Totally Locally

The Slaithwaite Totally Locally festival was a bit of a break from our usual activity in that we were making items to sell on our stall. It is quite difficult to work out prices and quantities when one does this for the first time as we had no idea what to expect from the day.In the end we had BIG reindeer, small reindeer kits, wood cookie decorations, fabric Christmas trees, two types of woven reindeer, Elderflower cordial, Santa cakes to sell and activities for children or adults to take part in so they could make Christmas decorations to take away.The event was a success for the organisers and the village was full of people for the duration of the event.

The most pleasant aspect was meeting participants in the sessions we have run over the past four years. So many people stopped to say hello with many buying something and/or taking part in an activity. Our stall was busy all day and it was heart warming to feel like part of the community.

While endless manufacturing for the stall was at times arduous, I suspect we will be there in Spring at the next Totally Locally festival.

Hexham Spooknight Lantern Making and Walk

Once again we were invited to provide a full day of willow lantern making at Hexham Community Centre for families attending Spooknight.

Over 40 families attended and we had a lot of great feedback.

The emerging theme of the day seemed to be ‘colour’ as the lanterns became more vibrant and textured as the day went on!

Several of the adults and children who attended last year helped new people to make their lanterns and it was a proper community effort! We were run off our feet all day – but the atmosphere was good and everyone happy!

The walk took place led by our Spooky Pirate Steven who sang Sea Shanties through the Sele Park and it was magical – we organised it a little later this year the darkness showed the lanterns off to their best effect. We were joined by the Stagefright Theatre Group who added their gothic spookiness to the parade.

Halfway round the park we met up with the Mayor of Hexham who stopped to say hello and allow people to take photographs with him.

Can’t wait for next Spooknight!! Thanks to all who helped!

Spoon carving workshop

It does seem that in the run up to yesterdays spoon carving workshop I may have become just a little obsessed with all things spoon related. That said, there is a lot to become obsessed about.

The aim of the session was to provide an opportunity for novice carvers to make their own spoon, to share good food and company and to have a relaxing time in the woods. By and large we achieved our aims.

There was some excellent work and surprising levels of ability shown by some of the participants, none of whom had made a spoon or even carved before!

There are things for me too to take away with regard to how the session was organised and what I could do to offer short cuts through the process for anyone who might be happy to start with a spoon blank rather than a billet.

As usual, everyone ate well and were very complementary about the food supplied and made onsite by Lisa.

Now to plan workshop two….

Nutsford Vale Nature Day

Sometimes one feels as though the weather is out to make ones job harder when working in the great outdoors. After a very wet Summer, it was such a pleasure to take part in the Nutsford Vale Nature day in glorious sunshine. The Vale looked wonderful decked out in wild flowers with trees in fruit and dragonflies zipping through the air and causing squeals of excitement from children.

There were lots of activities to take part in and with a steady crowd throughout the day, I was kept busy making bird feeders from birch harvested onsite as part of the woodland management process.

As the afternoon wore on I seemed to get busier and was luckily enough to be helped out by the husband of one of the Friends of Nutsford Vale members. Children and parents showed lots of patience and dedication as they sawed, cleaved and nailed their bird feeders before filling them with peanuts and leaving happy.

This was one of those days when it just seems impossible to say “stop, we are done, it is time for us to go”. So when the last nail was hammered we looked around to find that we were the only ones left, just a small crowd of parents and children enjoying a day in the sun, in September, in Manchester.

“We are not uncrafty” – Spoonfest 2012

We decided to attend the first ever Spoonfest in Edale over the weekend. I must admit I had no idea what to expect or indeed how one might fill a weekend with nothing but spoons. As it turned out, my eyes were opened to a myriad of possibilities and by the end of the trip I had a much better understanding of exactly what the event was hoping to achieve, namely to inform and inspire.

The “not uncrafty” was like a who’s who in the carving and spoon making world with the likes of Jögge Sundqvist, Mike Abbot, Steve Tomlin, Jarrod Stone Dahl, Janharm  ter Brugge and Fritiof Runhall representing the Netherlands, UK, USA and Sweden. The quality of work on display at the gallery by attendees as well as teachers was astounding  and a little intimidating.

The weekend was organised into a series of 90 minute workshops and free demonstrations though in and amongst the organised happenings it was possible to take a piece of wood from the pile of supplied, lime, cherry, field maple, birch and sycamore and just carve away.

I was fortunate to attend workshops by Fritiof Runhall, Steve Tomlin and Janharm  ter Brugge with a very interesting demonstration of bark work by Jarrod Stone Dahl and by the end of the festival feel as though I have learned a host of new techniques to employ in carving and making as well as a more considered and systematic approach to my carving and making

Day Workshop National Citizenship Scheme @ Durham

The workshop ran as part of the residential for young people aged 15 – 18yrs from Hexham, Sunderland and Gateshead who are involved with the National Citizenship Scheme. We were invited along to support the young people with session ideas for them to take forward to work with younger children as part of their volunteering.

