Lizzie Farey, Scottish Basketmaker logo
  Period Living .. November, 2007  

Behind The Craft

Isobel Harris talks to Lizzie Farey, a willow weaver whose rural Scottish surroundings inspire her to create beautiful works of art.

When did you start weaving?
While staying with my brother in North Wales about 18 years ago, I watched my sister-in-law making a cradle for her baby; she was using natural materials, plaiting rushes into the side. It was amazing and that afternoon I made my first basket. Previously I'd been making stained glass, and you wouldn't believe how quickly you can make a basket compared with a window. My home is in a very rural area, surrounded by lots of wild materials, and I realised that basket making fitted well into my lifestyle. I used to spend a week at a time, every now and then, learning from a master basket maker and in my spare time I'd make baskets for my friends who spurred me on with their enthusiasm for my work.

What makes you so passionate about willow?
Willow is such a marvellous material; it's flexible, strong and versatile, yet soft and yielding, and the colours on the bark are extraordinary. The craft is green and sustainable too. I grow my own willow and am able to harvest other natural materials from the hedgerow and use them in my work. It's so satisfying to have control over every aspect of the creative process.

What are you thinking about when you're working?
'Oh no, I've got to get this finished!' No, seriously, the process takes over and you become fixed in a mindless, meditative state. I work with my hands, mind and body; it's almost like a dance, the material takes you over.

Which is your favourite piece?
At the moment it's an ash ring, a rather large piece that I made for an art gallery wall. Ash is a really tough material and creating the piece was more like fighting than weaving. It's called 'Beautiful', paying tribute to the fact that something so lovely came from the struggle to make it.

Where do you see your work going in the future?
My work is evolving all the time. At the moment it's veering towards big, interior wall commissions where I get the chance to produce something distinctive. On a recent trip to Japan I was influenced by their use of bamboo, so it would be exciting to experiment with different materials. When I was in Japan I also visited a school in the mountains, and made the children a basket from dogwood with just some scissors and a screwdriver - and they were stunned. To me, weaving is a process of giving back; I'd like to teach and inspire young people to do the things they enjoy.

How do you like to spend your days off?
My home, Dumfries and Galloway, has lovely coastlines and I often go to the beach with friends, chatting all evening beside a fire made from driftwood until the embers go down - it's the perfect way to relax.