Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Da Clissett Crew in da Wood

After loosing my tented moonlit scribblings twixt the laundry basket and a week elsewhere, thinking I had found them and then once again hunting and praying that something resembling a fledgling blog entry would fall from an unwashed pocket, I will now attempt to decipher said precious scraps and recall the week of The Sculptural Seating Course...

I know it's a little late, but half the reason for my pause was because of the topics covered during this week which may need a little tact in explaining, plus an adult guidance certificate?

The first event on my arrival, was to serve up my shin as a five course meal for the midges. - In a very fetching diagonal stripe. Argghhh. Wet humid woodland weather this week. On the course we had some budding chair makers and a few sculptural bench makers. We only had four campers in the wood, two down the lane in a camper van and the others leaving us to it for the evenings.

It didn't even take one evening before Ian (on a return trip to Clissett) drew out (on paper that is) his new spankula design. The Flipmate 6000... for discipline on the go! Designed like a flick-knife for rapid action.

Also mentioned was the mini version, the 'Pursemate 600' (patent pending). Note the 'snaps out and locks' design and the worryingly bottom shaped trinket on a lanyard to hang out of your bodgers pocket, (it's a sign to those in the know). And no, I don't have one of those in case you were wondering!

As I was cooking on this 5 day course, I rustled together various previously unheard of recipes. The menu this week was bodgers stew, bodgers stir fry, bodgers fruity curry, bodgers roasted veggies with pasta bake, and a few rustic nutty salads thrown in for good measure. I love not doing the washing up...

So, with my free afternoons I turned to my bowl lathe for a good practice since only making one bowl previously on the Ben Orford course. Martin had given me some freshly cut eucalyptus which I had roughed into a few bowl blanks two days previously. Unfortunately (or not) during the seering heat the blanks had started to crack in the way eucalyptus does - all over the place! I must be more careful storing the logs..

But still I wanted to see how they would work out and made one bowl each afternoon. Getting progressively quicker and more aggressive until my elbow really ached. You can see on the left, my bowls 2, 3 and 4 in eucalyptus, next to a Robin Wood spalted beech bowl which John the fireman had brought out to show me.

No. 5 was a sweet little silver birch mushroom just prepared for turning. I keep joking that I only want to make teacups and saucers, but this was a really lovely shape to work. Bowl turning the silver birch was a bit of a furry event on the end grain and took some cleaning up with the knife afterwards, but I just loved the size and the lightness of it. On this day I finished early and headed off to British Camp on the Malverns in search of a cool breeze and a good view to paint.

Lastly this week was a monster deep bowl of poplar. A rather large knot appeared to be coming out of the bottom, not great for the tools I know, but I wanted to see if I could try a bowl with almost straight sides and about 3" deep. The poplar was the only piece of wood to hand deep enough to try this. Despite it being hard work because it wasn't even green, it's come up with very interesting and lovely colours - greys, golds, reds and makes a convincing small fruit bowl. Thanks to John Rees for making me a little hook knife at the wood to finish off the bowls. Very useful!

After showing a 'certain person' my efforts and them being called 'ugly', I am now launching my new range of Natures Ugly Bowls. These are quite simply the best thing in which to put your ugly fruit and veg. I rest my case. Other comments on the bowls go generally along the lines of 'it makes a good lampshade...or hat. Now the bodgers camping here had a little fashion show one evening, sporting my bowls on their heads with shavings as hair and other plank offcuts as head-garb in a modern catwalk look.

If someone has the photos, please send me some, we need to see this! The little silver birch bowl made an excellent fascinator. Here on the left you can see a cartoon of Ian sporting his bowl with a few alfalfa shavings coming out of the top. (He is also bending over the bench in a provocatively Pursemate 600 kind of way.)

So onto other matters... In da wood, der was de Clissett Crew, in-it.
An deeze were de campers gettin' up to de funny biz nez at nite. Wicked.

A rhyme from Ian goes:

I'm sittin' in da wood,
Workin' wit me travisher,
I see a liccle lady,
I tink I wanna ravish-'er.

Imagine on and on..luckily only travishing went on, apart from Ian's impersonations to keep us rolling around with laughter. My only regret is not being part of this photo.

