Spoon carving: (Warning!! - Try this and it could be addictive!)

In January 2016 I was lucky enough to attend a course at West Dean College called “Greenwood spoon carving with traditional tools”. As a keen woodworker with a reasonable amount of experience, I was interested in learning from a real expert. West Dean is an amazing place for art and craft courses and Nic Webb, our tutor, was not only a brilliant craftsman but an excellent teacher. I left West Dean 2 days later with 3 lovely spoons and a real passion for carving them.

 The humble wooden spoon is easily taken for granted. My friends all thought it was quite strange that I could dedicate precious time to what, at first glance, seemed to be a somewhat trivial activity. The pile of chippings on my sitting-room floor was certainly a source of amusement (they sweep-up very easily from parquet flooring, whereas with carpet I would think twice). However as the stack of spoons outgrew the chippings (the picture shows only a fraction of what I have made), the comments became more complimentary and requests for spoons started with more and more people interested in having a go themselves.

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The fact is, making a spoon from a simple piece of greenwood is a hugely satisfying process, resulting in a rather attractive and useful object. It doesn’t take too long, nor does it require enormous effort. The tools you need are inexpensive to acquire and really quite simple to use, though there are some seriously sharp blades involved so its a good idea make sure you know how to use them safely and keep them sharp.

 What follows is a short description of how I make spoons from greenwood. It is by no means the only way (and very possibly not the best way either) but as the pile of spoons testifies, is one I love. 

The process begins with a log of freshly cut timber. I have reasonable access to hardwoods such as birch, sycamore, ash, willow and hazel. If I am lucky I manage to get my hands on wood from fruit tress such as cherry, apple, pear or plum. I cut the wood to a length about 1½ times the length of the desired spoon. Knots in the wood are much harder to work, so I would try and choose a section where there aren’t too many branches. The piece of wood doesn’t have to be straight as a natural curve can be utilised for the shape of the spoon.

 The wood is split along its length to produce a billet from which the spoon can be carved. I have an old traditional tool called a “froe” which I really like, but an axe will also work fine. The force to split does not come from the froe or the axe but from a wooden or leather mallet. I draw the outline of the spoon bowl onto the billet with a pencil based on looking at the grain I can see in the split log and allowing the wood to suggest a shape. The handle of the spoon can also be drawn but generally I only mark the very top part. With the handle it is really the wood grain which dictates shape so all I am doing is marking where the handle will connect to the bowl.

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Initial shaping of the spoon is done with an axe. This may sound dangerous to some but by holding the axe around the neck you actually have very good control and it is an excellent way of removing wood, either by splitting or, as by carving using the weight of the axe head to do the work for you.

 A knife is used to finish off the back of the spoon bowl, giving it its final shape and making sure that tool marks from the axe have been completely removed. With my early attempts I moved on to the knife much too early. It’s a great way of doing detailed work but your fingers will thank you if you are able to get as close to the finished shape as possible with the axe. (Just in case you were worried, the axe work at least was done outside and not in my living room!)

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Once the shape of the bowl is finished you can turn the spoon over and think about hollowing the bowl. I mark the thickness of the walls I would like with a pencil and then use a gouge to carve out the bowl. This is one process I really don’t like doing with the spoon held in my hands. It takes two hands to properly control a gouge and the tendency, especially at the beginning when there is no proper hollow, is for the tool to jump. I therefore mount the wood in a vice to save on the need for first aid. Once the hollow is roughly cut, the finish can be improved with a bent gouge or a crook knife. Like with the reverse side of the bowl, the aim is to get a nice smooth finish with no tool marks and to make sure that the wall thickness is even.

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The final part of the carving process is to finish off the handle of the spoon. I always do this last as it provides support while carving the bowl and if the handle is too fine it might snap.