The afternoon included setting up the site, craft activities, campfire cooking and fire safety, presentations on their voluntary project proposals and packing up the site. The session was very relaxed and allowed a lot of time for discussion and conversation. Some of the young people had been away with us before in Newcastleton a couple of years before and it was great to see their progression to young adults who want to pass forward their skills and knowledge to other young people.

A brilliant day, lucky weather, happy vibe and good skills. 🙂

NCFE Woodland Crafts End of Course Exhibition July 2012

The course ended after 27 weeks with a flourish…. an exhibition in Falstone Village Hall during the day and a party for the families in the evening. It has been a really great experience where we have all learned from one another and formed a close bond as a group. Thanks to the lovely lasses!!

Comments from our visitors included:

‘Really impressive work..would be happy to buy many items.’

‘Congratulations. Beautiful work. The wood has come to life.’

‘WOW! Fantastic work everyone, great to see what a great success it has been and why everyone is talking wood, wood, wood!!’

‘True talent and massive impact to future possibilities. Well done all of you.’

So onwards and upwards to Level 2 in Sept!

Falstone NCFE Creative Crafts Level 1 Weeks 17-19

The last month has been a busy one for the group at Falstone. Most of the shavehorses are now finished and in use. We have begun experimenting on projects with gypsy flowers and kuksas(swedish drinking cups). This has included collecting hazel from nearby woods and using fallen birch from Dipton Mill. The skill level of the group is well beyond Level 1 and the portfolios are looking fantastic – they received a good report from both Ofsted and the External Examiner.
Plans are underway for an end of course exhibition in July at the library in Haltwhistle and a presentation evening with practical demonstrations at Falstone. The women have raised funding for tools which will help them to set up a self organised craft group which will run on after the course ends. They are also becoming involved in a Skills Exchange which is being set up in the North Pennines.
Three of the women are attending the Coppice Association North West ‘Weekend in the Woods’ on 12/13th May with me… we are really looking forward to gaining new skills to pass on.

Falstone Creative Crafts Week 13

Our sessions continue with the making of shavehorses. This week we are at the drilling of leg holes stage with mixed success but a lot of learning and teamwork!
The NCFE Level 1 portfolios are building and looking really good which is pleasing as Ofsted are inspecting the Adult Learning Service next week with a special emphasis on the Creative Arts section.
Several of the the women from Falstone are coming with me to the ‘Weekend in the Woods’ event in May at Staveley in the Lakes which will enhance their skills way past Level 1 so we are planning a Level 2 Course from Sept. We are also hoping to get a class visit to the CANW Working Woodlands – the Story of Coppice exhibition taking place at Sedbergh from the 30th March to 29th April which includes workshops.
The Falstone group are also applying for a grant for equipment to continue the group with a view to becoming a Creative Crafts co-operative.
It will soon be time to be working outside which will be great after the winter in the village hall and luckily we have a brilliant outdoor space close by! Spring is coming!

National Nest Box Week

As part of National Nest Box Week, organised each year by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Birch Forest Schools ran two nest box making days on behalf of Red Rose Forest. The first on 14th February took place at Nutsford Vale in Gorton, Manchester and the second today at the Meadows site, Salford.

The Vale event was attended by ladies of the “Friends of” group who came out in weather that stayed dry but was quite chilly. They showed remarkable skill in making their boxes, choosing from open fronted or small hole entrance style. The session was marked by a lot of laughing and banter and only the lightest touch was required to make things run smoothly with “what to do” rather than “how to do it” being the norm.

Once the boxes were built, I gamely climbed trees to secure them, choosing wire rather than fixings. The joy in the group was palpable and I fully expect that these boxes will be monitored daily and with great expectation of occupancy in the near future.

Today’s session was all about families. Some of the children were recognisable from our work with The Friars school though this time siblings and parents came along.

Once again the children impressed us with their skill in making. They worked well and safely with tools and carried out a range of tasks including measuring and marking, sawing and nailing. As with the Vale group, they chose to make both types of box and were very excited to see them put into the trees around the Meadows.

If one were to cost out each box, it they would compare less than favourably with ready made boxes from any major DIY store but then the point of the exercise was not to make the boxes as cheaply as possible. On completion of their boxes, the Nutsford Vale group felt confident enough to be able to run the activity themselves at future Vale open days.

The children working on the Meadows used hand saws for the first time, used measuring to mark out their plans, made decisions as to the type of box they would make and where it would be sited, worked together to support each other in using tools.

There were families from different ethnic groups, one of which had only been in the UK for three months, all with young children, some in pushchairs. All of them braved the cold windy weather to engage with their local outdoor space and to work as a community for the betterment of the space. This is something which cannot be bought off of the shelf and is the essence of Community Engagement