School child building Willow the Horse at Senhouse Roman Museum

Art Project: Willow the Horse at Senhouse Roman Museum

In 2016 and 2017 nine museums and archaeological sites took part in Hadrian's Cavalry art project. Lead artist Karen MacDougall kept a diary of the process. These are her thoughts about the building of Willow the Horse at Senhouse Roman Museum.

Willow the Horse at Senhouse Roman Museum

"Senhouse Roman Museum was the westernmost site involved with the Hadrian's Cavalry project. Although not on Hadrian's Wall, the Romans continued their defences down the coast to Maryport with a series of coastal forts. It has fantastic views of the sea from the fort and a great reconstruction of a Roman watchtower.

The museum had the greatest number of altars squeezed into a small space that I have ever seen. They had also excavated a rare altar to Epona, a Roman goddess worshipped by Roman Cavalry at the fort.

Epona the earth goddess

The museum wanted to work with their local primary school Maryport Junior School. A volunteer spent some time with year 5 discussing Cavalry horses. The school were keen to work on a 3D artwork and the museum liked my suggestion for a full-sized sculpture of a horse. As Epona was also an earth goddess the museum chose willow as the medium. We sourced the willow from local sources and then were ready to begin.

14.2 hands of creation

Over two days we made a huge armature. This is a framework on which a sculpture is moulded with clay or similar material. We then added legs, head and body out of willow, masking tape and cable ties. The class had a great time making the structural elements before assembling them. This was followed by a super-sticky skin of wet-strength tissue paper and PVA, with circles of thin willow to give texture. “Willow”, at 14.2 hands, was created - a fantastic cavalry horse!

It was wonderful to witness the joy of the children seeing Willow in the gallery and their pride in their work. They gave a great presentation on Roman Cavalry and how they made Willow."

- By artist Karen MacDougall

Karen's haiku reflecting on the project

Epona’s willow

Sculpts white cavalry horse

Two thousand years on…

More art projects inspired by Romans

Take a look at the other projects in Diary of a Hadrian's Cavalry Artist.

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