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Chair Making in the Woods...

A blog post written by Catherine Richie (a member of our ever expanding woodland family!) about her experience making chairs with us.

I never thought I’d make a chair - but I did. Will St Clair and Michel Oren - the visiting workshop assistant and maker - gave me the confidence and skill to make a little rocking chair - affectionately referred to as a wee-waw (so called by Mike Abbott, after the little squeak the rockers sometimes make)

As we gather around the table at the beginning of the course to introduce ourselves, we sit on wee-waws and chairs of courses past. You feel as though you’re not just making a chair, but contributing to a movement of nature, and nodding to the history of green woodworking and chair making. We introduce ourselves mostly by occupation and level of woodworking experience - I’m Catherine, Londoner working in workspace management and woodworking beginner. Then, after plenty of tea and coffee we approach our first task.

I feel almost immediately un-judged, whatever your skill set, whatever your level of experience, Will made sure you knew what you were doing and gave you the confidence to do it well. No one was rushed, and we all became really excited about the evolution of our chairs throughout the week.

Sometimes it seems funny to think 6 strangers have gathered in the middle of the woods to make chairs together, but it’s funny how quickly you get used to living each day throughout the week beside these people. Each course has a mixture of characters, which will inevitably bring something different to the table - quite literally. Being part of the community for the week, the course invites each attendee to make or help make dinner, one night of the week. On my course, we feasted on a delicious hungarian meal as prepared by my coursemate Peter. And as part of a fair exchange, everyone who wasn’t involved in cooking helps with the washing up.

Throughout the course of one day, we have a tea and coffee break in the morning and in the afternoon - alongside a hefty supply of biscuits too. The chair course in particular had some really beautiful therapeutic mornings and afternoons on the shave horse where you find you have produced multiple chair legs whilst enjoyed conversation with your newly acquainted friend beside you. The course doesn’t feel like a hard graft - it’s a really pleasant process with lots of learning and chatter.

Unfortunately, I can’t fit much more than one wee-waw in our London flat so my next course might have to be for something smaller. Luckily the skills set of the woodland makers covers much, much more. I can’t wait to get back on a course next season, and hope to see lots of new faces there.


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