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Lise Bech | Studio Insights

18 September 2023

From Willow to Wood combines sculptural willow from Lise Bech and scorched vessels and furniture from Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley.

Lise Bech, originally from Denmark, works exclusively with Scottish willow creating both traditional and contemporary works, much of it organically grown at her home and studio in Fife, tended and harvested (coppiced) by hand. Lise’s initial interest and motivation in taking up basketry was her desire to be involved with the whole process of making beautiful and useful organic objects: from the growing and harvest of the raw materials through to design and final execution of the piece – each step satisfying her love of and commitment to the natural world.

I made my first basket whilst living in Northern Ireland under the expert tuition of the aptly named Ms Greenwood! When I moved to Scotland she gave me one hundred willow cuttings thus ensuring I would ‘keep my hand in’. That was the start of my love affair with willow. Growing my own materials keeps me connected with the seasonal rhythms and has fostered a sense of pride and integrity with regards to the final product – homegrown, organic, carefully harvested and lovingly handmade in Scotland.

Having lived among the Southern Uplands of Scotland for many years and drawn inspiration and solace from their embrace, I have moved to another undulating landscape which speaks volumes: The Paps of Fife. Living close to the earth through gardening, growing my own willows and caring deeply for the planet co-operation, collaboration and community continues to be the touchstones which inform my life and work as a basketmaker.

I approach my weaving sessions as a conversation on a playdate where the give-and-take between maker and material transforms a bundle of sticks into a tactile image of mutuality. Working exclusively with Scottish willows I aim to show the variety and beauty of different varieties and their forgiving nature, and to create lively, appealing sculptural forms which echo the landscape that surrounds me.

These news vessels, based on a Celtic weave design, use over 700 rods of willow – meaning at least 1400 snips are required as the willow needs trimmed at both ends. The design uses short pieces of willow that are usually discarded, but Lise has collected and saved these for several years to create the new works.

During the summer 2020 Anna Liebmann and myself were sworn to secrecy regarding taking part the filming of a basketmaking session with two famous actors (from Outlander), Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish - both of whom have basketmaking in the family. Sam is Trevor Leat's nephew and Graham has an ancestor who made baskets in Portobello’s Fisherow! They each worked on a frame basket with considerable hilarity…

Please enjoy this short film below from 2010 where Lise discusses the challenges of finding weaving techniques that suit particular varieties of willow.

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