BRISWOOL – the story behind the wool by Vicky Harrison artist, facilitator and landscaper !

In the summer of 2016 Briswool went on display dockside first at M Shed  and then  at Bristol Energy and was visited  by nearly 40,000 people

How it all started 

In spring 2013, Alison, a customer at my then shop Paper Village said she had seen a book with pictures of London attractions made in wool and suggested we could make some for Bristol and call it BRISWOOL. At the time I was not immediately grabbed by the idea but it slowly crept up on me.

Bristol is a city of views and when I sat back and thought about it, I thought I don’t want to make little models of things in Bristol but I do want to make a dynamic model representing Bristol. Or at least Bristol seen through the eyes of the people who get involved, including social commentary and humour.

It's not about impressive buildings or significant buildings in Bristol in general or even about the history of Bristol. Rather, things were chosen by individual people that on the whole either meant something to them personally or were a challenge to make. They are stamping their mark on what Bristol is today.

For example, one of the the things I am keen to make is part of the riverbank along the new cut. There is a giant fig that grows there along with lots of fruit trees. In my imagination they have grown from seeds transported from far away lands as ballast and I think of that bit of the cut as a far away land. I used to walk past it every day on the way to commute.

For me my knowledge of Bristol has grown and expanded from reading about Bristol Byzantine to how the cut was built to the fact that Spike island used to be a tea packing factory.

So now thousands of hours and cups of tea later with my arms in bandages due to repetitive strain injury, here finally is the model. It has hills and valleys and things flying above. It is part social commentary of Bristol and always gets people talking.

How BRISWOOL was made

My job has been to have a vision of what the final model will look like and provide resources, workshops and inspiration along the way to drive it in that direction and physically produce what's needed. It has been an organic process growing bit by bit and shifting and changing along the way.

People have helped with Briswool in many different ways:

Designing and making something – for example the Matthew ( Sian ) or Suspension Bridge ( Joy)  or by making things from crochet patterns designed by me - Vicky Harrison such as tree, boats, balloons, foliage, landscape pieces, cars. I also designed a  set of instructions to produce the crochet river strips.  Elise our knitting tutor designed the pattern for the Totterdown houses.

Lots and lots of people also made the thousands of tiny small green squares and tiles for the landscape. These with the exception of Ashton court ( were made by me).

Sections were worked and reworked. Underneath the landscape is a series of fabric bases, heaped to make contours and hills and these have been made and remade.  The squares were mostly sewn together by first laying them out and taping the front  and then sewing together the back. We had several sessions at the shop sewing together the brown river and the landscape between the rivers.

I have held 22 workshops. The latest at the weekend was to make tiny boats to go round the edge of the model and hopefully now some people are also making them at home. It's very exciting coming into the shop to work and picking up little packages  full of little bundles of squares.

The hardest problem has been the size. At one point I had to remove all the furniture from my kitchen and dining room to create enough space to do some measuring.

We have all learned a lot along the way about how to design and make buildings from wool. Most of them have an internal card structures but then you need to put something in that in case it gets squashed.

If you would like to display or hire BRISWOOL then please get in touch