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The spoon is now “finished” in its “wet” or greenwood state. It may look a bit rustic at this stage but do not fear. Before you can get the final finish the wood needs to dry out as sanding wet wood doesn’t work very well. The sandpaper just gets clogged up and the fibres of the wood sometimes get a bit fluffy, so it’s best to leave it for a few days. I start sanding with 120 grit paper and work down to 600. This gives me the wood a polished satiny finish, although some people prefer a rustic look and feel with knife marks still visible. All you need to do then is oil the spoon to protect the wood and its finished. I wouldn’t put a hand carved spoon in the dishwasher, but if it is protected with linseed oil or food-safe mineral oils, it is an object which not only looks great but can be put to good use too.

 

William Torlot and Marcos Frangos are running a spoon carving weekend workshop 16th -18th of November 2018 at Hazel Hill Wood, near Salisbury. To find out more or sign up click here…

 

William Torlot

William Torlot is a lifelong wood enthusiast who has found an alternative

existence away from his office desk by reconnecting with a creative spirit and

rediscovering the joy in the process of making beautiful objects from wood and

helping others to do the same.

Why green wood?

Working with greenwood – what is it about freshly cut wood?

One of the most common questions I am asked is, “Why greenwood?” Most people know that, as it dries out, wood naturally shrinks and has a tendency to warp and crack. What sense does it make to put effort into something which will unavoidably be damaged or distorted? 

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 The prejudice is well founded. Some objects are, indeed, wholly unsuited to being made in unseasoned greenwood. If elements have to closely and reliably fit against each other, with accurate dimensions of the finished product, making it from a material which will still significantly change in size and shape is quite a challenge (though not impossible). Similarly, where thick sections are involved and drying is uneven, tension is created at the surface where drying occurs faster than in the interior and cracks often result. Better to dry the timber first, for the shrinkage to take place and make dimensioning more predictable and for warping or cracking to have finished. Wood can then be selected defect-free or deformities can be machined away and “proper woodworking” can be started on a material stable in size and quality. But that is a bit one-sided.

 As wood dries out it becomes increasingly strong and resilient. Green wood is softer by nature than seasoned wood. The water content within the fibres lubricates the blade making it easier to cut and the fibres are less tightly bound together so it is easier to split. While a saw or abrasive tool such as a rasp might get clogged, bladed tools such as axes, knives and gouges require much less effort to use. Objects such as spoons or bowls have thinner walls so drying is more even. The resulting tension in the wood is lower and cracks are much less likely to form. Yes, the wood will change shape a bit, but the change does not affect the object’s functioning and may even enhance its aesthetic. So, where there is no clear need to use dry, seasoned wood to make an object, the use of greenwood is an option. But why do I prefer it?

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 It is all to do with the softer material and ease of cutting. It is not the efficiency which is appreciated. Let’s be honest, power tools are extremely effective at processing wood as quickly as possible. But greenwood gives you the freedom to work with simple hand tools.  You are not bound to a power supply. There is no accompanying noise and dust, or at least much less. And working with seasoned wood, however beautiful the timber might be, somehow slightly lacks soul with its natural unpredictability removed. Working with green wood on the other hand is truly organic. The tree from which it came is fully apparent. Its shape and structure suggests what is to be made with the hand of the maker influencing rather than imposing an outcome. The grain guides the cuts. Removing material is not simply the excess being cut away, but a form steadily being revealed. It is a mindful process where sharp blades provide a quick reminder should concentration drift. An object emerges, encouraged out gently rather than forcibly.

 That personal and active transformation forms a connection between the maker and the object which endures long after the process is completed. It is a meditative journey - the purposeful application of head, heart and hands intimately bound with the natural world by the wood on which you are focused. The reward from the connection is every bit as strong as any sense of achievement with the finished article.  

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William Torlot and Marcos Frangos are running a spoon carving weekend workshop 16th -18th of November 2018 at Hazel Hill Wood, near Salisbury. To find out more or sign up click here…

 

William Torlot

William Torlot is a lifelong wood enthusiast who has found an alternative

existence away from his office desk by reconnecting with a creative spirit and

rediscovering the joy in the process of making beautiful objects from wood and

helping others to do the same.

