I booked this course on the strength of having worked through one of James’ carving courses where we used mediaeval tools and techniques to cleave and carve timber from tree trunk to finished bench, expecting this to be a sort of continuation of that learning.
However, this was an art workshop.
James kept an element of discovery running through the whole process, but it was about far more than just drawing the art out; there was the team development as we worked together to cleave and prepare the timber for our pieces and an element of ‘mindfulness’ as we focussed on the work. Throughout, James referred back to the traditions and practices of ancient tribes and our ancestors, drawing us into their way of looking at the world, the tools and the timber.
There is much philosophy in the way our ancestors looked at their interaction with their world. We have lost so much in becoming obsessed with speed and cost. James kept us mindful of the impact of the work upon our own mindset – the way the effort allowed or even required an expulsion of emotional energy; the way the more repetitive processes drew you into the wood.
And as the project developed, for me there was a revelation as it dawned on me how my preconceived beginnings had become changed by the work of the fire and as the forms in the timber came out of the charcoal. At that moment there was a blurring between deliberate working and the creativity instructed by the timber.
At breaks and at re-cap moments, the group discussed aspects of the course and how elements in ourselves were affecting our projects. The conversations became quite deep at times as the Place the work took us to settled over us.
This was far more than a carving workshop; with James’ frequent references to our ancestral traditions and rites and the way the processes had to be worked at, I found a very different relationship with the tools and the timber which became almost spiritual in its effect on me.
Thank you James.
A tree previously felled was given new life, through creativity with the greatest respect. Individuals became community and learnt about themselves and each other. The past was invited into the present and taught us something of our strength and our vulnerability. We were guided gently by James, sharing his skills, knowledge, passion and heart.
I came to the Artistic Adventures Weekend with a vague notion that it involved axes and setting fire to stuff, I was sold! But, it was so much more. A journey of discovery, history and philosophy. A big thank you to James and my fellow participants for a funny, educational and memorable 2 days.
Art, axes and excellent company. I recommend this course.
Before joining in with the carving project I hadn’t had much opportunity to work with wood. I had enjoyed it a lot at school but hadn’t found many opportunities which would allow me access to the tools and skills without going on a formal course.
James approach – he shares not only his skills and knowledge of the tools and the process, but also the history of these traditional methods and their relationship to community – has been inspirational. His enthusiasm and passion for the work shines through and was infectious. He very much created a welcoming atmosphere and a sense that all were welcome and could contribute regardless of their previous skills.
Before joining I didn’t know any of the other group members but found in a very short space of time a feeling of intimacy and connection; not through conversing as much as sharing space, time and a common goal.
It has been especially rewarding for me to share this experience in part with my teenage son who has also found himself feeling part of a community and for the two of us to connect in a very different way than we usually would. Having him show me some of the techniques I couldn’t grasp added a different dynamic to our relationship and I have seen him grow in confidence and really enjoy working with a team of people who appreciate his efforts.
I have enjoyed the physicality of the work and seeing the results of the time and energy we have all put in. From a large fallen down tree into smooth planks has been quite an intense journey. Feeling tired and with blisters at the end of the day was worth it for the sense of achievement. Seeing how the individual elements (and efforts) will soon join into a physical symbol of a work together is a unique experience for me. Being a part of this project has inspired me to become more involved with the Stoke Hill Community Association… as the sessions are free I felt I wanted to offer some energy back and have become more involved as a volunteer at the centre as a result. I will genuinely miss the Saturday sessions and the sense of camaraderie. Having a focus and project has been great.
To have access to the tools and wisdom that James and his team provide has been priceless.
My son and I very much enjoyed working with James on a community bench project. He clearly demonstrated the techniques and tools and gave us a recognising insight into their history.
James was very patient with us and made sure we wireless safely and came away with a strong appreciation of the craft.
My daughter has been at Forest School for two years and thus loves wood and being outdoors. It was an amazing and exciting adventure for her to experience first hand using carving tools and being involved in such a lovely local project.
James showed us how to use the tools safely. But, more than that, he totally captured her imagination when he took the the time to explain how such methods had been used in Ancient times – referencing for example The Egyptians. James is a natural born communicator and I was struck by how he expertly held space for everyone who attended the Comunity Day. Truly making everyone at home and at ease from five years old through to pensioners.
The concept of using local wood which is 1200 year old Oak and to make it into a beautiful Community piece is a unique and lovely experience. As an adult, I loved the experience and found it immensely creatively satisfying and inspiring.
James has an amazing skill set and the generosity of Spirit to share it. His passion and knowledge is great! I can confidently say that anyone attending his workshops will gain a lot from it.
James’ original background is art and sculpture in particular, but over the years he has built up a fantastic knowledge of mediaeval tools and techniques.
He is about much more than just ‘making stuff’ though. His real focus in these projects is ‘the journey’, as he puts it. In artistic terms he is talking about the timber; the methods mean that one has to work with the wood and be led by it to some extent, so even if you’re heading towards a specific product (in our case, benches for our park), the way the timber has developed will inform the project all the way through.
In personal terms he helps open us up to the internal voyage of discovery; learning new skills, obviously, but learning about one’s stamina, one’s observations, developing the team and discovering what the timber has to say.
With many of his projects he’s been working with young people to help them past anger issues, give them purpose and identity and a sense of self-worth.