Due to the Corona pandemic it was difficult to meet each other in real live. Courses and festivals were canceled and a curfew was imposed. The evenings were long and I asked a number of people to, online, tell us about their craft . One after the other said yes and suddenly there was the series The Masters of Sloyd.
At the end of the first series, people enthusiastically asked for a part two, with other crafts, more in-depth knowledge and international speakers. Many of you have suggested topics and speakers and so I started working on it. And as if it was meant to be: there was also a lockdown during the second series.
Hundreds of participants!
About 500 unique participants have registered for this second series of the Masters of Sloyd. Most of them showed up and per webinar we had an average of about 80 participants in ‘the room’ with peaks to 160. It is hardly noticeable in a digital meet that so many are there, but imagine listening to a lecture or standing at a demonstration with so many people! Simply amazing! Great that so many people were there!
Jane, Siegurd, Nico and Beke
This second series we had no less than 10 speakers from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, England and Sweden. We started the season with Jane Mickelborough telling us about the wooden eating spoons (or should I say festival spoons) as they were made in Brittany (France). The beautiful carved and wax-inlaid spoons, some of which were even foldable. Jane talked about the cultural history, the regional differences, the makers and even about how to make such a beautiful folding spoon yourself.
Our second speaker was Siegurd van Leusen who brought working with birch bark to the Netherlands. He told about this ancient craft and about harvesting the bark. Did you know that the tree stays alive if the barks has been harvested correctly? But he also talked also about the different techniques and how they spread around the world as well as the various utensils that were and are still being made from birch bark.
Nico de Wispelare is a young emerging maker who recently won the Young Makers Award from Handmade in Bruges. He has specialized in Kolrosing. Nico has a background in the fine arts and worked as a tattoo artist. In wood he discovered a new canvas and you can find his beautiful line drawings on wooden spoons ever since. Using videos and examples, he took us through the techniques and important facts such as preparing your wood by cooking it in skimmed milk.
Beke Olbers was the last speaker in 2021. She talked about many different traditional techniques and what you can make yourself by using those techniques. The value of making and repairing utensils and clothing yourself compared against the throw-away culture in which we currently live. To finish with a discussion about how this (new) appreciation for repairing and reusing influences our appreciation and valuation of handmade objects.
Jan Harm, Lieuwe, Sean, Harald
The first speaker in 2022 and the fifth in the series was the well-known Jan Harm ter Brugge about making wooden mugs. Whether you call them kuksa, guksi, kåsa, nap or something else, they are all wooden cups to drink from. Jan Harm talked about the way he makes them, what aesthetic and practical advantages this has, how to prevent cracks and how to finish the mug to get a waterproof finish.
Lieuwe Jongsma talked about how he makes square shrink pots and how you can carve out the groove for the dry bottom with the straight wood carving knife. During his presentation he made a shrink pot and explained how to make legs under it and what advantages that has. He also showed us a different type of lid than usual, namely the sliding lid.
Sean Hellman wrote the reference work on sharpening hand tools, the book SHARP!. It really contains everything you need to know about sharpening in general and sharpening specific tools. For example, how best to sharpen your axe and your spoon knife. But also sharpening saws, chisels, drawing knives and much more. If you can think of it, it’s in the book. This evening he told us extensively about the sharpening of spoon-carving tools. The straight knife, the spoon knife and the axe. He demonstrated his technique on the basis of photos, videos and large examples.
Now that we knew how to stay sharp, we immediately went on with Harald Lamon who showed his axe technique and process for carving a spoon. From his ‘Lepelhuis’ (what translates to a ‘spoon house’ a playful reference to a Flemish word for a house shaped spoon rack in which, often metal, spoons were kept) with the chopping block in front of the laptop and with Julia Kalthoff’s axe in hand, he took us through the process of efficient axe use.
Martijn and Julia
Martijn van Gerwen received a grant from the Fund for Culture Participation to research the history of the muscle-powered lathe and in particular the development of woodturning in the Low Countries. He took us on a history tour that started way before our era, through the Middle Ages and from there he took us to the present. An important turning point for the lathe (pun intended) was the emergence of cheap and good clay for pottery. It would change the tableware of man forever. Turning then focused on chairs, before being replaced almost completely by machines. Fortunately, this old technique of woodturning on the seesaw lathe is very much alive again, thanks to Martijn, among others.
The last speaker was the Swedish axe maker Julia Kalthoff. She took us on her journey through the world of axes and axe making. From the very early beginnings in prehistoric times in which one of the most important tools of man was the stone axe. This changed our evolution forever. The axe is still an important and versatile tool. With an axe and a knife you can make everything you need. Although a saw is of course very useful…
By craftspeople for craftspeople
The Masters of Sloyd is made by craftspeople for crafts people. The masters come to tell about their craft or specialization without receiving a compensation for this and participation is free. I want to say a big thank you to everyone who contributed! Speaking of collaboration… there were also nice initiatives to join forces and so save on, for example, shipping costs by doing group purchases. For example, for the book by Sean Hellman and the axe by Julia Kalthoff.
On to season 3?
Suddenly everything is going in the right direction. In the Netherlands everything is open again. Festivals, courses and spontaneous encounters are possible and allowed again. Everyone is enjoying this re-found freedom fully. “Normal” life resumes. So what’s next with the Masters of Sloyd…? I have really enjoyed organizing the masters for a second time and I loved searching for speakers on various topics. Your questions, tips and other feedback have been very valuable to me!
Share your opinion!
Not everyone can go to festivals or courses and foreign craftsmen are far away. How beautiful is it to come together digitally with a large group of people and to literally make the boundaries between craftsmen fade away? In short, I see possibilities for a 3rd season of the Masters of Sloyd…. do you see it too? Let me know your thoughts about it and about who or what you would like to see in the future by the using the survey below!