 Here is a picture of Ian with his wonderful running legged ash bench. He made some metal staples to go across the split, and carved 'A Good Run of Ash' in the underside. Gudrun..get it? You could tell he was an actor when he returned from a beer-run on the last evening with bicardi breezers and stella served in a bucket of ice. Nice touch!

As well as making a substantial oak bench, and an excellent bolognaise, fireman John, who is used to making trinkets and masses of other craft things tried his hand at wood turning.. and oh dear what do you know, he made his wife a fertility dibber.

And had the ladies in a spin...

Whilst Dave made his wife Pauline a wife-beater.
All I can say is it must have been the hot weather!

END of PART 1.

Da Clissett Crew in da Wood ..part 2

This is Dave and Pauline who made two nice chairs between them.

Anneka made a little stool with wych elm bark seat as well as an unfortunate trip to A&E after poking herself in the eye pulling out a tenon. Ouch!

This week we also had a happy couple celebrating their 25th Wedding Anniversary, for which Jo (the cook) dressed the table in a traditional Portuguese style with ferns and woodland flowers.

Hanging above them she made a willow heart decorated with flowers too. Cake and gooseberry fool was eaten!

So lastly, a few snaps of the finished chairs and benches.
Colin with his very substantial ladder back and slatted seat chair.

Also Deborah one of the Clissett Wood owners made a hooped back windsor style chair.

Lastly here is a picture of my final bowls from the week, oiled up and fully warped. The eucalyptus is getting quite an orange glow about it now.

Thank you to such a great group on this course.
My ribs were aching from laughing too much!

Please email me if you have photos to share at

Fashion hat show, thanks to Anneke for the photos!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Springwatch Wild Day Out in Sandwell Valley

Yesterday I enjoyed a busy day in the Black Country demonstrating the pole lathe and 'have a go' sessions at the Springwatch Wild Day Out in Sandwell Valley. The purpose of the day was to promote biodiversity through a range of 'hands-on' nature based activities to people of all ages. It was very busy all day on my stand with 2 lathes going and 2 shave horses on hand. Quite a few kids came back for a second go after walking around the site.

Organized by Sandwell MBC, BBC and Natural
England, we had Larry Jones making hazel hurdles, Tamzin making willow weaving, Jo Callaghan doing art with the kids inspired by nature, Granville Reeves making besoms, Dave Jackson making Gypsy Flowers, Peter Harmer chainsaw carving, Doug Joiner with heavy horses, Sherwood Keogh making cleft Oak fencing, gates and hurdles. Jacqui Parkes with her milking and cheesemaking demo, Toby Allen and Aly May with their vintage pailing machine, then me on the pole lathes. Around the outside of the site were marquees with local nature groups and activities to encourage and inspire the public to get involved.

 Here are a few snaps from the day!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Greenwood Trading

Quite a while ago I painted a picture in the woods, it was a kind of impressionistic woodland scene with long time volunteer at Clissett Wood, Kean in the distance working away. He liked it so much he asked if he could have it. 'Sure', I said and gave it to him. Kean though, was not willing to accept the painting for free, so I suggested doing a greenwood trade. 

"Think of something I could do for you Liz", he said, and I suggested he make me a nice cooks spatula because I've used many of his lovely spatulas in the Clissett Wood kitchen.

So Saturday we both happened to be at the wood and low and behold he had made me something ;-))
- or two things in fact. A cooks spatula and spoon!

Made from the two halves of a cherry log from a tree cut down in Herefordshire this May 2010. I have to say that I was really gobsmacked at how lovely they are. Thankyou so much Kean they are really beautiful!!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Staffordshire County Show 2 & 3rd June 2010

I went along to the midweek Staffordshire County Show on Wednesday and Thursday to help Gudrun Leitz on the pole lathes and learn the ropes for 'demonstrating', in preparation for my first gig at the Springwatch Big Day Out in Sandwell. I was slightly apprehensive about dealing with the public, but I've been told numerous times that 'I'm good with people' whatever that means! ha ha! This is such a great show for the greenwood workers because unlike any other shows we are actually in the woods and not in a field.

