Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I've Moved

I've been writing on a new platform for some time now. Check out the posts over the past few months here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Win a Ale Bowl

     I've moved locations. This will be the last sort of blog post here save for a link over to my new location from time to time. I'm trying to encourage folks to subscribe to the new one. Follow the link for the details of how to win an Ale bowl.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Something New

     I've been behind the scenes on my website for a few days now and I've made the decision to switch over blogging on the same site as my website. This is going to be really good for in the long run.  So..... I'll be changing things around a bit. Check it out here.
     I set up a subscribe button for email notices on the new blog, and imported all the content from here. You can still search all the posts as well. I hope folks understand this decision and are not too troubled by it. So..... if you like what you read here please consider subscribing over at my new blog here.  I'll keep this blogger site up for some time, until I figure out what to do about it.
    I found a really nice basket at a sale the other day that changes everything for April and me as well...It's a brilliant thing! I'll be writing about it over on my new site in a day or two. So go over and subscribe now. I'll also post a few more links and notices here as time goes on.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

What Inspires You?

     I've just returned home from a 7 day trip with April and the kids.

     We were hoping to travel east this summer. We have friends in Vermont, New York, and a few other states over there in the North East. But after looking at budgets and our aging Honda Odyssey we decided to stay closer to home.

     Life is full of compromises, but they don't have to fall short of your hopes or expectations. Keeping open to the possibilities is always a good thing.

     Our adventure began with a few days demonstrating at a Museum on Madeline Island. Madeline Island was the site of a Ojibwe village and later a fur trade post. The Ojbwe's lived here for a good few hundred years before the fur trade post was set up in the early 1600's. The museum has a really nice collection of artifacts.

     After Madeline Island we decided to go to Nordicfest. It's a Scandinavian celebration in Decorah Iowa. It attracts folks from all over the Midwest and beyond. There are all kids of things going at this event too much to list. You can buy Krumkake, one of my favorite desserts today and growing up, at a street vendor! Decorah is also the home of Vesterheim, THE.... Norwegian-American Museum.

     Vesterheim has probably one of the best and biggest collection of Nordic craft object in the US. That's not a joke. I made an appointment and arranged 2 days (not enough) to study in the archives. I got to handle (with gloves) ale bowls, wooden spoons, coopered ale tankards, and other misc wooden objects. This was really a pivotal moment in my life's work as a handcraftsman and traditional handcraft advocate. After handling the bowls turned on a pole lathe a few hundred years ago, looking at the tool marks, handling the form, feeling the thickness and curves, looking at the axe marks left by the maker, I can't help but retreat into introspection of my work, reflecting on craft and the handmade. Some the the objects I'm attracted to were there...the bulbous ale bowls as well as beautiful kolrosed spoons....birch bark and bent wood boxes. It's hard to really write about how I feel. I'm still sorting it all out. I do know that I'm really inspired to get some bowls spinning on my lathe again and later this week carve some more spoons. Thanks to Alison in the archives for all the help!

This was a great intro into this and their archives. I've been to museums plenty, but it seems that my intent is different, more intense. Later this summer I'll be traveling to Sweden to participate in a Skedfest or spoonfest. After the event I've arranged with the help of some very great and helpful craft consultants to visit a few museums over there and I'll have a chance to visit the archives there too. Fun stuff. Super geeked out stuff. All worth it the effort. I'll have a hundreds and hundreds of photos by them.

No matter what the perceived monetary, time or energy cost, follow your dreams. Do what you love. Take those chances and go.....visit another country, take a trip 100 miles or 1000, you only live once, do what inspires you!

birch bark canoe builder in the 1800's

woodland floral beadwork


nice example of a Ojibwe spoon

look at the workmanship on the tip of the hook! The whole thing was about 3' long!

I bought a nice little birch bark snuff box along the way.

some of the many shelves at Vesterheim

A few painted ale bowls


detail of the kolrosing

really nice ale bowl with repairs or brass and copper

We stayed with some new friends. They grow and weave willow baskets.

More baskets

Ale bowl painting detail

Kolrosing detail

Sweet little ale hen

pole lathe turned box with hand cut threaded lid! Insane!

sweet painted and coopered vessel

the mother load...I could have spent at least a whole day looking at this display of antiques!

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Greenwood Spooncarver's Collective

    You can look at it like a musician having a collaborative side project. Mike Loeffler and I have started such a side project and we call it The Greenwood Spooncarver's Collective. The idea has been brewing for some time.

-How can nice, well designed hand carved wooden spoons become more common place?
-How can we stimulate the market for hand carved spoons and educate retailers as well as consumers?
-How can we encourage young folks into this type of work (spoon carving and greenwood working) on a professional or semi professional level?
-How can makers participate in developing these ideas in the broader markets and culture?

