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Still Open Hearted

But closed to the public.

We trust that if you are reading this you are safe and well.

Opening and closing, hopefully more like a petal than a portcullis! In, and out, like breathing. Up and down, left and right – two hands trying to juggle axes, coming together to pray for some healing, reaching wide for a crazy air-hug.

The physical doors to the workshop are closed for now, but maybe there’s a a window or two still open.

We feel so fortunate to have had your support over the past couple of years, and still hope to grow with you in future. For now we’re focussing on things close at hand, on art, on feelings, alternately confused, removed, elated and grateful. We’re cleaning up, sweeping the floor (never ends), struggling, giggling, building boats, drawing and painting, playing in the sawdust and the garden. Not so different, but things are changing.

We still have something to give

Making anything right now is a radical act in defiance of fear: making something however simple seeming – baking bread, making the bed; making art or a garden; a stiff drink or your mind up. It’s time to get creative and figure out how to keep our fingers busy, hearts full and souls satisfied. Time to roll sleeves up and get those hands dirty (as long as you wash ’em before and afterwards!)

Finding ways to continue connections and sustain friendship feels so important, we’re glad that you’re a part of our community. Whatever comes next we have to make it together.
Even if we can’t be with you here there are things that we’d like to share.

  • There are tools at the workshop waiting for hands to use them. We’ll be glad to see shavehorses, benchhooks, chopping blocks, mallets and whittling tools loaned out to good homes, keeping folk crafting.
  • We were so lucky to recieve a lot of wood before the doors closed, we’d love to see it go out to people who can use it. Let us know if you’d like a delivery of fresh green cherry, birch, whitebeam or oak.
  • There are books in the library that could keep you busy learning something new over the next weeks and months.
  • We’re working online too, hosting a shared space to chip away at whatever you feel like. Making a place to talk, weep, dance, laugh while we carve something beautiful together.
    Fridays are a good time to try, if someone is in the studio then you are virtually welcome to sit and have a cuppa, what’s on your mind?
    Meeting ID: 929 853 8766 Password: RedThumb

The monthly Spoon Moot carving sessions will be going weekly from now on, every Friday from 6-8pm, partnering with the kind folk at Rise Up And Carve. Just install the Zoom app on whatever device you choose (or log in via the web) and follow the link below to join in. There’s an amazing community of carvers from all over the world, and the meeting room is always open, even when we’re not there.  Meeting ID: 529 157 0928 Password: 671121

Look after yourselves and those you are with, just take care. Assuming we’re still here when the world rights itself (we intend to be, but we’re making peace with all possibilities!) then welcome back whenever!

Keep well, stay in touch, with love, Martin Carly and family.

Mr Ainsworth’s Odyssey

Over the last few months there has been a veritable procession of photographers & film makers visiting the studio, hoping to capture something tangible among the woodchips.
These beautiful pictures were taken by Barry Ainswoth as part of an ever lengthening journey he is undertaking around the country, recording small, creative workspaces: Documenting forgotten, endangered or marginalised skills, crafts and makers.
It’s strange to be on the receiving end of this kind of attention (we used to make films for other people) getting this other view is so valuable, lets us step back and pretend it’s someone else, to think ‘that looks fun’.
Using only natural light, it’s wonderful to see the studio in a totally different way, shifted sideways, reversed and reflected back – it looks better than real – more like the dreamings we had before moving in… It’s also amazing to look back at how much has already changed since these pictures were taken & how much more there is to do! Reminds us why our backs are aching.
See more of Barry’s work here

Chasing After Mastery

Just taking time to remember another beautiful weekend carving spoons with a keen cohort of fresh whittlers.

We so love witnessing the way people’s appreciation of their own abilities shifts and changes over the day: Invariably when folk pause for a moment, look up from intense concentration and realise that somehow a curved, smooth spoon shaped object has emerged butterfly-like out of it’s rough branch cocoon, there’s a kind of disbelief, sometimes an audible yelp of delight and surprise!

These moments happen over and over, each time a deeper feeling that we are capable of more than we know, that skill creeps up and pounces on us, but we have to chase after mastery.

A Radical Act

Once the din of axes had subsided, surrounded by fresh heaps of wood chips, the sound of birdsong and the quiet curling of fine shavings from the knife, thoughts of the ordinary world were mere memory & talk turned philosophical…

The simple contentment that comes from slowing down and making something functional, beautiful & tactile, with your own hands, moving towards mastery of unfamiliar tools (and autonomy & responsibility in life), working with living material… Creating a unique object, made to last: Carving a spoon is a radical act.

Doing all this in such good company, held by this beautiful land: Positively revolutionary!


Last week saw us visiting Gresley woods down in Derbyshire, a lovely young woodland, slowly healing the scar of an open cast coal mine.

The site is brimming with ash, oak, birch, hazel and alder, which we used with local families to make wooden toys, while beautiful fairy houses were built in the meadow behind us.

As ever the joy is in the wild, spontaneous creativity: A whole world springs from the nimble fingers of these natural-born-makers; Pigs, dogs, mice, cars, tractors, stools, swords, giant spinning tops & snails, to name but a few…

It was joyous to witness families making together, long legs crouched in the grass, backs bent low over kneehigh workbenches, children leading the way, chalkboard sketches coming to life.