My favourite sound in summer – a chainsaw!

Traditionally, wood has been harvested in winter. Originally, I guess it had something to do with people being pretty busy at other times of the year with farming activities. Concerns are also voiced, that when the sap is in full flow, cutting might damage the tree and make it susceptible to disease.  Whatever the reason, it is noticeable that for a greenwood worker the availability of material diminishes significantly in summer.

I spend my weekdays in a city where perhaps the seasons have less of an impact on people’s lives that in the countryside. Building sites need to be cleared and a tree surgeon’s work is perennial.  The resounding staccato ring of a chainsaw maybe an irritation for many, part of the background city hubbub to others, but to me it is a beckoning call.

The fact that beautiful trees are cut down in the name of human expansionist tendencies is sad enough. What is worse is that, in this day and age, time seems to be the only resource we really value. Tree surgeons here tell me of a time when they would cut and store timber. The market for firewood and supplying craftspeople brought in a handy supplementary income. Still today, they are not immune to the beauty of the trees they are cutting, especially mature ones or less common species. However, today it seems that there is no time or storage space to spare. More often than not, their “waste material” is shredded or sent off for incineration.

And so, following the chainsaw’s call, I track down the source and make a polite enquiry - if I may be allowed to have or buy some wood. A short explanation of what I want to make is usually enough. It has been known for a spoon or a small bowl (which just happens to be in the car) to be shown and even offered in exchange. Interest is nearly always triggered and generosity follows more often than not. Trees have always been (and will continue to be) cut down or cut back by mankind to make space, but it seems that the desire to honour them and appreciate the beautiful material they provide runs deep.

 

William Torlot

William Torlot is a lifelong wood enthusiast who has found an alternative

existence away from his office desk by reconnecting with a creative spirit and

rediscovering the joy in the process of making beautiful objects from wood and

helping others to do the same.

What's Mine is Yours

What’s mine is yours blog

 

 

What's mine is yours, and what’s yours is also mine - like icebergs we connect and meet in the unconscious depths beneath the waterline. There is a beautiful word in South Africa “Ubuntu” that means: 'I am what I am because of who we all are.”

Often the first time people experience representing in a constellation, they are moved and amazed by how so much specific and detailed information about the client is available to us; something secret that was buried in a family comes to the surface; a long-lost grandparent holds information that seems relevant to the here and now world of the client’s.

Time and time again it's been my experience that the human condition is not as personal and unique as we might think. Like the iceberg that appears like a lone island floating in the sea but is in fact connected deep under the sea to its neighbour, or the shaman who stands in front of the village and says “I am river”, and she speaks on behalf of the spirit of river. We often witness a representative standing in the space of someone's family member and their body language, voice and phraseology mirror exactly that person.

For me one of the huge benefits of working with whole-systems with constellations is that whilst it allows the client to glimpse deeply into their personal and family systems, at the same time it allows representatives to resonate with issues that touch their own lives.

I am not going to attempt to explain how this phenomenon happens, except to say that it is my belief that we are energetic as well as physical beings. In the realms of our energetic relationships we have the capacity to feel into the human condition and into each other's worlds. I like Rupert Sheldrake’s explanation of Morphic Resonance, and there are many other explanations, for example the role of archetypes in the human psyche.

I was taught facilitation of constellations at one point by Albrecht Marr who said to our group with a loving smile: “don't think you're so special, there are only so many ways to suffer as a human being!”.

Ultimately what touches me in this work is that in stepping into another's world in a constellation, we too are touched by the human condition: what is mine is also yours. And what is wonderful is that this doesn't detract from the incredible diversity and uniqueness of each individual story, which I honour. For me it re-balances a predominantly Western perspective that over-emphasises the individual over the collective.

So if you're feeling a little shy about trying out constellations in a group workshop setting, I encourage you to reflect on the possibility that your personal story at some level will be likely to resonate for the people that will ‘represent’ for you. Somewhere in the unconscious depths of our humanity, like icebergs floating in the sea, we commune and understand.

