What a joy to go to a well organised woodfair in the south of England. After the Tree Fest at Westonbirt I realised that shows have not been good for me this year, and sales have been down by a very significant amount. I have had growth year on year for the last 18 years of trading, this year has been a wake up call. I am in the non essential and luxury goods market and people are cutting back, big time. Dan and I had a great time at the show, always good to met up with people again, and make new friends. We met a few people who we know from the Bodgers forum, and it is always good to put a face to the name. It was good on Saturday night, talking to Kim and Tim of Former Glory and then being joined by Owen Jones and Jeremy Atkinson, and then Neil Taylor who bought me that last fatal drink.
This Woodfair runs competitions. Four prizes for 4 categories. This year I won the Peoples Choice. This is by public vote and the people chose me and my hummingbird supping nectar from a wooden flower. The prize was a beautiful box by Mathew Burt who judged the three other categories.
It is fantastic to be voted best in show, but during these hard economic times I do need to find new ways of selling my work, especially finding out more about advertising and marketing. If anyone has any ideas please contact me.
Rod Poynting`s oak gate topped with copper caps.
Will Witham`s whale and fish puzzle. I have known Will for many years and he only lives a few miles away. He works mainly on the fretsaw.
Neil Taylors table/bench, pickled with vinegar and iron to blacken it. Neil has worked with Gudren Luitz and Mike Abbot. The tooled finish is stunning.
Sometimes it takes a simple addition to lift an item into being a great artefact. If you read my last post I was happier with the hummingbird drinking nectar from a wooden flower on a thin bent willow stick, which was totally impracticable. The other set up was functional and long lasting, but lacked something. At the workshop I had an idea of putting leaves onto the base of the flower. Needing something that was quick and simple I picked up some ash shavings from the shaving horse and fashioned them into petals.
The whole fanbird and flower is now more balanced. I have noticed that it so easy to go too far with finishing or embellishment and ruin a piece of work. The” KISS” saying has a lot of truth to it, “keep it simple stupid”. I thank my good sense to use waste shavings rather than making or carving wooden petals, which could have made the bird with flower more expensive and time consuming.
The competition I like best at the Bodgers Ball is the Half Hour Challenge. The brief is: to make anything you like from a billet of green wood in half an hour, and that makes a good demonstration at shows or events. Stuart King was judging this competition and we had to show him the billet of wood that we were to use. We all went back to our pitch to await the starting whistle. I had a very large crowd around me – 50 plus people.The first thing was to axe out a small plank of wood.
With this competition I think it is important to talk to your audience, explaining what you are doing, how and why, plus relating any appropriate, amusing anecdotes and experiences. I did see Stuart briefly in the audience and I would hope that the challenge is also judged on this aspect. Mark Allery fed me one of his home made cookies soon into the competition, a big mistake as it shut me up for a minute while I chewed away on a slightly dry and too large mouthful.
I jumped next onto the shaving horse and shaved the billet down to the proportions I wanted, and then onto the vice to carve the wing profile. When entering any competition, especially one watched live by others a certain amount of adrenaline kicks in. It is important not to rush as this is when accidents can happen. I take things slowly and stop often to explain and show what I am doing. A large crowd often helps me along with the demonstration, especially when they ask questions or interact with comments.
Now onto the riving of the feathers, this is the bit where everything can easily go wrong. I tend to speak less during these few minutes. Once the riving is complete then onto the cutting out and carving of the bird’s body. This can be the more boring bit for people and I tend to tell a few stories here about the history of fan birds. My favourite bit is the interlocking and fanning out of the wing feathers. The bit of wood, by then, looks like a bird. Stick a pin in its head and attach some thread, hold up and receive applause.
Stroll down to the judges table and hand in the finished demonstration piece. I knew I had some stiff competition from James Pomfrey, also known as chainsawkid on the Bodgers forum and who made a bowl on the pole lathe. To my great delight Stuart awarded me first prize.
I love the showmanship of these shorter demonstrations, and would like to develop the making of traditional greenwood items into a live multimedia show, for theatres and the like. If and when this will happen I do not know. I would also like to develop a story to be told along with this demo. We are not just craftspeople when we demonstrate because we offer ourselves as a spectacle, what we say and do during this spectacle is up to us. Some demonstrators wait until they are asked a question before uttering any words, some of us talk about what we are doing as we go along. I happen to be a closet storyteller/ showman.
Many thanks to Nick Winter for sending me these photos.
By the way if any of you know any good stories about birds, bird creation myths etc, please let me know
If you would like me to demonstrate at your show or even,t then contact me for my fee.
If you would like to learn how to make fan birds then I am running a workshop on Sept 24th/ 25th 2011.