Around a scratched and gouged workbench a group of Syrian men (and one notable Iraqi) came together to share skills, songs, stories, and to make a woodcarving.
For some, this was a chance to reconnect with old tools that they knew so well from home, to share their exquisite talent & joy in making. Others, just learning the craft, expressed something powerful without having to speak a word. Textures etched in wood grain, our common language.
Although we didn’t know it when we began, this sculpture grew at each mallet blow, chip by chip, evolving until the end into a symbol of home, of places left behind, & what is important to carry with you and remember.
Contained in the beautiful, ornate frame, like a mirror this artwork reflects history, and hope for the future.
Pictures from last months relief carving class. Warm light, playing over subtle tactile traces, left as our students stripped away whatever wood wasn’t necessary for telling their own creation stories: Tales that sometimes shifted in the making/telling. Watching the tools move over the wood, skillfully revealing a little more of these beautiful designs each moment was as special and surprising as seeing the tide recede from an unknown and sunken treasure- it was there all along but who knew!
A more sedentary, contemplative craft than some, but no less demanding – changing angles, shifting grain, ambidexterity, staying sharp, sitting at the bench all day can be exhausting!
For folks who have joined us for the relief carving class, we’ll be starting regular weekend/after work sessions to give space to develop skills and work independently.
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!
Each year for the past ten nearly, our city has picked a cold dark night in February to get enlightened! We tried to do our little bit, along with some amazing artists and makers all across the town. The streets were full of puppets, glowing sculpture and interactive illumination. Our new studio windows proved a perfect canvas for some spontaneous shadow play… Ideas are sparking for next time…
If things have been quiet here lately, it’s because we’ve been slowly, ever so slowly climbing out of an old skin, and settling into a new one. For the past 10 years we have been working and dreaming out of this half-fossilised concretion of a shed, like hermit crabs: Scuttling off to collect, make, visit, play, but always returning to shell-safety.
Sitting at the end of the long garden, behind 2 old cherry trees, an interloper fig & shaded by a sword of Damocles apple (double edged): Each year we harvested a bumper crop & the roof gained a few new holes, Sir Issac could have proved gravity’s law 10 times over if he’d been mulling on the problem under this monster Bramley.
This place was a nest, where anyone might feel enclosed in magical creative posibility – an unwitting prototype… We shared our creative space with joy & grief both, making cradle & grave. Joined by wild ivy, several generations of human friends, several generations of robins, wrens & one bold-as-brass mouse. Spiders like black stars in clusters too many to count. Strange now to see it empty, when it had been so full. To still feel the fullness & to carry it somewhere else.
Oh Shed! We love you, we miss you. Never to be be replaced. You will live again!
As part of Welbeck School’s Children’s University project we were asked to give some aspiring students the experience of woodwork.
No one imagined that the wood in question would be enormous, raw trunks of willow, birch and oak tree, with bark, twigs & leaves still attached. Undaunted our charges took to splitting, chopping, drilling, shaving, smoothing and shaping by hand, with tools older than all of our combined ages.
After a few afternoons these gorgeous, tactile objects emerged, and those brave enough tested the strength and geometry of the joints in the only way that counts. It was so good to see parents, teachers and the other children gather around to marvel.
It’s possible that once these beautiful stools make it home, to be treasured, the glowing, burnished surfaces will be painted fluorescent orange, green with yellow spots, but that is entirely as it should be!
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.