Wednesday, 2nd February 2022
Supper Room, Elgin Town Hall, 7pm
Karen Collins, who founded Naturally Useful at Marcassie Farm four years ago, gave a fascinating and inspirational talk about the craft of willow weaving and feltmaking. She began by telling the audience something about her own life from her childhood in Yorkshire, where her grandparents encouraged her interest in the natural world and making things with natural materials. She studied art in Leeds, took some time out to travel, and then began a career in education, teaching art and craft to children with special needs. She then moved with her family to teach at the Steiner School in Moray. She also became involved in the care of the dying.
At Marcassie Farm, Karen and her team grow 25 varieties of willow to provide stems in a wide range of colours. After coppicing in the winter, the stems are dried and then used to weave a great variety of objects, baskets of all shapes and sizes, cradles, sculptures of birds and animals, and bespoke coffins, which are increasingly popular. Karen also sources fleeces from local sheep farmers, spins and dyes the wool (with home-grown dyes) and uses it for felt making and knitting. Craft courses and apprenticeships are now available, and it is hoped that there will soon be accommodation available on site.
Everything that Naturally Useful makes is totally sustainable. Karen expressed a very strong commitment to her craft and also to its therapeutic benefits : “ My vision for Naturally Useful is to produce useful and beautiful products that will enliven folks’ homes and be pleasing to the soul. I feel it’s so important to keep these traditional craft skills alive. Especially as they have the extra power of bringing people close to nature by using the materials that grow a stone’s throw from folk’s back doors. I would very much like others from all walks of life to experience what I do when I make; tranquillity and peace of body, mind and spirit……
She illustrated her talk with a variety of artefacts – baskets, large and small, felt bags and a hat, exquisite hand dyed silk scarves, and greetings cards.
Find out more about Naturally Useful by visiting
in person at Marcassie Farm, Rafford, near Forres, IV 36 2RH