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Tuesday 27 September 2016

Revisiting Eggenfelden: my first large woodcarving and the first piece made using chisels, carved and painted over twenty years ago

In the summer of 1995, an international environmental work camp was held outside Eggenfelden in Bavaria. I was the only British person there, with other volunteers from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Slovenia, Poland, Czech republic and Lithuania.

We worked with the LBV (Landesbund für Vogelschutz), a local environmental group, to transform a disused electricity substation into a wildlife sanctuary with spaces for birds and bats to roost. It was a great time, camping in the adjoining field and cooking for each other.

Woodcarving had interested me more and more over the previous year but I'd only produced work using found timber with my Opinel knife up until that point. As the construction project drew towards a close, I asked if it would be okay to carve a date plaque for the building. With a piece of softwood (probably larch), a gouge and two carpenter's chisels donated by the neighbour, the date plaque took shape. I painted it and then fixed it onto the tower. 

carving a wooden date plaque

With the help of Emmanuelle, a French volunteer, the two metal doors on the structure were  also brightly painted.

painted flowers

At the end of the work camp a small conifer tree was put onto the roof, the traditional way that the end of a building project is celebrated in the area.

At the time, I never got a decent photo of the carved plaque and had always regretted it. The panel was the largest project that I'd worked on for several years afterwards and it was also my first carving made without using my knife. I often wondered if the panel was still there and what it looked like.

So last week, with mounting excitement, I sat in a car travelling along a dusty farm track towards the same spot. The satellite view on Google maps had told me that the building was still there, but were the panel and paintings?

As the car pulled up next to the tower, I pretty much threw myself out and ran round to the other side. There it was, aged but with the colours still visible and the whole panel looking in much better shape than I'd feared!

The painted doors hadn't fared quite as well, with one almost completely faded and rusted away.

However, the birds and bat on the main door were still quite easy to make out. I wonder why someone had gone to the trouble to paint out the blue tit sitting on the fencepost?

It was fantastic to see that the plaque was still there and also that the tower was clearly still very much serving its purpose as a wildlife refuge. 

LBV Bayern

LBV Projekt Eggenfelden

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