Want to find out more…?

If you’re interested in coming to a constellations workshop at Hazel Hill Wood, the next group workshops will be: 11-12 May, 21-22 September and 14-15 December. If you’re new to constellations, take a look at my previous blog explaining the background to constellations.

You can also contact Marcos by email: marcos@wellspringchange.com or via Skype: “marcofrangos”, or visit www.wellspringchange.com

I look forward to meeting you, and to the next blog.

Marco

Taming the Wild Elephant

Taming the Wild Elephant blog                                

 

In my earlier blog I touched on the themes of belonging; the ties that link us to people, groups, concepts and belief systems, and I want to share a story about the taming of wild elephants.

Wild elephant calves are taken at a young age from the herd and trained by elephant handlers to become working animals – carrying felled tree trunks through the forest. This blog isn’t about the ethics of this practice, I’m using it because the image has stayed with me for years, and it speaks of how we can become limited in our self-expression as human beings.

From their first days of captivity, in order to prevent them from escaping back into the jungle, the elephant’s back leg is tethered by a rope tied to a stake in the ground. There is no escape. Days flow into weeks, and weeks into months and this tying is a daily ritual. When they’re not working, the elephant is tied to its rope; it learns that it cannot break free. I’m assuming that it tries to break free initially, but it’s only a young elephant and has limited strength.

In time the elephant grows in strength, and eventually it becomes an adult – muscular and powerful. Yet the size of the rope that tethered the elephant calf remains the same into adulthood, in spite of the fact that it has the physical strength to break the rope.

So what has all this got to do with constellations? Constellations can be a helpful tool to shine a light on our relationships to people and systems. They can reveal hitherto unconscious ‘ropes’ that keep us stuck. Sometimes in a constellation, the very act of seeing things for the first time as they truly are, rather than how we’d imagined them to be, is a powerful first step in making a positive life-enhancing change.

Sometimes the insights in a constellation act like an imaginary wisdom whispering in our ear: ‘you can break that rope – it’s your choice…’

In constellations, these ropes are often referred to as ‘entanglements’, and they happen when the healthy flow of giving and receiving in relationships become distorted or when something or someone critical in any given system is excluded. Imagine from a very early age that someone learns that: “mummy doesn’t love me when I cry.” Their mother might well have had very valid reasons for being that way; she might herself have learned that crying was taboo, or she might have had an overwhelming mother that because of her own trauma could not be the parent, but was like a child herself. Whatever the reason, somewhere there was an entanglement that might go back generations. 

One of the most graceful aspects for me in working with constellations is that there is truly no blame when we look with an open heart at the whole system in which everything is interconnected.

So back to “mummy doesn’t love me when I cry.” With that rope bound from childhood, our person might grow into adulthood suppressing tears, vulnerability and hurt feelings. They may unconsciously withdraw from intimacy in relationships that bring those feelings to the surface and feel threatening.

I want to close by saying that for me constellations are a wonderful tool that help us better understand where and how our entanglements plays themselves out in life. And from there, once we’ve spotted the patterns (or the ropes that tame our birthright of a life fully lived), we can start to make different choices. We know enough from neuroscience that our brains have an incredible capacity to forge new neural pathways, they can quite literally re-wire themselves.

Sad as the image of the elephant tethered to its rope might be, there is a more hopeful story.

Want to find out more…?

If youre interested in coming to a workshop, of if you’re new to constellations, take a look at my previous blog explaining the background to constellations, and how I work with clients in workshops.

If you’d like to have an informal chat, please feel free to get in touch on mobile:  00447881 425 804, or by email: marcos@wellspringchange.com or via Skype: “marcofrangos

I look forward to meeting you, and to the next blog. Marco

Constellations retreats at Hazel Hill Wood

1.       Constellations at Hazel Hill Wood

 

It's early Spring, the bluebells and anemones are out in the woods and Im writing this blog to set out my stall for my three forthcoming constellation workshops at Hazel Hill Wood 11-12 May, 21-22 September, 14-15 December.

