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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
40ft sculpture unveiled in Somerset
Serena de le Hey
Sculptress Serena de le Hey used Somerset willow
A 40ft willow figure of a man has been unveiled next to the M5 motorway to celebrate the Year of the Artist.

The sculpture, dubbed the Willow Man, could become for the south what the celebrated Angel of the North is to the north of England.

The Angel, which is 30 foot taller than Willow Man, overlooks the A1 near Gateshead on Tyneside.

Willow Man was created by artist Serena de le Hey, who took four weeks to weave locally grown willow from the Somerset Levels around a metal structure to create the figure.

It can be seen from the M5 near Bridgwater, Somerset, and motorists have started sounding their horns as they pass it.

Willow Man
'Willow Man' towers above the M5

Ms de la Hey said: "I haven't had much time to take it in but it looks very fine, and quite extraordinary in the sunshine."

She said she had several low points creating the piece when she had to work in heavy rain and strong winds.

She said: "Usually on a Friday it was raining very hard and the wind was blowing from a north-westerly direction. It was pretty grim.

"But because we had set the deadline, it makes you work through those extremities."

The giant structure, which is due to be in place for three years, cost 15,000 to create. It was commissioned by South West Arts as part of their Year of the Artist celebrations.

Serena de la Hey
Bad weather made its creation 'pretty grim'

Ms de le Hey, who works on the Somerset Levels, said the sculpture would set a precedent for her next piece of work. She wants to make a giant sculpture strong enough for people to climb on.

She began making willow sculptures eight years ago when she made a series of running figures in the Nevada Desert in America.

This year she made a 20ft-high willow figure that was burned at the end of the Glastonbury festival.

South West Arts chief executive Nick Capaldi said: "It is one of the most visible of our Year of the Artist projects and people are already showing their appreciation.

"The Willow Giant is something the people of Somerset are going to be proud of."

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