Monday morning didn’t feel quite right somehow.
Last week we spent a wonderful 5 days in the company of Haydn who chose to do his work experience with us. So engaged and commited was he, that we almost wonder what we’ll do without him.
During the week, he worked so hard, and all over the place – learning that work doesn’t have to happen under strip lights, that it can include laughter and friends, and sometimes that it’s difficult to tell where work ends and play begins. We’re both so glad he’s taken that away with him (along with a few scrapes!)
At the end of Friday we sat down to try to cram a list of all that he’d done into a tiny box, on his school paperwork – he mused that it’d be easier to say what he hadn’t done… he gently supported others to make in day centres, schools & childrens homes, and he found time to make for himself, visited a saw mill, filmed, photographed, animated, hefted, stickered, carved, whittled, sawed, chopped. Time to go back to school for a rest!
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.
Brian shaping the puppet
Finished relief carvings
Ready for treasure
Nailing the sides
Staining the wood
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
In last night’s episode the healing concoction was ground and stewed in the carved mortar and pestle made by Martin. Only one bowl featured, but we were asked to make duplicates, suitably aged and dirtied, as it was due to be cast down onto the floor, incase of breakages. The vagaries of script and editing knife conspired to keep the props from being featured too heavily, but it was a super-fun project, and in the process of diligent research we became more than mildy addicted to the show!
Another glimpse into the lime-tree-legacy being spread from the Meadows.
Three finished stools
The axe does the heavy work
Giving thor a run for his money
The drawknife and the shave horse are a perfect combination
Future furniture makers!
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!
While we’re on the subject of stools, here are some splendid seats carved lovingly in the Meadows at the end of last year.
The stools tell the stories of the hands that made them; each one a unique piece of furniture. They also add a new chapter to the lives of the 150 year old old trees that were cut down for tram works in the area.
The centenarian limes, former inhabitants of the Meadows, have been worked with sharp tools, careful guidance, and plenty of enthusiasm.
Pat, at The Meadows Art Gallery, along with local residents, rescued the trees from the chipper and moved them appropriatley enough to the derelict site of a former old peoples home. She’s responsible for this project (and many more) using this beautiful wood.
Four legs good, two legs bad, three legs better! With apologies to George Orwell.
It was wonderful to be back on the Learning Land this past weekend, in the warm & hazy sunshine, the day so still that the smoke from the fire rose in a perfect column (apart from when we sat down to eat of course!)
Working this way, gently by hand, it’s the clarity of sound that resonates – fibres cracking as the wood splits, trancing-out to complex axe rhythms, creak and groan of straining shave-horses, all the birds joining in the purposeful music of making. Many thanks to our friendly and entheusuastic group of builders for making the day such a joy.
Only wish we’d got a proper picture of Des juggling his legs!
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)…