This blog is to give you a feel for these workshops. I want to also share a little about the name: “Wellspring of Wellbeing”, and how that relates to my constellation work and approach. Im hoping to provide some useful background to constellations, especially if youre new to this, and Ill also share the broad format for the workshops so youll know what to expect when you come along.

A mini biog for Marcos Frangos: At work I have two main roles: I manage a charity that owns a magical 70-acre educational woodland called Hazel Hill Wood with eco-buildings where we run a variety of workshops. I also run my own company called Wellspring Change that provides consultancy to individuals and organisations around wellbeing and organisational change. I frequently weave constellations as a tool into all my work.

Some personal information: Im of Greek heritage, and I am a UK citizen. Both my parents are Greek, from the Aegean island of Chios. I was born and educated in the UK, and have lived in Winchester (South of England) for over 15 years. I started off my professional life as a trainee architect, I then studied and worked as a person-centred counsellor and subsequently enjoyed a career in inclusion of disabled people into buildings. I have a long-held interest in people and organisations and what makes them tick, how we make meaning out of the challenges and opportunities before us. A few years ago I did a formal two-year training course to become a facilitator of constellations in Oxford, with ‘Core Constellations, Theory & Practice’. This provided exposure to many different approaches to constellations. I have been privileged to learn from very experienced and gifted facilitators: Albrecht Marr, Vivian Broughton, Barbara Morgan, Jan Jacob Stam and many others. I continue to do my regular personal and professional supervision work with a constellations peer group in Oxford, and I am also in 1-1 psychotherapy.

So, why “Wellspring of Wellbeing?” The name “Wellspring of wellbeing” is what I use for my constellation workshops and is inspired by the Greek “Zoothoxou Pigi”. It literally means the Wellspring of Life. Interestingly this name is often synonymous with the Virgin Mary in the Greek Orthodox tradition. I resonate with this name because I believe each of us can access our own wellspring of wellbeing. Its that part of us that deeply knows, that deeply understands what we seek, that recognises what we need to learn through our experience to become more fully present, more fully expressed and more vital as a human being. My personal image when I think of a wellspring of wellbeing is an ever-present flow of water that springs forth directly out of the earth - like a bubbling brook through our inner landscape - always in flux and flow.

The concept of ‘flow is central to me in life and in constellations. When youre in flow, you probably recognise that experience of things falling into place with ease, of serendipity and meeting just the right person at the right time. In this state, were open to experience and to learning and life feels exciting, limitless and creative. Conversely when were out of flow, or feel stuck, there are often inner reasons why weve closed our connection to our inner wellspring – out of fear, self-limiting beliefs, past traumas etc.  All of these can lead us to create ‘storiesthat we tell ourselves. In one sense, these stories are helpful, they help us to survive, often through very challenging life circumstances – perhaps they even kept us alive. I tread with deepest respect for these stories – they have a purpose. But, they can limit us too. In a future blog I’ll share a story about how wild elephants are tamed that relates to this theme. 

So what are family constellations and how can they help? This approach is borne out of the work of Bert Hellinger and is often referred to as “Family Constellations”. Bert developed this approach over 30 years ago working with families by looking ‘systemicallyat the whole family system to understand the challenges facing the individual. Within his work as a family therapist he also integrated many years of being a missionary priest in Africa working with indigenous tribes who taught him about shamanic traditions that consciously include working with the ancestors

No person is an island. We are all part of multiple systems to which we belong, to our birth family, our national heritage, our ancestors, our organisational systems at work, the professions we belong to, our religion, our belief systems and so on. The systems that we belong to can be complex: consciously or at a sub-conscious level we are in a continual dance between ‘belongingto the system, which is a very fundamental need, and the impulse to ‘individuateand be a fully expressed human being. The tension arises because if we are fully ourselves, the chances are that we will at some point challenge the systems we belong to and their norms. Systems have a life and organising mind of their own, they too like individuals, are in continual flux trying to reach as balanced a position as possible given continually changing circumstances. Systems too will try and organise themselves to achieve as broad an integration of all the aspects within them, but they also exclude that which threatens their coherence.

