We had amazing clear dry weather for this three day course organised by the Scottish Basket Makers Circle. We even worked in t-shirts for some of the time. We were building onto an existing living willow structure in the local Primary School, a small dome that had got rather thin at the base and with most of the growth from the top. The design was a group decision with the main aims being to enhance the play value and provide an outdoor classroom that could also be used for storytelling and performances. Living towers and arches were added either side along with two smaller domes or “pods” and then diagonal living trellis and and two more towers. We left pathways between the different elements so children could move in and out in different ways. So quite an ambitious job but finished on time and with some willow to spare. Hopefully the structure will be maintained by the school and ideally a good load of chipped bark to mulch around the living willow components.
The second course was run by Jenny Crisp who had come up from Herefordshire to teach her very precise and individual style of making. She brought along some fabulous baskets for sale and I just had to buy one ! Her new course list for 2016 is out now www.jennycrisp.co.uk
I am currently working on some new ideas for Adirondack chairs. At the moment I am working at the Autumn Cornucopia Festival at White House Farm Great Glemham. the festival runs until the 4th October and there is some great work on show, excellent chairs, tables and seating. They also have a great collection of Suffolk ball back chairs, so it is well worth a visit with a great cafe.
Having met Sharon McMullin, a stained glass worker and seen her great work, I really loved the acid etchings of animals, I was inspired to try some glass in a chair back, see what you think
I am having a clear out and have a spare Yurt frame for sale. It dates back to the days when I was running Woodland Craft Supplies and going to lots of shows. It is approximately 13′ in diameter and has an extra wide doorway so it is easy for people to see in and go in and out. It is made in ash apart from the door frame which is Elm. The roof poles have square mortices to resist twisting. I dont have any covers but you could soon sew some ! Give me an email if you are interested.
I am working on a series of stools in a modern rustic style. Finding some good, straight grained ash has been a real challenge and generally by the time the timber has got to the sawmillers it is too dry and too expensive ! I have found some nylon webbing on ebay which comes in some great colours and is immensely strong, ideally I would love to use Shaker tape but it works out as too expensive for a simple stool.
Here is a similar stool, also in ash but this one has an Irish style woven seat. It is very quick an easy to weave and smells great. I am pretty sure it is hemp which I bought years ago and kept in stock. The only down side is the weight of the rope, maybe there are some lighter ropes and cords out there ?
It is less than a month to the European Woodworking Show and if you havent been before it is a great event with a good mix of demos and trade stands. It is a great venue with easy parking and some good food stalls. For the first time I will be demonstrating at the show with the focus on making rustic furniture using roundwood and maybe some cleft chairs and stools. I will be using modern Veritas tenon cutters to make strong and simple round mortice and tenons and traditional tools such as drawknives and spokeshaves.
This week I had a great time leading a small group making a clay Pizza oven. On the first day we built the base using bricks from a dismantled storage heater and then made a former from sand about 12″ high and covered it with wet newspaper. After mixing the clay with sand and grass we then carefully built the dome over the sand former, adding a chimney and door arch. We left it for a couple of days to dry and then cut out the doorway and scooped out the sand. We lit a fire and carefully fed this with small sticks for the next couple of hours. Unfortunately I had mistimed the drying out and hunger forced us to cook the excellent Pizza that Chris and the team had prepared in the house oven ! In an ideal world it would be best to fire the oven until it is completely dry and then the next day fire again for cooking as the drying out process takes alot of time and heat.
Firing underway, I forgot to say that we had a great time sculpting the kiln and building the chimney. If you would like a clay pizza / bread oven built or would like a course please get in touch.
It was a really interesting weekend and a good chance to make contact with local people and groups. There was alot of interest in my large scale, sculptural willow fences and it would be great to be commissioned to make one in Suffolk. I was also given some great wood for woodturning, thanks Ray. So my first Open Studios was definitely worth doing and I am looking forward to opening longer next year.
I have been making a series of Adirondack chairs as I love the style and comfort. They also look great as a sculptural object in the garden and improve with age. I sell them either treated or untreated and have found a really great organic stain from Osmo. It is translucent so you can still see the grain but seems very water repellent. This picture shows an untreated chair in Pine but they are also available in Scottish Larch.
It is Suffolk Open Studios soon and I will be opening on 13 & 14th of June. I have been looking forward to it and have busy making some new work, wind toys or maybe I should call them wind vanes. Its a project thats been in the back of my mind for quite a few years and this month I decided to make some workshop time and in the process learning lots about propellor theory. I hope you enjoy them !
I have just completed a willow bower that will be used as a prop at the Byre Theatre in St. Andrews. The design was based on bowers made for the “Snowdrops by Starlight” event at Cambo Estate where they were used as play houses for children. However this one was commissioned to hold a Pagan Idol for a play by Gluck on the 17 & 18th of June.
They are great as play houses in the garden and being quite small and light can be moved around easily. They are available to order, get in touch if you would like one !