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Saturday 30 December 2017

Helping to put together the Meadow at Shambala festival 2017

Shambala festival 2017

Shambala is a music festival held in Northamptonshire in August. Since 2014, I've made furniture for the Meadow area at the event every year and was invited to do it again in 2017.

The Meadow houses the Healing Field, at the centre of which is a fireplace surrounded by seating and plants. It's a beautiful spot and I love to see people relaxing and unwinding on seats that I've made, surrounded by tents that healers are working in.

Shambala Meadow yoga

A week beforehand, bundles of scrap wood from sawmills are delivered to each area of the festival to build seating, fences or whatever else is required. It's always exciting to cut the straps, pick through and see what timber there is to work with! It could be oak, larch, lime, cherry or something else and much of it is reused from previous years. Sometimes even the strapping itself is reused in a design...

Shambala festival bench

This particular festival is very keen on having as little environmental impact as possible. To help with that goal, we try to reuse as much as possible from previous festivals when making new furniture. Since a lot of the benches and tables are made from durable timbers such as larch or oak, they last well outdoors and so between festivals they are often used by visitors and fishermen on the estate. At the beginning of the next festival, we wander around hunting out each piece from wherever it has been spirited off to. There is always real excitement when a particularly-loved item of furniture is found!

Shambala meadow African-style chair

Some of the benches from 2014 are still going strong today. When much of the rest of the site has new woodwork every year, I really like that the Meadow has furniture that is really 'of the place' - it stays there all year round. The patina of age suits it well.

Another thing that I really love about working in the Meadow area is that many of the crew have been doing this for years and know each other well. Some benches reuse pieces of timber that were originally part of seating made by Bertie, a stalwart crew member who sadly passed away before I started helping at the Meadow. It's nice to think that his work is still present in some of these benches.

I also enjoyed working with some of the younger crew members on making items for this festival. This seat was a joint effort, using materials found onsite, and we had a great time putting it together!

Meadow swing seat

It's not just seating that gets made for Shambala. For the last two years, one of the featured workshops has been paddleboard yoga. The people doing it head out onto the lake on their paddleboards and do yoga there. 

We were asked to make a jetty, so that the attendees could get onto the water easily. It's now a permanent feature in the grounds. 

Shambala jetty

It's not only useful for the workshops but is also a nice place to sit, surrounded by swan mussels and water plants. Don't try swimming though! The water is quite shallow and the thick, black mud is deep. The swan mussels shouldn't be eaten either, by the way. Just relax and enjoy the view.

Shambala festival relaxing

Friday 22 December 2017

Demonstrating relief carving techniques at a sign maker's trade fair - SignLink Live 2017

SignLink Live 2017

I've done many things as a woodcarver over the last twenty three years but one thing I've never tried is demonstrating at a trade fair. The chance to do so came in October with an invitation to carve at SignLink Live in Telford.

The stand was part of an area called 'Craftsman's Corner', where traditional skills related to sign making were demonstrated amongst all the vinyl cutting machines and other modern machinery associated with the trade. 

I used the opportunity to produce a charming commissioned piece that was requested just before the show began - a relief carving of a kitten in oak.

wood carving of a kitten

Apart from me, there were four other craftspeople showing their skills: Simon, of Nefarious Pinstriping, was doing pinstriping - a very exacting and skilful craft where precise lines and other designs are applied to surfaces. It is particularly associated with owners of motorbikes and hot rods.

nefarious pin striping

pin striping

Pete, of PKM signs, demonstrated gilding techniques. I couldn't resist buying a copy of Mctaggart's 'Practical Gilding' from him!

Pkm signs gilding

On the fourth stand, Neil of H signs and Tim of Merlin Signs demonstrated traditional sign painting techniques. It was very interesting talking to them about which paints they prefer to use. One useful tip that they mentioned was to undercoat with aluminium oxide as it lasts the longest.

Tim of Merlin Signs at SignLink 2017

Neil Horne of H signs

It was great fun chatting with these folks, as well as interested people passing by. Quite a few visitors were keen to get pointers for their own hobby carving and I was happy to help! They also came along with their own tips and interesting ideas too, so it wasn't all one-way conversation by any means.

Many people also said how much they enjoyed having the contrast there between the modern advanced technology of sign making and the slower, precise ways of the older crafts. I hope to be able to participate in next year's planned 'Sign Show' in Birmingham. If you are in the sign trade, I may see you there!