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!
Wishing everyone a hopeful January 1st, and a year that might begin with “a happy sound… Love!”
Remembering back, 6 years ago working with amazing young people, classes 1, 2 and 4 at Greenfields Community School, working together to weave a whole world. 80 triangles sawed & stuck & woven into a geodesic wonder. Four all too short afternoons spent making & thinking about this beautiful Earth and dreaming up new ways we can grow into the people ready to love it and each other.
Of course most of these young folks already knew how to do this without thinking at all… And we were schooled far more than they!
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.
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.
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
Another glimpse into the lime-tree-legacy being spread from the Meadows.
Giving thor a run for his money
The axe does the heavy work
The drawknife and the shave horse are a perfect combination
Future furniture makers!
Three finished stools
We worked with the Meadows Youth Club, introducing traditional hand skills & building beautiful stools from the wood felled for the tram works, filling the room knee deep in curled shavings. It was heartening to see the young folk’s suprise & delight at the quality of things they had made for themselves!
It’s not all woodwork here you know!
Looking back to this time last year, Martin spent a week in London, working with Groundwork London & young folks at Pembury Youth Centre in Hackney, who hoped to reduce their estate’s reliance on plastic bags.
Used bags were gathered from home, streets, shops and the tops of windblown trees, and a giant rustling troll took shape, ready to parade the streets. The drums beat their rhythm as the beast lumbered on, & youngsters gave out fabric bags they’d designed to residents as an alternative.
After a week of pure sunshine and stillness, the procession (and a scaled down monster, lest it blow clear away!) battled through gale force winds and freezing rain, with raised spirits non the less! In many ways that ugly stomping plastic creature changed our lives, we’ve a lot to thank him for (but that’s a story for another day)…
The young folks at Newtons Walk School worked hard this summer; designing, digging, sawing, hammering, fixing, building.
From a jungle of a school garden, has grown a circle of seating, a hide-away den, good friendship, teamwork, new skills, trust and pride. We’re certainly proud of them all for what they’ve done, and look forward to their ideas for what’s to come.