Khokhloma Ware: Folk art for the masses

Kohkhloma painted ladleVirtually no visitor returns from Russia without a painted wooden souvenir reflecting the traditional ‘Khokhloma’ folk art. Khokhloma ware has a very long tradition and can be traced back to both the monastic and peasant culture of the seventeenth century. The predominant materiel used in making these various decorated containers and tableware is Birch, Lime and Maple. Continue reading

Samuel Rockall: last of the chair bodgers

The two RockallsThe proud brick quoined flint cottage still stands alone on Summer Heath, once home to the Rockall family for an uninterrupted 180 years. But no longer can freshly cut Beech butts be seen stacked in the shade of a tall hedge or the whinny of Dapple, the family cart horse be heard from the meadow.

A traditional Chiltern Hills way of life ceased when Sam Rockall died aged 84 in 1962. The local newspapers announced: Samuel Rockall, the last of the Bodgers is dead. Continue reading

The International Turning Exchange

Stuart King at the International Turning Conference

There is nothing parochial about the International Turning Exchange (ITE); this is born out by the number of residents who have participated from many parts of the globe over the last ten years. For me an indicator of the programme’s great success was the number of past residents who chose to return to Philadelphia to repeat the experience. I see the ITE as a ‘melting pot of artistic creation’; dare I say, as unique for its time as was the 19th century English arts and crafts movement or the French impressionists! A prime mover in the world of wood-art. Continue reading

The Caversham Village Sign: carved by Stuart King

In some parts of England there is a tradition of carved wooden signs depicting the unique qualities of the area and often erected on the village green. Usually created by a local craftsman, they instill a sense of identity and pride, and are rivaled only by the English pub sign for originality. They are part of our folk art heritage.

Some time ago I received a commission from the Caversham Residents Association, supported by Reading Borough Council, to design, carve and paint a sign to represent the history of the village. Continue reading

Making Gypsy Flowers

A gypsy flower made from ElderToday’s flower arrangers are spoilt for choice. Wonderful natural material is available from around the globe, all the year round. Fifty years ago one had to rely on what was grown in season in one’s own garden or the limited range stocked by the local florist whose main business was supplying weddings and funerals.

It’s the same with artificial flowers. Remember those awful plastic examples from Hong Kong, heavily molded lurid reds and greens that fooled no one? Today, artificial flowers and foliage can be unbelievably life like, but until very recent times there was only another source of artificial flowers for the ordinary home: from the Romanies or Gypsies. Continue reading

How I built Leonardo Da Vinci’s lathe

Leonardo's lathe and its modern reconstruction

How long has man been turning wood? Almost certainly longer than we have evidence for! What did the first lathe look like? We are not sure, but we can come to a reasonable conclusion bearing in mind the materials and technology available. There are just a few early illustrations that give us some insight plus the continuing use of simple technology in parts of the under-developed world. Continue reading