Having Peter Follansbee for a best friend for over half my life has been pretty damn great.
A lot of people know him now, he’s a famous woodworker, teacher, and …philosopher.
But what most of those people don’t know… is that his mother Mary was a rock star.
I never knew anyone who didn’t think the world of Mary Follansbee, and I wouldn’t want to spend five seconds on a park bench with anyone who says otherwise.
She held a family of five kids together after her husband died way too early and ruled that roost with an iron skillet of a soul and a Boston Irish yell the memory of which can still make my spine snap right on up.
She challenged her righteous catholic faith openly, had little time for sarcasm but had all the time in the world to listen for the truth.
Her devotion to civil rights was on a cellular level and love was the solid core from which she moved through the world.
I miss her…her fierce abiding love…and her popovers…every day.
Those of you seeing this painting, or reading these notes, will know how important birds are in Peter’s life. He’s as fanatical about them now as he used to be about the Boston Celtics. No painting of Peter would even try to tell the whole story without an ornithological reference.
But what you may not know is that it was Mary who taught him to love those birds.
And the very first bird that she taught him to recognize was…the cedar waxwing.
So she’s there just over his shoulder his biggest champion who would be mighty proud to know that his children can spot a cedar waxwing from a country mile away.
I’d much rather be sitting next to him on a bench carving spoons, but this promises to be a classic tutorial and I know he’s been practicing so mine’s in the mail.
Here’s the link to his website where there is a video preview. Click Here
Be prepared…if you go down this road you will have more fun than a human ought to have and you will never need another session of therapy or artificial mood enhancer.
While you are on his site, which he has just updated, there are tons of other Follansbee items of interest including other videos, his workshop schedule and some of his very own spoons and other woodworking projects for sale.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
Please share with your friends, woodworking pals and otherwise.
The thread of our friendship has been weaving itself for nigh on to three decades now, and lately I believe my little studio wren has one end and his beloved cedar waxwings up north have hold of the other…drawing us ever closer… in spirit if not in miles.
After a hearty breakfast of sausage and French toast, Herself and Finn have left the building to give me some of that concentrated painting time that has been my bliss this winter. But a quick look at this morning’s missive by Himself encourages a quicker note here…passed along for your pleasure.
We have been lobbing these musings back and forth via the blogosphere but I sure would prefer to pull up one of those fancy pants chairs he carves next to his window and spend the day carving a spoon alongside the master and listening to Rose and Daniel telling stories about squirrels and pirates in the background.
Here’s the link to read how he is spending his creative snow day…
The weather is saying…autumn is here…get out your flannel shirts, brew a pot of organic coffee, take a mug and that little woven basket, and head out to the sky chair for a morning of spoon carving !
Galleries are calling…wanting…NEEDING new work ! And I have spent the last month doing just that. New paintings will be arriving on the Vineyard, in Denver, and the one on it’s way to Santa Fe sold even before I put the frame on it !
So why, you might ask, is this artist sitting around sipping coffee with a knife in her hand instead of a brush ???
Well, I’m in the final countdown before I go in to the hospital on Monday to get me another of those bionic knees. The last hiatus of healing kept me out of the studio for a couple months and I’m aiming to beat that record. I have a renewed sense of purpose, and focus, and a pocket full of positive feedback and kind thoughts, that have filled my creative coffers to the brim and I’m eager to be on the other side of the hospital gown.
The order of the next few days is…. R-E-L-A-X…and the best way I know of to do that is to carve a spoon.
And in keeping with the theme of the week, Fixing Old Things, I picked out this old mess of a spoon to start with…
It must be twenty years old and I can see why I never finished it. Been hanging around in the spoon bag for so long it has a rich dark patina and is hard as…well a hardwood. Here’s what difference a couple hours made…
It’s more difficult to measure what those hours did for my peace of mind, but my blood pressure cuff might tell the story.
So you all enjoy this fine weather, and the coming of the colors as the leaves and the air and the apples get good and crisp. I’ll let you know when I get back to the easel. Meanwhile…grab someone you love and take a walk for me !
