The Press and Journal .. April 2005  


A week in the life of ..
a basket-maker.

Does living a carefree and creative
lifestyle sound like a dream job?
For basket-maker Lizzie Farey, it is.

Odd job: Artist basket-maker or contemporary
basket-maker,working from a converted barn on
a farm in Galloway, near Castle Douglas.

After art college, I became an apprentice to stained-glass, artist Mark Angus in the 1980s. However, I felt I was not "blossoming" in this arena. After watching my sister make a cradle for her baby out of willow and rush, I became interested in basket-making. I joined The Basketmakers' Association in 1992 and because there is no formal training available in the craft apart from short courses, I picked up the necessary skills required piecemeal.
The lack of formal training is an advantage. As a result, there is an incredibly vibrant basket- making community. People are amazingly creative because they have not been channelled too much in any particular direction. I create bespoke commissioned sculptures for customers and exhibitions as well as more traditional items such as log, shopping and laundry baskets. Clients include the Scottish Arts Council and Country Living and I also teach the craft.
My life is filled with contrast, from a rural, day-to-day, outdoors existence to being whisked off to places like the V&A or an awards ceremony, being wined and
dined and meeting VIPs. This type of job doesn't
pay well, although there is the occasional windfall. Income fluctuates, with some wonderful years and others not so good.
One week diary in the life of a basket-maker.

MONDAY - Drove to Edinburgh with a new range of
living willow spheres in pots and took another commission to the photographers for
publicity shots. Picked up an enormous willow
sphere and had to secure it on the roof rack.

TUESDAY - Delivered another commission to the Scottish Arts Council with the sphere still on the
roof of the car. The delivery was nerve-racking as
I had to wait for it to be hung on the wall and see
what the reaction was. They were very pleased.
On the drive home, I noticed some ash growing in
the hedgerow of a main road.
WEDNESDAY - Got up at 6am to go and cut the ash before the heavy traffic started. Planted eight living willow spheres in pots. Started off an oak swill basket-making course in our community woodland being given by a visiting tutor from Cumbria. I have a renowned Canadian basket-maker coming over to teach
advanced basket- making in Scotland so I spent the rest of the day sending lots of e-mails to Canada. Worked on a proposal for the Scottish Basketmakers' Exhibition, The Cutting Edge, and selected and sent images for a Medici Gallery contemporary craft exhibition. Arranged delivery of willow for a piece I am doing for the Chelsea Flower Show. Arranged for the return of unsold work from a recent show at Liberty's.

- Made flapjacks for delegates on the woodland course and went to see how it was progressing. Sorted whole rods for local delivery.
Visited Shawhead Primary School to check the start
of growth on a living willow fence.

FRIDAY - Good Friday - worked on living willow spheres. If you want to get into this line of work, the Scottish Basketmakers' Circle runs short courses, but other than that, artistic flair helps and you need aptitude and strong arms. For my type of basket-making, you need a wild imagination! A lot of traditionalists have a problem with me because I have taken basket-making on to another level.
One very memorable thing that happened through my work was when I made different nest sculptures from different materials for an Easter exhibition. Afterwards, I hung one of the larger "nests" on the wall of the workshop and went to Glasgow on business. When I returned, a wren had built its own nest inside my nest. Male wrens build several nests and the female chooses which one it likes the best. Unfortunately, following a reception in the workshop attended by about 300 people, the female did not choose my nest in which to lay her eggs. I still took it as a compliment, however, that the male had built his nest in mine.

Lizzie will be exhibiting her work at Country Living Spring Fair Scotland at The Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, on April 14-17.