A few weeks ago I had the great fortune to take a class with Swedish woodcarver Jogge Sundqvist at Lie Nielsen Toolworks in Warren, Maine. For those who don't know about Jogge, he and his father Wille have had a tremendous influence on green woodworking in America, going well back through the 70s, when they started teaching classes in Swedish carving at Drew Langsner's Country Workshops. Of course, Drew later got Peter Follansbee started in the field, who then went on to research and popularize seventeenth century joinery and carving techniques. Peter also studied with the Sundqvists, and carves wonderful spoons himself. Given the influence these three men have had over green woodworking in America, I felt truly blessed to have all three present in Maine. Drew and his wife Louise joined us for the second day. The chance to ask questions and get to know these great craftsmen was a real eye opener, and has left my head spinning with ideas.
Another excellent part of this weekend is that I got to reconnect with Dave Fisher, an amazing bowl carver who I got to know a few years ago when he agreed to teach me some of his methods. Since then we have stayed in contact, corresponding about woodworking and teaching (we both teach high school history.) We signed up for the class together, and agreed that I would pick him up from Logan airport and we would drive north and camp out behind Lie Nielsen (when I asked the folks at Lie Nielsen if camping was OK, they said "not only is that OK, it is kinda awesome.") What was also cool was that others would be camping out with us. Ben Kirk, a great spoon carver from Maryland who I got to know last summer at Peter Follansbee's spooncarving course, was camping out at Lie Nielsen as well. He also brought his lovely wife Chrissy (who puts up with an amazing amount of spoon talk with a smile) and his friend (and bandmate) Ryan. We had a great time kicking back in the evenings over beer and spoon talk.
I learned a lot during the class and in long conversations with Dave and Ben--too much to run through here. With Jogge we carved spreaders and distaffs (for wooing women) and talked technique. Jogge taught the basic grasps and helped me with my "can opener" and "cross thumb" motions. I also learned a lot from Dave and Jogge about engraving, including advantages to different tool profiles, engraving grasps, and how to carve "uphill" and still get smooth results. Again, too much to describe in one post.
Dave and I laughed at what slow progress we were making on our projects, too busy talking with great people to make much headway. And those people were really what inspired me the most, beyond all the technique talk. I got to talk with Masashi Kutsuwa, a Japanese woodworking professor who had flown in for this class and a pilgrimage to Dickinson Reach. We spoke of Japanese craft and how green woodworking had started taking hold in the US. I got to chat with Peter Lamb about his friend Bill Coperthwaite's wonderful experiment in living. I never got to talk as much as I would have liked with Kenneth, a boat builder from Maine who was helping teach the class, or many of my classmates, most of whom seem to have been crafting in their various fields for more years than I have. Such a wealth of knowledge... That is what makes these courses truly great. The people.