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Friendship version 1.0

This was first published a couple of years ago, not long before many many things changed. It’s here now, as a record of where we thought we might be heading, a signpost that shows a way, almost-but-not-quite the right direction, a reminder of the optimism that’s still going to nudge us a whisker closer to true north (wherever that may be). There’s a seed here, or maybe even a little sapling , that with a little care and some pruning of all the flowery verbiage might keep growing if we can dare to ask for some help.

Thank you too everyone who has supported us to get to here, or otherwise been part of the journey so far: friends new and old, visitors, people coming here to learn something and teaching so much, email senders, wall scrawlers, dancers, drinkers, tinkers, zoomers, people who might have forgotten they helped us, people who suspect we’ve forgotten them…

Be in touch if there’s something you think we can do for you… And we’ll hope to see you shortly.

We’re building a space to Make things Better, where anyone can connect with their everyday creativity. Your help is all we need. Please consider extending the hand or friendship with a regualr monthly donation.

We’re reaching out to the people who already know & use & understand this place: You! We’re so grateful that you’re interested enough to learn a little more about how you can be a friend.

A monthly donation; as much or as little as you feel able to give, may

  • Enable subsidised places on our workshops for those who are less able to afford time here.
  • Allow therapeutic sessions at fair prices for those who need support.
  • Be a radical alternative to centralised, restrictive or bureaucratic public funding.
  • Model a system of communal self-reliance & resilience.
  • Help us to keep our prices lower.
  • Make unimaginable things possible (that we or you haven’t dreamed up yet).
  • Put simply, make all the difference in continuing to create & hold an inspirational space that anyone might call in to, to talk things over, sit by the fire, share tea, slow down & make their way.

What you’ll give

Walking through the door here, we hope might feel like coming to sit in the shade of your favourite tree: somewhere to feel sheltered, to feel inspired, to meet, to play, to slow down and notice something.

It feels like this place wants to grow, to go… Boom! & bloom into something more beautiful… By making a regular donation you’ll help make this happen! Your support is the deep root that keeps the tree growing & weathering the storm. We’d love to open up the space in new ways for everyone to do their own thing, to keep learning & playing & making into the evenings, to invite more music, dance, performance, poetry & exhibitions in, to feel free to try new approaches & take a few more chances.

You may be familiar with some of our workshops & public projects, but the greater part of what we do is invisible (& often necessarily more private too) – spending time with communities who feel excluded, marginalised or vulnerable, whether for reasons of physical or mental health, age, ethnicity, gender, disability or any other reason: People who have experienced war, people without homes, refugees, looked-after children, those who are bereaved or… 

Most often this work is what happens intangibly inside ourselves & the folk that spend time here. It could look like quietly sittin, listening, or painting & drawing feelings out onto paper. It might look like learning skills & carving wood (it often looks this way), or holding hands, making coffee, planting a garden, weaving a story, stumbling along in the song & dance that animates the world. It’s all sorts, and a bit more…

We’re asking for your help, because we believe that the more financial support we receive from the generous community around us, the more time we’ll be empowered to give, the more energy we will be able to devote to openening up, and the more accessible & sustainable we can make this work.

You will in short, be giving this place, this idea, a future.

What you’ll get

If you’re someone who likes what we do & you feel moved to make a contribution, please know that every donation, however seemingly small, will directly support exciting projects & opportunities for everyone. You’ll be keeping the space alive & growing in whatever new directions it will.

We invite you to build a community of care around this place, a circle of friends who can share this workshop with us and who might feel empowered to help to shape it in surprising ways.

You will get to drop in and make something while we’re open, we can sharpen tools and minds together. We’re here to listen, to answer questions, to advise and guide, to share as much as possible.

Our library is full of inspirational and instructional books new, old & rare – ranging in subject matter from the mundane to esotieric, ceremonial masks, to window joinery: It is here for you to treat as your own.

At this time the most meaningful privilege that we can offer to you is our deep, heartfelt gratitude, knowing that this would truly be impossible without you. We’d love to host an annual party at the workshop for our monthly supporters & as time goes by we hope to offer other more tangible rewards. For now, we hope that the altruistic sense of supporting this space is enough – to us it feels like everything!

If you are unable or unwilling to use paypal but still want to give, then just be in touch.

Please note that our organisation is not a charity, a limited company or legally incorporated in any way other than as a Sole Trader. This is a family owned and operated business with the sole aims of supporting our family and our community, by making art & making things better! The less organisational, financial & contractual machinery that exists around our business the more time & profit can be given to the work. Additional disclaimer!: We know that human beings change, that the world grows and evolves – there is no guarantee that in 10 years time (or tomorrow) this place, ourselves, you or anything else will be the same – we reserve the right to spontaneously transform into something else, (and so should you if you want to) and accept that you may or may not want to support us in the future. Please feel free to change your mind and follow the tug of your gut with this.

Shedding Something

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 seen on TV…

Just off camera to the left! Blink and you’ll miss it.

The commission to create not one, but a trio, of identical drinking bowls arrived shortly before Christmas; A present perhaps? A set of three as a gift?

No, props for CBBC’s fourth series of Wolfblood!

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!


More Meadows

Another glimpse into the lime-tree-legacy being spread from the Meadows.

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!

Stools with a story

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.

Three legs better

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!



Plastic (not) Fantastic

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)…

Getting some relief

A wonderful day spent this weekend with talented members from the Rufford Arts Society, all relative newcomers to the craft. Precise mallet blows resounding regular as clockwork resulted in some beautiful, tactile and ambitious relief carvings. I came away inspired too, by the willingness to experiment, general fearlessness and good humour! Even their practice peices turned into wortks of art.

Wonderful day, great tutor, great tools and materials -Loved it! Hope we can do another day…

Can’t wait for spring!

When we’ll be back out on the Learning Land at the Iona School. Each month there’ll be another opportunity to learn, to make, to shape & create with wood.  Follow the links to find out more about making a stool, shaping a beautiful spoon, & creating your own decorative wood carving, or download the PDF. Book right here online, or get in touch.

Iona Poster web