North House Folk School Part II

I meant to get this posted sooner but time flies when you're a self employed crafter. I fly to England tomorrow to teach at Spoonfest and I wanted to share this story since it really relates. It's been a while since I was at North House Folk School in October. It was my second trip up there almost exactly a year after the first one. Pretty surreal experience to be camping in that tipi on Lake Superior which was my first home after the fire. It felt great to return to pick up where I left off. Robin was invited to teach some pole lathe turning with Jarrod and Roger. Bryan was taking the class so we drove 1400 miles all in the name of craft. The day before I left I was carving on the streets in Woodstock, New York where I live. They get a lot of foot traffic mainly NYC located 70 miles awa.y So it's a good spot for me to come out of hiding up in the hills and talk to strangers while I carve away. So camp was setup and our friends were back.. I never get bored of looking at this inland ocean. It was good to finally meet Robin. I've been following his work for ages now. I really enjoy laying low and watching how certain folks teach. You can learn a lot analyzing how people work. I think it's really important for people in general really but, specifically us crafters to get together in person. To congregate, make some noise, catch a couple breakthroughs, expend some big laughs, and to come back home to share the story with other people. I've made it a point to sacrifice a bit to travel and do just that. I've also learned a lot more about what I'm doing as a craftsperson, not to mention learn a lot more about humanity and myself. Sounds a bit over the top, but it's humbling a true. Here he is doing what he does best. Spinning up some bowls. I also got to meet Mark Angelini who carves great spoons and brews a mean cider! He was taking the class and now months later is turning some nice bowls. It was good to see Jarrod again. He's been conjuring up some new crazy things in his lathe house. Check out his end grain cups! One of these is on my list of things I need before I die.   One theme I think is a great in all of their classes, they set aside time during the classto bring the students to the forge to learn how to make their own hooks. This is absolutely one of the most important parts about turning. Understanding your hooks, and really each turner needs his or her own hooks that are optimized for them individually. I love these dungeonesque images I shot. I'm sure this ole story has been told for many thousands of years in the same way. Humans and this craft haven't changed much, and it still finds a way of holding on. This is a great example of someone 'making it look easy'. What that really means is, in a 10 minute demo a craftsman can soar thru a process that took them ages even decades of study and sacrifice just to learn by heart. It's the casual and humble way it's shared that I really enjoy watching. Roger demonstrating one of his ale bowls, and Yuri watching on. After a long day of piling up mountains of woodchips, it was time to simmer down into some music and festivities. It was good to see my ole buddy Marco. Everytime I show up to town, we jam. We craft by day and play music all night. This is my favorite thing about gathering with other serious wood carvers. Sharing good conversation, laughter, and wooden vessels full of mighty fine drinks. I brought along my banjitar which is a six string banjo that can be tuned and played like a guitar. Roger, being a purist Olde Time banjo player naturally nicknamed it "the abomination". As you'll see in the photographs as standoffish as people are when they hear about it, somehow it makes it's way into everybody's hands. Duel blues harpin it! Even David showed up and brought some tunes. I love the atmosphere here. Dimly lit, wooden drinking bowls, and a couple of my kuksas floating around while the music rolled on and on. I wish I could write down or record every great conversation I had on those nights. This was the first time I got to jam with someone playing stand up bass. Ben who was finishing up his internship at Noho decided to join in the hootenanny.   Later on.. I got to meet Michael Cullen who has some really interesting craft going on. Here he's making some of these earth sticks. I can't recall exactly what he nicknamed these but I love the idea of of a community project. Everyone works on it together and it represents that community as a whole. Here is one of April Stone-Dahl's baskets. I have to get one of these. Would be a lot easier and attract a lot less attention than lugging my giant black ash packbasket to the grocery store every week. She makes some remarkable baskets, they're hands down the best I've personally seen being made. Yuri and Beth carving, deep in discussion. Here is something you'll never see! Or were we just hallucinating? Jarrod and Robin on a power lathe? Blasphemy! Smash that thing quick! Another Day..   Mark working hard on his bowl. Here is Nick Conner. He is another great spoon carver and he got the bowl bug too. There aren't many gigs on the planet that cram pack this many great people together at the same time. If you haven't read about Jarrod's end grain cups, head to his blog and dig in. It's amazing to think there are probably less than three people in the world doing this. So when he does a production run of cups, his lathe shack holds the world's largest collection of these. I can relate somewhat to that lonely feeling though. Just about every full time carver I've met always tells me the same thing. I'll bring up something that is puzzling me in my kuksas. I always get the same answer "Only you'd know that because you're the guy making them." It's kind've exciting to think that I'm one of few that is specializing in this one object, but it's a bit saddening too. I can imagine what Jeremy Atkinson and Jojo Wood think about since they are the only folks dedicating their lives to that corner of craft, speaking of clog making specifically. Turned with the handle on which you could only do on a reciprocating lathe. Sorry electro-turners, you'll have to unplug and use your feet for this project.   At this point the week becomes a blur of fierce crafting and long nights enjoying great company. So I'm posting the rest disregarding the chronological order.   ..and then Robin turned into a wolf.. Michael has this great wolf hat and it ended up on Rob's head. So we had some laughs jamming and growling at eachother throughout the night.   Damn that Howlin' Wolf can spit some mean harp! Classic shot, hammin' it up! I had so much fun playing the standup bass for the first time ever. One of the night's we moved it into the yurt per Rob's request. Different ambience in the yurt and by the end of the night that place was JAM PACKED! I love hanging out in there and now I live in one.   See what I mean about this guitjo? I've never seen an instrument end up on so many people's laps.   It was Halloween and I think Jarrod and Jim Sannerud started a new tradition. Pumpkin Turning! Here's the maestro and his fine artisanal foot turned pumpkin. I have some really funny, super serious footage of this. I'll have to do something with it some day. Here is all the bowls the class turned. It's amazing how much gets done, and these were all people with very little experience if any at all. Breakfast with Bryan and a black crow that kept lurking around camp. Roger has a great collection of ale bowls, they're just fascinating to study over with a magnifying glass. One of them is supposedly a thousand years old. A proper last image.. this is the front room of the 'fish house'. On the last night in Grand Marais everyone else was just exhausted after a week of mayhem. Zak and I were still looking to do something that night. We ended up in this quiet little room full of vintage sewing machines. The acoustics were pretty good and we played music for hours in there. Even got to share some rare originals. I recorded most of this, not sure if I'll ever put it out. But there is something special about that giant lake outside and the week full of intense energy people brought to the table. I can't wait to make my fourth return.
Alex Yerks1 Comment