This autumn we worked with Carving Communities (CC) and young people (aged 11 years and above) in Exwick to make a sculptural bench out of wood using hand tools. The project ran from September 16 and took place entirely on site, next to CC’s mobile tool box on Exwick Playing Fields at the end of Ennerdale Way.
We were delighted to be working with James because his sculpted benches are visual striking, expertly crafted and co-designed and made by and with people in the places that he works. James develops a sense of ownership of the bench through the process of working and making together and then gifting this to back the wider community. Come and enjoy the new bench and see if you can spot which animals, insects and birds are also visiting the FLOW route. Pictures of the bench launch event to follow.
James is speaking about his work at St Sidwell’s Centre on 13 November at 18.30 – follow the link to register your attendance.
See below for project images week by week:
23 September: Torrential start to the day but this didn’t put off 1 young man who was waiting for us on arrival! 2 young men worked with us throughout the day and as you can see from the pictures, they took the bark and sap wood off what will be the bench uprights. We and they had many conversations & visits over the course of the day with those passing by who were universally positive about the project. Good start.
30 September: We had a good atmosphere on site. Both young people returned with friends and we had supportive adults working alongside. One young person stayed with the difficulty of mastering the drawknife all day, until around 3pm he found himself slicing through the oak wood like butter creating beautiful smooth lines. A good metaphor for life!
There were lots of conversations with passing public who are very positive about the project. One elderly man on a mobility scooter stopped to chat and pretty soon he & James realised they had met when the man (who was a carpenter in his working life) donated his tools to Men In Sheds. We invited him back for a cuppa next week & he is bringing his oil stone so that he can sit & sharpen the tools with us. He said it gives him ‘somewhere to go & something is to do’ Wonderfully naturally occurring intergenerational moment!
John, one of our 5 Director’s of Carving Community CIC came by to spot check Health & Safety (In his working life he is currently HSE Coordinator for the Rampion offshore wind farm off the UK South coast so great to have as part of the team.) He took one young person through the process & clearly he learnt something as he was directing us in safe practice by the end of the day! Brilliant!
One of our friends teaches A Level Art at Exeter College & is letting her students know about the opportunity to become involved. As you know we have contacted all the local schools & posted on Facebook but if you know of any other youth groups or useful contacts please let us know. A further 5 consent forms have gone out with young people. Hopefully we will see them returning this weekend, along with members from our Ludwell Valley project who have seen this project on Facebook & plan a visit.
A last thought. We have started discussing the design of the back board with the young people. So far they would like to include … apples, birds, the flow of the river and a chicken! We’ll be keeping all that in mind as we progress!
7 October: We spent the day shaping the seat & back board of the bench. Using draw knives, scorps & spike shaves we removed the last of the sap wood before following the flow of the chestnut wood sourced from a fallen tree near Bude.
Our team has swollen with 4 regular young people, 4 supportive adults plus lots of doggie friends, Exwick residents, cyclists & walkers who are enjoying seeing the bench progress.
Some great life stories were shared & housed in the bench as we worked & ‘gourmet’ soup (on what turned out to be a sunny day) & apple cake appeared from our mobile tool box to sustain the crew!
Looking forward to working on joints and back board designs next weekend.
After a wash out with howling wind and rain the previous week, we had glorious blue skies on Sunday for Session 4 of the FLOW Bench making project.
With new young people & supportive adults joining, the team cracked on with making the mortice holes in the uprights, shaping the ‘Tree nails’ and working on the backboard river design.
Special mention goes to those with the spoke shaves, who spent hours lying down to smooth the underside of the seat. Make sure you run your hand along it when you take your first seat on the completed bench!
We were fortunate to have the company of a 99 year old lady for tea, who was a cabinet maker all her life and thrilled to see the tools in the hands of young people. Another man came by and left us this quote from his father.. ‘ hands are the best tools ever made’
Apple & Ginger cake to share arrived by bicycle, along with an enormous squash for next week’s soup, provided by a local allotment holder who cycles past each week.
We will be back again next Sunday 28th October for our penultimate session, when we will be choosing the footprints of other beings who inhabit the river bank to represent ourselves in the backboard design.
Our final session will now take place on Sunday November 4th with the reveal of the finished bench and celebration of the team’s contributions from 3 til 4pm. Come and join us!
Final Making and Installing Weekend
Launch event – smiles, laughter, perpetual rain and warm apple juice. Thanks to all who came along despite ongoing rain. We were delighted to be joined by Councillors Phillip Bialyk and Rachel Sutton. Certificates were handed to all the people involved in making over the weeks and young people involved in the event unveiled the bench from beneath spruce, birch and flowers and gifted it to the rest of the community. Thank you James and Niki for being, making and sharing so generously through this project and working with people to make such a beautiful bench and to Jenny for yet again brilliant pics. A fantastic addition to the FLOW route and community.