Tuesday, 20 July 2010

More Chair Making Successes

Last week saw the second full 'Make A Chair From A Tree' five-day course and I think I can say for sure that a great time was had by all.  And, in contrast to the last time we ran this one, we finished all 10 of the chairs just a couple of hours after 5.00 on Friday, a big improvement!  It was all quite (nicely) emotional at the end, with some justifiably proud guests.

Of the 10 guests we had six campers who had to endure some pretty torrential rain storms but in the true spirit of camping they still managed to enjoy themselves (with most of them ending up in the tipi for shelter I think). It must be said the Woodland Workshop's hot shower was put through its paces after the storms subsided.

I must say spending a week making a chair from a tree seems to be a particularly wonderful way to spend time ...  and if it appeals then don't forget the new course dates we've added for this year - there are still some places.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

New Course Dates

Of course we all dislike difficult decisions, but I've really struggled with this one. The bottom line is that there just aren't enough days in the year.

To be specific, the 'problem' is that we've experienced good - and growing - demand for pretty well all of our green woodworking oriented courses. (A nice problem to have!) However, this meant that for many people we just didn't have the course dates available to suit holiday arrangements etc, or in some cases there just weren't any dates left at all in 2010.

On the other hand, we've had considerably less demand for the non-woodwork-focused courses that we've introduced ... and as much as I am keen on broadening the overall scope of the Woodland Workshop, they were taking up a lot of the space in the diary.

So, and only after a lot of deliberation, I have decided to place the focus on green woodworking, cancel the other courses that were filling-up the diary, and thus offer more woodwork-related dates.

What that means is that I'm now able to offer these new course dates for 2010:  

Pole Lathe And Green Woodworking
Sep 13th/14th
Nov 1st/2nd

Carving A Wooden Bowl
Sep 27th/28th
Nov 4th/5th

Make a Chair From A Tree
Sep 20th-24th

As always, places are strictly limited so do book soon if any of these new dates tickle your fancy and suit your diary.

Of course, everyone booked on the cancelled courses has been contacted and refunded, and I do apologise for the disappointments. All I can say is that it was not a decision made lightly.

Phew. As always, it feels much better once a decision's been made!

See you in the woods soon.


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A Coracle In the Woods

I made my hide-covered coracle towards the end of June, guided by Peter Faulkner. However, for the best results the skin needs to dry before you take to the water. And so, about a fortnight later, the time came for my own coracle's maiden voyage, here on the lake in the woods. 

I will admit to some nerves - it's one thing to do this with an expert coaching you, quite another to do it all alone - but it was absolutely fine.  They're not the easiest of craft to get in or out of but I did it without falling it, and the satisfaction of paddling a boat you've made yourself  ... well, I strongly recommend you come and try it. Brilliant!

Recent Courses

We have been enjoying the glorious weather in the Woodland Workshop with a series of  full courses running back to back, including a very enjoyable bowl carving course in the summer sunshine.

I do advise guests to keep the still-green bowls out of direct sunlight, but the temptation was too much for them when it came to the group photo ...

The Pole Lathe course also went really well, with an incredibly productive group making lots of dibber, spurtles, spatulas and candle sticks as  well as some rather good lemon squeezers and rolling pins. Happy days,  and lots of people coming back for more - which is always very gratifying to hear.

Coracles In Herefordshire

At the end of June I spent an absolutely magical time with Peter Faulkner in Herefordshire. Peter is the only hide-covered coracle maker working in Britain today.

I've long been an admirer of Peter's work and I had hoped he would come to teach coracle making here in the Woodland Workshop. Unfortunately, I then discovered that he's just about to retire - which is nice for him, but rather scuppers my plan!

As you can probably imagine, I was therefore absolutely delighted when Peter very kindly suggested that he train me in this very ancient craft of making the greenest of vessels.

The process of building a coracle is relatively straight-forward - if carried out under the watchful eye of an expert - and by the time we'd finished weaving the willow and hazel and tied all of the joints we had an incredibly stiff lattice structure.

Working with a hide skin was a totally new experience for me and wonderfully direct, and with a bit of practice I got the hang of the lashing and ending up feeling inordinately proud of the end result. This is something that I see in our guests on a regular basis, and for once it was really nice to be on the receiving end of the satisfaction of learning something new and fulfilling.

As well as learning to make coracles, Peter also showed me the 'figure of eight' rowing technique and we tried this out for real on his local river - the perfect end to a experience I shall never forget and one that I'm looking forward to passing on to future coracle makers on our courses.

Peter's web site has some more details about his amazing achievements with coracles and currachs - boats that should never be underestimated!