These are just some of the questions that can be answered as this collective develops. The idea is for spooncarver's to agree to carve the same design spoons in order to create a large inventory. We'll use this inventory to supply larger retailers like food coops, high end kitchen stores and the like. By working with more production style spoon designs we can still create great spoons that will be a step up from the cheap imported spoons you see around. Affordable but made with great skill.  We've developed a few designs that can be made quickly so we can keep the price down. These spoon designs are meant to fit for folks who want something different, something better than those "fair trade" goods or the cheap factory machine made spoons. Call it a spoon that is an intro into the fine wooden spoon world. 

We inviting any spooncarver who is interested in joining this collective to step forward. We are looking for folks who can carve the models we have developed. We'll send templates and examples of the spoons. There's more details relating to price per spoon and how the payment works but that's for email or a phone call.

There is much more to this, a website that has our one off spoons as makers, tools for sale, and a spooncarving network. These are being developed behind the scenes, stay tuned.

Send an email for more details to

the first three completed templates
finished spoons and spreaders with templates

the pile is building

Sunday, July 6, 2014

June-part three-A New Bark Canoe born

       Here are the last photos of the canoe build. Looking back through the photos and reflecting on my energy level the last few weeks. I really think I have been pretty tired from the intense build. We build this canoe from start to finish in a little over a week, from gathering all the materials to their preparation to the finial launch. No wonder why I have not been that productive making things. That was intense!
     After looking at my 4 bark canoes, I've decided I have to try harder at selling 2 of them. So look for a post on these later this month. I'll tell some stories about these boats too. If any of you know of anyone interested send them my way please.

     Today is the first day I've felt like getting going on production. April and I have been teaching a bunch and I can't do both. This week I'll be doing one of my last big spoon carving workshops then on to production of bowls and spoons. After Robin's visit I've decided to build a better lathe that will stay put and stay set up. I also reforged all my hook tools after learning a few things from Robin. This is SUPER exciting stuff for me. Today I build the lathe and turned a little bowl to get the kinks worked out. I'll be sourcing some wood this week and turning. I can't wait.
      Oh yeah I've also been on antibiotics for Lyme's disease. I'm at the end of the run of medication and feel pretty good. I'm drinking a lot of plain kefir to get my biome back on track. You gotta feel good after kefir, right?

    I have a few thought provoking things to write about but heavy stuff will have to wait.

Here's the photos-

Robin hewing the thwarts

canoe ready for ribs
Tom lashing in the thwarts

Cedar shavings
making ribs

bending ribs

bending ribs

ribs in-first fit

adding some pressure
ribs in

ribs in with sheathing.

Canoe ready for some hot water

First launch

trims pretty good

Robin and JoJo having a blast

JoJo carving spoons

lashing the ends

pitching the ends

finishing up the caps

end complete

the vibe

finished canoe-second launch
finished canoe

new lathe under way

ready to go but needs a tool rack

with tool rack

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June- part two

     Things are good here on the first day of July. We've been having cooler temperatures which keeps the mosquitoes slow and hid away. Today it's raining and cool. It feels good.
     I'm settling up the details to visit Sweden again this year. I've been invited to teach at a museum in Sörmlands, which is south of Stockholm. They are hosting a Skedfest or Spoonfest this August. I'll be teaching a few classes and doing a few talks as well. So I've been looking online at train tickets and figuring out how to navigate the trip. It looks like I'll be able to see a few rural museums. One museum in particular is in Borås. This museum has lot's of turned bowls, boxes and other interesting wooden object. I'll be bringing my camera to do documentation and research. I have a few other rural museums on my list as well as the museum that is hosting Skedfest. Really good stuff. Well at least for me a wood geek. There is much to plan for while I'm there and things are still in the works. The really cool thing about Sweden is that there is a network of craft consultants through the National Swedish Handcraft Council These folks are there to help folks in the craft world. I've met a few folks that work as consultants when I went over last year. They are helping me with some of the details. For this I am very grateful. I'll add more on this as time goes on.
     I'm also taking the family on a trip down to Vesterheim in Decorah Iowa in July to look at their collection of ale bowls and spoons. They have a few hundred of each as well as other countless wooden items. I'll be adding something here on that trip too.
    Now back to the canoe build. We left off with root peeling and Robin's turning class. Here are some more photos from the following week or so.

getting cedar in the swamp
carrying it out
this will make ribs and sheathing

Robin splitting some cedar
canoe staked out and ready for lashing

carving the gunwales
older boats in the fleet (one's for sale)

Robin working on gunwale
Spoon Gathering in Milan MN
Mike Loeffler's sweeeeet bird bowls

Tom D sewing some bark
Splitting the stem for bending

Tom D's work station. He made all the ribs for the boat
another shot of the canoe
A lot of shaving. These smell wonderful too

filled ale bowls at the end of the day