Fowlmere coffin supplier weaves his way to top industry award
- Credit: Archant
A Fowlmere coffin supplier singled out as a master of his trade this year is hoping to keep the craft alive.
Ever since working as a weaving tutor at Cambridge homeless charity, Winter Comfort, 51/2 years ago, Roger Fowle has been passionate about creating willow coffins.
Roger was made redundant 18 months ago due to the project not having enough social impact, and set up his own business in Fowlmere – the Baskets and Willow Coffins Studio at The Butts Business Centre.
In September the 56-year-old gained national recognition by bagging the Good Funeral Guide’s Eternal Slumber Award for coffin supplier of the year at a ceremony in Birmingham.
“I was delighted to accept this prestigious industry award,” he said.
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“I really enjoy my work as a basket maker and feel passionate about passing on my skills to people and keeping the ancient craft alive.
“I was teaching the homeless to weave willow coffins for four years, and was able to offer jobs and break the circle of homelessness.
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“Now my business has grown and I run willow workshops from my studio where members of the public can come and spend a day learning the craft of basket making.
“Family members come along and help weave a willow coffin for their loved ones.
“This is very popular at the moment, as my coffins are eco-friendly and many are used at woodland burial sites across the country.
“I have had parents come along and make baskets for their deceased children, and older folk with terminal illness have made their own coffins.”
Over the past 10 years Roger has become a member of the Basketmakers Association, the Hertfordshire Basketry Group and holds a City and Guilds in Creative Basketry.
He said: “I started basket making back in 2002, when my best friend Lian gave me a birthday present.
“It was a two-day workshop at the botanic gardens here in Cambridge with Mary Butcher – what an unusual present, so I went along with a very open mind.
“Well, I made an oval shopper with the wonderful material that had been gathered from the gardens, it was great fun and the beginning of something big in my life.
“In the weeks that followed I was out and about gathering my own stuff from the hedges, industrial estates and superstore car parks nearby.
“I would get mostly dogwoods and hazel and spent many hours working with these materials.”
For more information about Roger’s work visit www.weavermanbaskets.co.uk.