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Jim arrives with a load of oak…

Fast forward nearly 3 weeks from the first workshop, and Jim Blackburn turns up with a trailer full of green oak timber, an amazing sponsorship gift from his suppliers. So it was all systems go with the introductory course to green woodwork timber framing on the bank holiday Saturday just past.

First, a fascinating and informative presentation about timber framing – this has all been going on for hundreds of years, and we will all look at old barns differently from now on, as careful inspection reveals a multitude of information on when, who, what, how…

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Jim’s introduction to Green Oak Framing

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The good old Dove kitchen table! With cooks Faye Suzannah and Lois Wulff in the background, waiting to reclaim the space for lunch.

An introduction to tools followed, and then a demonstration on how to lift heavy timber without hurting yourself – all about gravity, levers and fulchrums (fulchra??)

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Lifting practice

followed by lunch – this has to be an essential part of every communal activity.

And then: outside to practice marking up the timber and then cutting it, working in pairs:

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Jemma and Marcel

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Ange and Clare

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Zan and Jya

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Bethan and Joe (and Jim)

And something very important has stayed in my head since Jim’s presentation: that this ancient craft of timber framing is precisely still relevant today because of the fact it HAS to be a group, communal activity, and that these groups were – and still are – often itinerant, spreading and sharing their skills and methods across borders and ages, a free movement of people, ideas, trade, knowledge – yes, come on everyone, bring it on!

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The day after the workshop: I got back from an unexpected few days away, to find 8 carpentry ‘stools’ stacked in the back garden. The workshop had taken place the day before and this had been the scene in my studio:

It had become a carpentry workshop: for the first time in 30 years or more, since the days when woodworkers Roger Frood, Jon Swayne and David Beech inhabited it one after the other. This time it was Jim Blackburn, long time associate and one time resident of the Dove, with the first of his inspirational workshops, and 8 keen participants ranging in age from 12 – ??. After the introduction to woodwork in the studio the class moved into the garden, measuring, cutting, fixing….

Brilliantly, the first person to twig that the pile of ‘practice’ pieces mounting up beside him was going to become a trestle, or stool, was the youngest: Zan!

And so the trestles took shape at the end of an exhausting but demonstrably inspirational day, awaiting their usefulness for the rest of the project. Thank you Jim, so much.

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Faye’s apple blossom sketches

Easter Sunday, and artist Faye Suzannah and dog Mango came to stay for a week’s residency in the Door House. The perfect week to choose, with blossom bursting out all over, as here in the Whitefield


Happy dog

and here on the ash trees (sorry, not blossom: embryos already! A fecund tree)

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Ash trees getting on with the business of procreation

Other artists were attracted to the Nature bounty that is going on:

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Corinne sketching in the Dove Meadow

Meanwhile Faye was making excursions into a poly tunnel

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A tropical world, and it’s just next door.

where she sketched the flag irises (not often you find a pond in a poly tunnel) and became intrigued by the entwined fig branches


Figs and Flags by Faye

while I was mesmerised by a falling peach blossom that never made it to the ground:

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Frozen in time

On the following Saturday it was Artists’ Book Club Dove day in my studio, and after discussing our current book theme ‘Repetition’, we drew a new topic for the month ahead out of the pot: ‘Tracks’. Which made me think of the animal tracks running through the flowers on the Whitefield, so we made our way round there after lunch; across Wild Lea (which I wanted to call Broad Lea because it is always broad whichever way you look at it and therefore in need of a panoramic photo. The Dove used to be known as Broad Moor farm not so long ago and you can see why from this photo)

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Broad Lea? Getting wilder, anyway

The sheep have been ‘borrowed’ from a nearby farmer: they are large, and so I’m told, prize-winning Charolais sheep that are grazing the tough rye grasses that were planted on this field over the past few years. But new grasses are appearing fast, and we are hoping for a gradual change to meadow grasses and flowers. Then into the Whitefield with its glorious carpet of cowslips (a cowslippy year, said a friend).

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Making tracks through the Whitefield

Back to base via the Dove Meadow, where Clare hopped like a bird onto Olivia’s ‘perch”. This little platform that we put up last year is to be the start of the Tree house project starting this coming Saturday, 6th May, places still available in the enthusiastic group that is forming around this venture…come and join us in the trees!

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First venture back into the trees

An exciting series of workshops this summer, that combine learning woodworking skills and design with actually building a tree ‘library’. Here’s how the idea came about:

Big Oak for email

This is ‘Then’ – children in a tree (Bron in the middle – middle child…)

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And this is NOW: A granddaughter in a tree, the initial inspiration for the Tree Library

Olivia's tree house 2016 small file

Last Summer: the first Tree ‘Perch’

Jim arriving with ladder

Jim Blackburn (project leader) arrives with a ladder….(could be useful)

Joe in pine

Joe Blackburn shins straight up a tree

Tree house corner 9.4.17 for email

Site preparation – under and around and in the trees ahead, imagine decks, walkways, maybe ropes, different levels, topped with a ‘hide’ (with solar panel). How it actually looks may be up to YOU

And here are the details of how you can get involved:

Tree Hide at the Dove Call out

Is it just me, or are the grasses particularly beautiful this year? Especially when seen up against Pennie Elfick’s Shed painting, which continues to enchant and reflect the landscape. You can perhaps see here that the willows have been pollarded and cast a more leafy shadow. Michael Fairfax came over yesterday to collect his Fiddlesticks for Priddy Folk Festival, and remarked on the completely changed feel of the place from last year. Here are the willows (it’s getting dark now, nights are drawing in….)

Willows 8.7.16


Another day, another sculpture leaves Amazing Space. Paul Stubbs’ zigzag ceramic had lost a couple of pieces during one of the recent fierce north winds, and he decided it was time to call it a day. Next on the list: Michael Fairfax’s fiddlesticks? Up until a week or so ago there were still half the fiddlesticks attached, but the same north wind saw to them too, and down they came (4 left). Pennie Elfick’s Shed continues to receive the shadows of the willows, but they too will change in a week or two: time for a thorough pollarding I think, a fresh beginning. Watch this space.

Pressing 1 for blog

Fiona Hingston came over today to help me sort out the woodwork workshop, with a view to setting up a small letterpress studio in the space created. At the end of a long and satisfying tidying session it seemed appropriate to take down Fiona’s Pressings from last year’s Amazing Space exhibition. The first one we took down startled us completely. The glass that they had been behind had reflected the landscape, to the extent that you couldn’t quite see what was happening to the pieces themselves. What we could now see on the one pictured above was that the the leaves, picked in the summer, had had their very own change to Autumn behind the glass; such subtle shades and incredibly beautiful. They also smelled of Autumn. The next four had not changed so much as they had been gathered earlier in the year, and had already had their Autumn:

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Lovely to see them so clearly again, and I shall miss them! Thank you, Fiona, they are brilliant.