Constellations are a wonderful tool to help reveal sometimes hidden dynamics and forces that are influencing the individual in the dance with the system(s) in which theyre operating.

How is a constellation set up in a workshop?

A constellation is usually focused around an individual that I normally call the ‘client. Lets imagine youre the client. Wed start by sitting side by side in the initial part of the process and my role is to help you clarify your inner question. For example it might be a question about next steps in your career, or perhaps a more existential question like: ‘I want to feel more aliveor ‘I don’t understand why I am so unhappy. Through a process of deep listening and enquiry, I try and help you get as clear as you can about what youre seeking, so you can formulate your inner question into a succinct sentence that resonates deeply for you. This is an important part of the exploration. Sometimes we find that your first presenting question actually has its roots in deeper sub-questions, which Bert Hellinger called ‘movement of the soul.

Once your intention is clear, we establish who are the key players or the key aspects in your question. Its not only people that are represented in a constellation, you can represent anything in a constellation, for example someone might represent a country or a nation. Imagine were co-creating a movie, and youre the Director and it is you who decides which parts are needed to be represented in the first scene to place your inner question in the right context. Other parts or characters might of course come in as representatives in later scenes, but I like to start a constellation keeping things simple.

Representatives in constellations

Once weve agreed who needs to be in the constellation, Ill invite you to choose fellow participants to ‘representthe different aspects of your inner question. One by one you choose and then physically place each individual representative somewhere in the room where we are working. We then stand back from the constellation and observe the movements that follow for the representatives. It’s like a 3 dimensional sculpture of your question, with human beings representing the different forces and dynamics. The role of each representative is to embody the representation as fully and authentically as they can.

As a representative youre not following a script like you would as an actor. Youre invited to express and embody what shows up in you. I often say to representatives ‘use ALL your ways of knowingand follow your inner movements and promptings as honestly as you can – its not about winning the Oscars for best dramatic performance. There is no special training required to be a representative, I believe we all have the capacity to step into another person’s life situation and feel into what’s happening.

Sometimes there is dialogue between representatives, and other times constellations can be expressed powerfully simply through the physical movements and body language of representatives.

Often in the initial set-up of the constellation, Ill also invite you to choose someone to represent yourself, so that you can witness the movements a little from the outside like an observer. More often than not, and at some point during the constellation, Ill invite you to physically step into the constellation yourself and experience it first-hand.

Sometimes simply witnessing the dynamics within your inner question is a powerful first step. My role is to keep returning to your inner question and to what would be of service to you. I try to be sensitive to the system so that it can reveal its own wisdom about whats required to reach a better and healthier flow. Sometimes I might offer a healing sentence between representatives, sometimes suggesting an action, or Ill invite representatives to truly see things ‘as they are, rather than ‘how wed like them to be.

The workshop format: all workshops are residential and start at 6.00pm and finish at 4.30pm the following day.

Costs: £135 for a working place (i.e. you have your own constellation), £105 for a representative place, £75 concessions (limited number available). Prices include delicious vegetarian meals and accommodation in shared sleeping lofts in Hazel Hill’s beautiful off-grid eco-buildings. If you prefer a private room, an additional £20-£30 applies.

Generally speaking in a residential workshop we typically have time for 4-5 constellations. Not all participants will therefore have their own constellation, in other words to be the client. However its likely that most people will have the opportunity of being a representative in someone elses constellation if theyd like to do so. The experience of being a representative is often very profound and can have a really positive impact on your life. Im often fascinated by who or what Im chosen to represent, and the feelings that emerge in and through me are often just what I need to help my own lifes questions. Its a mysterious process!

What do to if youd like to come on a workshop?

If youre interested in coming to a workshop, please get in touch with me on mobile:  00447881 425 804, or by email: marcos@wellspringchange.com or via Skype: “marcofrangos