I thought you would appreciate an update on the Wille Sundqvist Movie project. They received an amazing response for their Kickstarter campaign to help raise money to fund their production of the movie to capture Wille’s woodworking genius.
Peter wrote a bit more about his connection to Wille and his road to being the pre-eminant 17th Century Joiner in the modern world. It includes a photo taken at the beginning of that journey … what a bunch of manly men…reminds me from where my hippie roots were so happily planted.
I’ve still got to resist the urge to pick up an axe rather than these tiny brushes as the Granary Show deadline lurches ever closer…but soon…very soon…I’ll get a spoon carving break and my blood pressure will slow accordingly.
I got a note back from Jogge Sundqvist the other day, when I wrote to congratulate him on the immediate success of the kickstarter fundraising. Here’s part of what he wrote:
This is just overwhelming!
I haven´t in my deepest imagination ever thought that we should reach the goal so quickly. Within 24 hrs…
This is so helpful, not just the money, it also strengthens everyone involved in self-confidence and trust in the movie to be something really good.
And everyone involved in the film is full of humility and wonder at the response we’ve had to make the film about Wille.
We have a little way to go before our actual budget… I hope you still want to continue to spread the word about the film, every little contribution is incredibly valuable to make a film of high artistic quality and with a clear content.
BUT – you might ask: What’s all the fuss about Wille Sundqvist and some wooden spoons? Ha! You’d be amazed.
Wille Sundqvist spoon
As the years keep ticking by, I often think about connections and chronologies. May times people will think about events in their lives, and how one simple happening might turn your life this direction or that…and I think that without Wille, I might not be a joiner/woodworker today. Certainly not a spoon carver. And yet we barely know each other…
I first heard of Wille of course from Drew Langsner, whom I met in 1980. That was the start of my woodworking career, although you wouldn’t have seen it coming then! I have often told the story of how I got to Drew’s Country Workshops to learn traditional woodworking. I was a mainstay there in the 2nd half of the 1980s and early 1990s (til I got a job…).
But how did Country Workshops begin? Drew has told me and many others the story many times, and a while back wrote it down in one of the Country Workshops e-newsletters. http://www.countryworkshops.org/newsletter31/ (scroll down to “CW History” – and if you haven’t yet, you can sign up for their free newsletter. It always has good stuff in it, besides update on classes and tools, etc.)
The gist of it is that Bill Coperthwaite brought Wille Sundqvist to meet Drew & Louise in 1976 or 77. Drew had a couple days’ worth of lessons from Wille, and was wanting more. Thus the idea of inviting him to come teach a workshop, which led to the Langsners hosting woodworking classes ever since.
Drew included Wille in his first woodworking how-to book, Country Woodcraft, in 1978. That’s where I first saw/heard of Wille.
Wille Sundqvist 1978
Then as I became a regular student at Country Workshops, I often heard stories of Wille’s craft and his teaching, and also saw examples of his work. As it turned out, I met his son Jogge first, in 1988. Then a few years later I was able to attend one of Wille’s classes.
Here is a quote from Wille’s book, Swedish Carving Techniques (Taunton Press, 1990):
“Carving something with a knife or an ax is a very tangible way to get a sense of design. Because the object being made doesn’t have to be secured in any way, it’s easy to move it to different positions and see its lines and shape grow out of the blank. A three-dimensional object isn’t just a picture. It’s an infinite number of pictures, and all of the pictures must find harmony within the object. The lines of the object must compose one unit, congruent from whatever direction it is seen. Carving teaches design.”
And that is really a big part of it. Wille’s spoons are very deceptive. Unlike any furniture work I do, these are subtractive woodworking – you’re cutting wood away & leaving just the right bits. You hope. Each cut means something. There’s so many layers to what Wille teaches – the postures, the tools, the design. You learn about wood and how it grows; and its strengths and weaknesses. Also about the tools, the edge and how it slices. If you have ever seen me use a hatchet, that work comes to me from Wille, some of it directly and much of it through Drew & Jogge.
