Starting with a firm place to stand, a still point from which to safely swing an axe, the fulcrum from which to move the Earth. Carving it into new, more fitting shapes.
Ending with dog-tired, aching bodies and with a better place to sit and rest, to sit and contemplate, to sit and tell stories. To sit, and share, content and laughing. Each finished stool will return to a home that will be enriched because it was made by hand, because it will last, because the skills learned will be passed on, in one way or another.
And all this held beautifully (parents, children, makers, learners, visitors, watchers) inside our new workshop. Thankyou rain, for nudging us nervously into trusting this space!
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.
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’…
For the last couple of years as well as a weekly drawing lesson, we’ve been introducing the folks at Nottingham Mencap to the joys of working with wood. Building our skills together, cutting straight to the line, measuring success in beaming smiles & sweat on the brow.
Finished relief carvings
Staining the wood
Ready for treasure
Nailing the sides
Brian shaping the puppet
It’s jsut a beginning, but already weve seen beautiful treasure boxes, created characterful dancing marrionettes & rod puppets, and excelled at relief carving. It’s been such fun being with people who have such strong ideas, and a will to learn & make them real, to work with laughter always in the room. Lets hope the sawdust never settles.
From the tranquility, and zen-like concentration of relief carving on Saturday, to the explosive and unpredictable creativity of Family Making on Sunday. Our weekend at the Learning Land was a time of opposites, the textures, & the temperaments.
It was a delight to watch these beautiful carvings emerge from the wood. Sinuous curves, precise lines & hard edges, the subtle textures only glimpsed when the light falls just so, but that felt so good to run your hand over.
On Sunday families imagined and built together: A tank with turning turret, a podium for a posing rabbit, a hayloft, ladder and hurdles, a real bow and arrows. Later, wild whittling warriors battled amongst the trees, and we all took turns to pause & quietly sit on the suprisingly comfortable meditation stool. Ah, full circle.
A trio of spoons whittled and hewed, from trunk to tableware, in just one day. One Goliath and two Davids, ash & honey locust sawn & split, crazy sapwood scent of fresh bread dough!
A trio of makers learning, not only how to make a spoon, but the skills to work with wood, to follow grain, to safely shape with sharp axe & refine with a blade, how best to hold and make use of a knife to create something unique and useful. Nothing so simple, or so demanding of complete attention!
A gorgeous, sun kissed Saturday spent on the Learning Land. Thank you all.
We can lay another myth to rest too, the folly that says that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, or that younger ones don’t want to interact with anything unless it flickers and yells from behind a glass screen.
Yesterday was an exhausting, exhilarating experiment. Our first day Family Making on the learning land. We didn’t quite know what to expect, no rules, anything might have been possible. And it turned out that way!
A comprehensive catalogue of things made:
1 unicorn with rainbow mane (fully ridable)
3 rustic stools
2 mallets and 1 almost marking gauge
Half a motorbike
A whole rabbit playground (with ramp and tunnel)
3 juggling clubs (or bludgeons depending on which way the light falls)
An assortment of coloured nailed pictures and sculptures.
An incomplete list of beautiful happenings:
3 generations working together
Making a tool from scratch, then using that tool to make something else!
Parent and child sharing skills and time together
Children guiding adults
Families supporting each other, taking joy in each others creations
Young people using sharp “grown up” tools, carefully, safely and with skill
The land holding us all
Sounds: Talk, trees, tools, birds and quiet
Suprise & delight at unknown abilities
And only a couple of plasters on fingers!
We’re looking forward to seeing what happens next time