A lot of time has past since I found myself writing for my blog—over half a year in fact. I've been struggling with prioritizing my time and energy spent writing and making/teaching . I've also been a bit on the fence about writing in general. I'm more interested in the bigger ideas around craft, making, etc. than talking about how to do something, but at the same time I wonder what it's worth. I'm not a trained writer so it's pretty hard for me to break down the ideas in the fore front on my mind, especially in relation to complex subjects like craft, skill, ethos, etc.... I've been on the fence because I know that developing writing skills deserves a lot of attention. Building skills takes time and dedication. I've worked myself into a corner in many ways. Knowing what I need to do to improve my writing skills is clear. Part of this is also having to grow thicker skin. I've realized that I've been a target by a few within my making community and I've reacted to this by second guessing everything I try to write for the past 6 months. This has been a real challenge for me to overcome. I shut myself down. There will always be folks that disagree or make emotional arguments, but for me to hide away is not the best reaction. There have been many more people with very positive things to say about my writing and ideas. I've come out of my hiding place and I'll be adding new content here on a more regular basis, so look forward to new ideas and posts.
The past summer has been quite an experience. It began with heading over to Greenwoodfest in Plymouth this June. It's been nonstop since then. Later in the summer I traveled over the Atlantic to teach and attend both Spoonfest in the UK and Täljfest in Sweden. They were both very great events. Spoonfest has a very special spot in my heart. I've attended all but one, year 4. It's amazing, the spoons that are being carved today. Such great and talented carvers creating all kinds of new designs, in fact these are innovations from my point of view as subtle as they might be. There were too many highlights to both trips, but the two I'll mention here were from the Sweden leg of the trip. These were being able to visit a pine splint basket maker named Björn Majors, and the other was being awarded the Sundqvist-Copperthwaite Slöjd Fellowship.
Jögge Sundqvist took me to spend a morning with Björn. He demonstrated how he splints the pine and preps it for weaving. He also wove a small basket. I got a chance to try my hand at splitting some too. I've splint lots of cedar in the 10 years of birch bark canoe building so I wasn't a complete novice when I made my attempts under his watchful eyes. I did ok, he said with a smile, but the splints I created were not very uniform in thickness and that was what was needed to make a good basket. Björn is a true master. I'm always in awe when I can watch folks that have built technique into muscle memory. He moved without a touch of hesitation while acknowledging various characteristics in the material and adjusted his technique to them. These characteristics were so subtle I could barely understand as I asked him about them. These things are hidden to the untrained or inexperienced. This gets me thinking about how the traditional craft community struggles to talk about what we do. Our 'innovation' is within these subtleties of refined skill and experience.
I've been toying with the idea of trying to weave this style of splint basket here in the States. It was of great interest to see what the characteristics were that are needed for riving the thin splints. In the end I don't think we have the right material here, but I'll keep trying and looking for suitable materials.
Being awarded the Slöjd Fellowship was a great honor. This was the first year they awarded it. The first round was to Beth Moen and Jojo Wood. This time around it was to Peter Follansbee and myself. I'm planning something special with the award monies to carry my work in the traditional craft world further and always with a focus on sharing with the broader craft community in some way. I'm still planning. It's a very humbling honor to receive this award.
Here's a little excerpt from the description Peter Lamb, the Fellowships founder, sent me.
"The Wille Sundqvist and Bill Coperthwaite Slöjd Fellowship is awarded to craftspeople to further deepen the meaning, skills, and connections among those passionate about simple living and handmade objects. The Fellowship provides financial support to green woodworkers and other craftspeople to travel from their home country and share their thinking about handcraft, showcase their skills and design work, further their own research, and extend the international community of interest."
The other major thing—and this is the big one—is that April and I filed for divorce a few weeks ago. I really don't feel the need to go into my personal life in great detail, but I do need to bring it into the open. With this there will be some changes in regards to the business over the next few months. As we sort out how we move onto this new path, things will become more clear. April will still have things up for sale on the site, but we're also exploring ideas about her own website too. It'll most likely be linked to the Woodspirit site in some way, which I'll keep the rights to. The important part to know is that we are treating each other with kindness and respect as we move forward through this challenging time.
Until next time.....I hope there are wood shavings at your feet....