The Woodfest section of the Staffs County Show is located in Lower Berry Wood at the edge of the Country Pursuits arena. It is owned by the Staffordshire & Birmingham Agricultural Society. The wood is managed during the two days of the County Show and if you visit the wood during the show you will be able to see how management is helping to restore this beautiful wood.

The shady coolness of the woods was also welcome relief from the blazing sunshine and bussle of the market stalls...that is until Pete Harmer starts his chainsaw carving demo up. 'Is it a pig, a bear, or hippo', I ask? 'Depending on whether it goes to plan, it should be a pig', says Pete.

Next down the track was Paul Morton, busy making a bothy - an old charcoal burners hut. This structure had a drystone base and long chestnut poles forming a cone shaped roof. Later the roof would be covered with pine brash and sods of earth. The bothies were dark and gave only basic shelter from the weather, and not much comfort. Here you can see a budding greenwood worker having a go at shaving the bark off the chestnut poles with a draw knife. A small drum of charcoal was being made as part of the demonstrations.

Along the track we came across Sherwood Keogh giving cleaving demonstrations. Oak is cleft for fencing, gates and hurdles. This highly skilled and hard work produces the strongest and most durable timber.  

Take a look at Sherwoods cleaving breaks, I particularly liked the moveable tripod design on the right for lighter cleaving work.

The trees felled each day at Lower Berry Wood, are extracted by horse and taken to the woodmeiser where Matthew Joiner was demonstrating. This professional mobile saw mill planks and beams the trees felled into useful timber which is then used to make bird and bat boxes as well as picnic benches in the wood.

Activities for younger children included making 'Harry Potter' besom brooms with Amy Brickhill. ( I saw a few witches flying around the woods...) Then also art inspired by nature with Jo Callaghan - making leaf collages, rubbings and painted sticks. Messy but great fun as Jo always drags me over to have a go!

Gudrun's pole lathe and shave horse 'have a go' sessions were busy all day, where I helped out.

Opposite the pole lathes was Clog maker Jeremy Atkinson making traditional wooden soled and leather clogs. He is apparently Britain's last remaining clog maker.  At the Staffs show, he was making clog soles from fresh cherry, and people stood around fascinated watching him.

During my chat with Jeremy, Lyndsay who had ordered a pair of clogs the previous year, came back to have them fitted. She presented the clogs back to Jeremy saying she was feeling guilty she had left it so long to have them fitted and was also not 100% sure she could do it herself successfully despite Jeremy's written instructions on the clog itself. 

 Take a look at the fitting instructions, I just had to get a picture of this! You don't get fitting like this is a high street shop! (You may have to click on the picture to read the text.)

It reads, "Dear Lindsey, please try each of these on in turn with your heel against the leather, draw round your foot so that the line you draw falls vertically below the edge of your foot. You'll need to angle the biro inward to acheive this *. Then pull over the thread and tie off to get your arch height. Also mark any point underfoot which is uncomfortable and return!"

This is Lyndsey having her clogs fitted - measuring the height of the arch, checking for comfort, then deciding on which leather upper she wanted. Lyndsey said her friends thought she was crazy spending £150 on a pair of clogs, then she went on to say how 3 of them had just spent £50 each on a pair of flip flops which would last a summer at most.

Lyndsey started saving up by putting money in a shoe every day...unfortunately she started dipping into her clog fund and now has to save up again to have them finished off.

Jeremy just had a customer from 15 years ago bring back a pair of clogs for repair. He said "I make them to last, which means they cost more to make. It's harder for me to earn a living that way, because they last so long, but that's the way it should be". Hopefully we'll see Lyndsey in her new clogs by the end of the year.

Further up the track was Owen Jones,  one of only two professional oak swill basket makers in the country. Oak swills are traditional, beautiful and very strong. You can sit and talk to Owen for hours while he makes the baskets at a rate of 2 or 3 large baskets a day. He is just one of those thoroughly interesting crafts people.

 Lastly Doug Joiner and his apprentice Richard were working the heavy horses in the wood. Chain harrowing and rolling bracken, felling and hauling timber to the woodmeiser. 

Lovely to see everyone having such a nice time at the show, and all of the Woodfest section was organised by Doug Joiner - well worth a visit next year!