The current lockdown situation raised some interesting challenges for me. For starters as I imagine has been the case for thousands of self-employed people or small businesses, I had several projects in the pipeline that were either cancelled or put on indefinite hold. Add to this the fact that going out to harvest willow was no longer an option, and suddenly the weaving business is looking very shaky.
Prior to the virus situation I had signed up with Karen Collins to attend a course to learn willow coffin weaving but naturally that was also postponed. Undaunted, I contacted Karen to ask if she would be willing to offer private tuition over the phone! After all it’s not that far removed from basketry techniques – is it? Anyway she agreed and so began the adventure. Armed with willow from stock, wooden laths, tools and a mobile phone I ventured forth on weaving coffin number one.
Developing this new skill benefited from a confluence of three main factors. Firstly I had the basic technique or pattern. Second was my very patient ‘end of the phone tutor’, Karen. Thirdly, those good old twin flames – ‘trial and error’ and ‘practice makes perfect’. To begin with the base is made, this must be strong enough to support the body weight. A group of five wooden slats with rounded edges are arranged in a tight fan shape.
This configuration and shape is maintained by clamping both ends of the group with wooden clamps thereby defining the form of the base. The weaving between the slats can then proceed. Each coffin and its lid are lined with calico fabric.
Why Choose A Willow Coffin?
My intention is to create a high-quality product that offers the following features and benefits because I imagine people are attracted to the notion of willow coffins for a number of different reasons. While these coffins are of course attractive and eye-catching, from a practical perspective, they are also very sturdy and incorporate three strong sisal rope handles on either side for lifting and use by pall-bearers. Wooden skids on the underside of the base protect any surfaces that the coffin might rest upon.
There is of course the relatively low environmental impact of making them and an increased awareness of ecological concerns. People may ask themselves if my coffins are made from sustainable materials, locally grown where possible? The answer is yes. A client might typically make choices from our website but there would then follow a one-to-one consultation with myself or a colleague to ensure your requirements are met. For example, a polished hard wood dedication plate is offered with a laser engraved personalised message. This can be fastened to the lid but is also detachable to retain as a keep-sake if desired so is there is the satisfaction in knowing that time, care and consideration has been applied by a craftsperson with whom you have consulted in creating a beautiful resting place for someone you loved.