abilities. Ive run workshops in schools, at community centres, at festivals, and I am particularly at home when helping vulnerable communities to experience the creative process.

Unsurprisingly, Rachels Chelsea exhibition is community-led. Rachel explains: In order to create the sculptural pieces I will be using at the Chelsea Flower Show in May, I have been running community workshops locally to involve as many people as possible. After the show I will be donating the sculptural pieces I have made to a Derbyshire residential home for the elderly. I hope the Chelsea creation will provide pleasure on a daily basis to the residents once its installed in July.

Rachel isnt short of endorsements, one keen supporter is Erewash MP Liz Blackman: Rachels work is stunning and the quality of her work is certainly worthy of the Chelsea Flower Show. Having met Rachel on several occasions, I am always delighted to hear that she continues to involve the community in the development of her work. The fact that local people of all ages and from all walks of life will be involved in the creation of the sculpture is a testament to her commitment to her local area.

Consultant Filomena Rodriguez, a specialist in the creative industries, strongly approves of donating the sculpture to the home, believing, To see something of beauty on a daily basis is very therapeutic and I think it will bring the residents, staff and visitors of the care home, great delight over many years.

However, what strikes me is the depth of feeling from the workshop participants. Rachel shows me the comment forms from her latest sessions and I am genuinely moved. She is making a real difference to peoples lives, building confidence, creating hope and offering relaxation. Rachel writes in her Blog that waiting to exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been a lifelong dream What will happen when I get there, will I feel like Dorothy when she gets to the Emerald city? When Rachel does get to Chelsea, shell certainly be taking the hopes and best wishes of a lot of people with her.


16th to 20th June BBC Gardeners World Live. Birmingham NEC. To book call 0844 581 1340

6th to 11th July RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. East Molesey, Surrey.

21st to 25th July RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire.

13th to 14th August Shrewsbury Flower Show established in 1875, Quarry Lodge, Shrewsbury Tel: 01743 234050

17th to 19th September Harrogate Autumn Flower Show.

25th to 26th September Malvern Autumn Show.

5th to 6th October RHS London Autumn Harvest Show. To book: 08456 121 253


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