To me, the spoon carving is a revolutionary act. It helps cut through the mass-produced cheap culture that we have absorbed like zombies. Such a simple household implement, taken to extraordinary heights. Why shouldn’t our most basic kitchen stuff be beautiful? Out with plastic! Think about Coperthwaite and his quote “I want to live in a world where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.”
The kickstarter campaign runs for 4o more days and at this writing is over $7,000. That’s not counting whatever got donated directly to Drew or Jogge. Thanks to everyone from here who helped. If you’re inclined, please spread the word.
I went searching on my website for the pic of this painting to use in today’s blog post and discovered that it had never been added to my portfolio. So I guess I was meant to read Peter’s Blog today, as I do most days actually. I need to be painting…NEED to be painting…but I wanted to quickly let you all know of a kickstarter campaign that he mentioned on his blog and it’s all about… Spoons !
Peter learned spooncarving from Wille, I learned spooncarving from Peter, and carving spoons is just about the most fun a person can have. So they want to make a movie about Wille, who is a national treasure in his home country of Sweden. And they need some money to do this and do this now as Wille is getting on in years. Basically you are pre-ordering the dvd and, as with all kickstarter campaigns, you don’t get charged unless they make their goal.
Here’s a pic for his AAC Feb 2011 magazine article which John O’Hern took of me carving a spoon on the studio porch…
And one of Peter a few years back carving a spoon on the log cabin porch…
So for all my woodworking pals out there…
Since it looks like Peter’s day is as chock full as mine I stole the following right off of his site rather than put it in my own words so you can read below…
and, even though I’m going to have to fight the overwhelming temptation to pick up a chunk of cherry and a knife… now I’ll get back to the easel.
I’m in a rush right now (clean up shavings in the kitchen from last night’s spoons, help get the kids off to school, me to work, etc) – so I will write at length about this later. But let’s get it together to raise this money pronto. Shouldn’t be hard. When you get to watch this video, you will be amazed. Here’s a snippet from the kickstarter blurb
“The biggest risk this project is that Wille Sundqvist is 87 years old. He is getting tired of age but still he is working with craft everyday. Last week when I talked to Wille he said he was in good shape and that he was eager to start with recording the film in June. He told me he is refusing all orders just to make bowls and spoons for the most generous donors. This tells us how he looks upon his own status. But of course everything can happen with a man at his age.”
If you are leery of using kickstarter, you can send a check to Drew Langsner.
While on Martha’s Vineyard earlier this month, we had the great pleasure of spending a day with our favorite little shavers, Rose and Daniel, and their groovy grey haired parents Maureen and Peter. Hanging with the Follansbee family is just about the most fun a person can have and I’m still smiling…
Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater
Rose and Daniel display their pumpkin art at the Granary Gallery
Looking back on these pictures prompted me to check out Peter’s Blog and I see that his latest video is out. This will make a great holiday gift for the woodworker in your life and I’m gonna have a blast watching him make shavings.
A calm between the storm of fun as the Follansbees make their pilgrimage to Country Workshops where Peter will be giving a workshop in joinery and box making… it is our great fortune to live halfway between MA and NC and so we get to be the watering hole at both ends of their trek.
Rose and Daniel are blossoming into spectacular little humans and as much as I want to stop and document the magic… I would rather not have the camera stopping my eye…there’s simply too much going on to capture.
I did get a couple shots and in between finding long lost fairies amongst the zinnias they planted the last time they were here…and swimming all morning in the lake…and drawing pictures of Finn and alligators on the porch…and telling story after story…Papa and I brought out the spoons bags to compare and take notes and see what each other’s spoons look like now that we’ve been a’ carvin’ for almost thirty years. A fair pile of shavings gathered at the foot of our rockers and mingled with the sidewalk chalk and our conversation seemed to pick up right where we left it …with three year old stories woven through the thin bits…while Mama sat near by knitting and Pat smiled on.
Now this artist heads back to the easel and waits to catch them on the way back through in a few days… ahhhhh.