Wara Straw Sculptures in York

A fascinating community art project is happening right now in York as part of the York Festival sponsored by Live Lighter.

And volunteers are needed! Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of an internationally recognised art project.

Volunteers are being called for to help with various aspects of creating the straw sculptures, including using power tools, preparing the stalks of wheat, and weaving the toba mats. No previous experience is necessary, and there is something that will suit anyone, no matter how fit you are.

Ilsa Bennion, Wara Art Volunteer Coordinator says “The great news is that anyone can be a volunteer on this project, you don’t need any special talent. You will have a lot of fun and we guarantee you will walk away with new skills and lots of new friends”.

Volunteer in red tee-shirt working alongside artists. Photo by Caro Telfer

A volunteer helps erect the framework for a sculpture at the York Festival.

Detail of shuttle for toba weaving showing string and wheat stalks. Photo by Caro Telfer.

Detail of shuttle for toba weaving

Wherever you live in the Wheatbelt or beyond, why don’t you get some friends together and make a day out in York?  Stay the night in one of the many bed and breakfast establishments, or dine out in one of York’s pubs or cafes once you’ve finished the rewarding day’s work.

Japanese artists Professor Miyajima, Mr Moriya and Mr Noguchi are working alongside artists that include fibre weaver Fiona Gavino, sculptor Yuko Takahashi, and Ilsa Bennion to create the giant straw Wara sculptures which are to be installed throughout York’s town centre.

The four sculptures being created represent four of Australia’s endangered species. The Murray cod will be huge, and will be accompanied by a numbat, a rakali (water-rat) and a western ground parrot.

Last year four straw sculptures were created which represented a bilby, western swamp tortoise, and white bellied frog.

The western swamp tortoise sculpture created for the York Festival 2018. Photo:York Festival.

Photo of two Japanese artists sitting on ground with timber framework. Photo by Caro Telfer

Japanese artists working on the framework for a wara sculpture at Joachina Park in York.

Photo of several people helping to hold timber in place for constructing sculpture. Photo by Caro Telfer.

Teamwork is required to construct the framework before applying the layers of straw.

Many hands are needed to put together a sculpture. Photo by Caro Telfer.

Many hands are needed to put together a sculpture.


Maquette of ground parrot sculpture. Photo by Caro Telfer.

Maquette of ground parrot sculpture

Photo of gridded paper with plan for sculpture. Photo by Caro Telfer.

Plan for the construction of framework for the rakali (water-rat) sculpture.

Photo of scale model of numbat sculpture framework. Photo by Caro Telfer.

Model and maquette of numbat sculpture.

Wheat is pulled through a rake by gloved hands to prepare for weaving into toba at York. Photo by Caro Telfer

Preparing the wheat stalks for weaving.

Wheat stalks on toba weaving frame. Photo by Caro Telfer.

Baroota wonder wheat has the long stalks necessary for weaving into toba mats

photo of Trimmed wheat stalks on toba weaving frame. Photo by Caro Telfer.

Trimmed wheat stalks on toba weaving frame.

photo of two artists side by side in front of timber framework. Photo by Caro Telfer.

Ilsa Bennion and Professor Shingo Miyajima.

Professor Shingo Miyajima, Akira Moriya and Masaharu Noguchi, veterans of around twenty five wara art sculptures, have travelled to York to oversee the construction of the new sculpture made using locally sourced wheat straw. A local farmer has donated stooks of the Baroota Wonder variety of wheat, which is ideally suited to the project due to its long stalks.

Contact the York Festival by email at hello@yorkfestival.com.au or via their facebook page @yorkfestival.

York Festival volunteer t-shirt. Grab yours when you volunteer on the wara sculpture project.