Scotland on Sunday Magazine ~ at home ~ July 27th, 2003  
Lizzie Farey takes her inspiration from the great outdoors when creating the baskets that have won her international acclaim. For most people a walk in the country is a totally calming experience. Unfortunately, the benefits of a stress-free afternoon are more often than not erased within minutes of returning home, as we get drawn into the normal problems of everyday life. For Lizzie Farey, however, everyday life involves being outside and is completely immersed in the workings of mother nature.
Her basket-making techniques have attracted much attention in the craft industry, and she is famed for challenging the boundaries of the traditional skill. Inspired by the patterns of nature, Lizzie weaves sculptural baskets from willow branches using a random technique she invented herself. The baskets replicate the evolution of birds' nests and hedgerows, bringing together the perfect processes of nature with an artistic vision. She has clearly found her niche now, but Lizzie's career path was never straight.
Always a creative person, Lizzie enrolled in an art course at Canterbury College in 1979 and from there progressed to a Fine Art degree at Cardiff, but found that the specifics of painting did not lie comfortably with her own abilities. "I think it was the two-dimensional aspect that I couldn't get to grips with. In painting it is simply a matter of the artist and her canvas, and I found it hard to relate to that technique," she says.
Disenchanted by the medium, Lizzie dropped out. "I needed to get out and live a little, so I decided to go travelling. I picked fruit in the Vendanges in France and then toured Europe. I have always intended to go back and finish my degree, and plan to do so at 60 - I have plenty to keep me busy until then." On her return, Lizzie opened a stained-glass business, also providing training for other budding craftspeople.
But despite this obvious success, Lizzie changed direction yet again after being introduced to basket weaving by her sister-in-law, an enthusiast. Lizzie's sister-in-law showed her all the traditional techniques and she was hooked. "I went through an incredible transition, from working with industrial and hard materials like glass and lead, to the organic mediums of nature. With this craft I found the extra element which I had so craved during my degree course, as I could actually get involved in the manufacturing process."
"As well as designing the basket in my head, I now have to think of the best materials and method to realise that design." Production technique is what truly separates Lizzie from other basket-makers. She has created a random process of assembling her materials which captures both the chaos and calm of nature. "When I began weaving I was living in a very isolated cottage. Larch trees were all around me and it seemed to make so much sense to use what was close at hand."
"I was very fortunate to have plenty of time to experiment with different materials and techniques, and slowly I found my own way. I wanted to do something a little different from simply following the ancient techniques. I wanted to convey the presence of nature, and I see my products as reminders of the pleasure you get from experiencing the countryside." To replicate this experience, Lizzie uses a variety of materials, many of which she grows, harvests and treats herself.
Equipped with home-grown supplies, she then sets about making the baskets, using random techniques and casting aside the precision and inflexibility which can accompany traditional methods. "I go for a walk in the country and find inspiration from everything. Hedgerows are particularly fascinating as they truly are the containers of the countryside. In them you will find all the patterns of nature, as well as birds, butterflies and throw-ins from passing farmers. Examining hawthorn hedges it will suddenly dawn on me that I could use a wild plum branch, or wood from an ash tree."
Lizzie's talent for harnessing natural resources has captured the attention of such acclaimed venues as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and has led to several shows in New York. With international acclaim, Lizzie is set to open the eyes of the world to the creative caliber of the weaving craft.