Once the din of axes had subsided, surrounded by fresh heaps of wood chips, the sound of birdsong and the quiet curling of fine shavings from the knife, thoughts of the ordinary world were mere memory & talk turned philosophical…
Finding the shape
The simple contentment that comes from slowing down and making something functional, beautiful & tactile, with your own hands, moving towards mastery of unfamiliar tools (and autonomy & responsibility in life), working with living material… Creating a unique object, made to last: Carving a spoon is a radical act.
Doing all this in such good company, held by this beautiful land: Positively revolutionary!
Beautiful work this past weekend, creating simple seats, from cleft wood, growing as dear trees that defined our horizon only weeks ago. A giant ash that has already defied many attempts to bring it to the ground judging by the twisted, scarred and buckling trunk & silver birch half a century old or more, battleground for local crows & magpies. Felled by our neighbours in the church then sawn, split and transformed into perches of a different order, A Goliath and two Davids, given a second life by three meticulous makers: Shaping perfectly fitting joints, flowing forms with skill and uncommon sensitivity.
Remembering friends gathered by a well fed fire. Kettle boiling constantly, whistling a wedding march.
It was a beautiful way to spend a December day, a privilege for our family to join in the Nag Do (not a stag do) celebrations before Jeff and Jo’s wedding.
Over the day rough cherry logs were split, carved and shaped into a fine fleet of drinking vessels. One like a sleek ship, ready to set sail, another delicately carved with five finger hollows, to perfectly fit the maker. Others, rough hewn giants, deep bowls – all the better for the generous whiskey measures that seasoned the wood (and our livers) as the tools and sun went down.
We interrupt this broadcast for some mild metaphysical musings…
Wrangling with the tangling of the warp and weft of the universe. Beginning the day in a mood that felt something like this:
What to do? Spring is here apparently so some cleaning is in order, inside and out.
A few choice pieces of ash, crabapple and cherry from the firewood pile, swiftly turned into a tower of spindles. Liquid ribbons billowing from the wet wood like spider silk. The mind unwinds and muses on the Fates, those weyward sisters creating the cloth of our lives, and somehow after a few hours at the lathe, bobbins all wound & the whirling stilled, a kind of order emerges out of the chaos. A better place to start weaving a new tapestry.
On Sunday it felt as though the world had run right past spring and into summer without stopping or looking back. The air was so warm, but the acid green hawthorn leaves, cherry blossom and bluebells coming through planted us firmly in the season.
Carving spoons is a wonderful way to connect with the here & now: You have to be totally aware of your body, the tools, the wood, the form you are trying to find or imagine out of the tree…
It is always a special moment to notice the changing quality of sound – the heavy drumming of axes slowly giving way as the almost silent, meditative work of whittling away everything that isn’t spoon commences. If the birdsong weren’t so clear and lovely, & the woodchips so deep on the ground you could have heard a pin drop.
It was a real gift to be able to share time with Simon (already an accomplished whittler by any measure) and a glad company of his friends and family. May these spoons serve you well, either in the cooking, eating or as a reminder of spring’s inspiration.
After looking at the work of M C Escher, Fiona at Mencap was inspired to make these two wonderful woodcut memento mori.
Carving into the smooth limewood was a challenge at first, getting the right angle, shifting weight & muscle, but by the final cut Fiona was nimble and expressive with the tools, even surprising herself. She produced a small run of 4 prints each – SkellyWeg, and The Flower of Love! Now there’s a tale-in-the-making…
We’re hoping to run some woodcut printmaking courses in the New Year, so look out.
Two words that describe an intensely physical day, working in what must have been the warmest room at Lakeside Arts Centre (was it our relentless energy or the muggy weather?) with attentive makers, turning a recalcitrant tree or two into 8 beautiful stools (give or take).
Wonderful. Hard work, handful of blisters, but so rewarding!
Struggling to split stringy acacia wood, & iron-hard maple, revealing the beauty of weather-beaten pine and patterned lime – meeting the challenge of each twist in the grain, and listening through our fingertips to hear what the tools and trees whisper to us. Finally, shimmering smooth surfaces emerge from underneath wet bark.
Not enough time or thought left at the end of the day to get good photographs of the finished articles! If you were there it’d be great to get a picture of your work out ‘in the wild’…
Last week saw us visiting Gresley woods down in Derbyshire, a lovely young woodland, slowly healing the scar of an open cast coal mine.
The site is brimming with ash, oak, birch, hazel and alder, which we used with local families to make wooden toys, while beautiful fairy houses were built in the meadow behind us.
As ever the joy is in the wild, spontaneous creativity: A whole world springs from the nimble fingers of these natural-born-makers; Pigs, dogs, mice, cars, tractors, stools, swords, giant spinning tops & snails, to name but a few…
It was joyous to witness families making together, long legs crouched in the grass, backs bent low over kneehigh workbenches, children leading the way, chalkboard sketches coming to life.
It’s not made from a tree… although it is about a tree!
As part of Year 5 & 6 pupils at Welbeck Primary School in Nottingham, got a taste of what it might be like to apply to & learn on a university degree. Pupils studied engineering, sport science, nutrition, computer science and over 5 afternoons did a crash-course five taster in film and animation.
Starting with the idea of making a talking tree, the students invented this little tale of the passage of the seasons, turning their hands to set making, character design, sound recording, scripting, editing, and tried out all sorts of stop-motion techniques, including using plasticine models, multi-plane, shadows, and drawing.
We’ve a bit of history at this school, for a small sampling see here.