I took a couple half-days this week to explore a craft I know almost nothing about. Some years ago I had bought a birch “cannister” from Jarrod Stone Dahl. I had seen his work on his website & blog and really admired it. Here’s one of his, from his website http://woodspirithandcraft.com/
Last year we met for the first time when I went out to North House Folk School – http://www.northhouse.org/ I was there to take a class with Robin Wood on bowl turning, but Jarrod couldn’t let the birch bark go to waste, so he peeled some of the logs before we made bowls outta them. I knew the principal, but had never seen the act before. Amazing material.
One evening, he gave me a quick 20-minute crash course in making the finger joints on these ancestors to the Shaker oval boxes. A gift of some bark, (and some I bought on the web somewhere) and then – where’s the time to explore this? Along came Christmas – perfect.
It’s probably good for someone who teaches crafts to undertake a new one now & then. Some of the mistakes I made were just plain stupid, especially the 2nd time I made them! I finally made a pattern – not to use like a template, but just to help visualize the relationship between the female & male ends of these joints.
The only thing I had ever made like these were hoops for Swiss-style cooperage with Drew Langsner, and that was a long time ago. This past fall, I had a chance to examine a very nice example of birch bark work when a group of us visited Dickinsons Reach, formerly the home of Bill Coperthwaite. The best guess is that it’s Russian work.
Mine of course have flaws many beginners exhibit, but I pulled my usual “distract them with decoration” – employing my horror vacui nearly to its fullest. The Russian one here has its rims lashed with strips of birch bark, some are done with spruce root. I have neither of these suitable, so I might substitute hickory bark, when I next get time to work on something like this.
Here, I have test-wrapped one end around, to scribe where I will make the cuts for the tabs…
Said tabs, and some scribed and punched decoration.
Here’s test-fit – the inner sleeve needs to be thinned so it will overlap with less bulk. But it’s just sprung in there for now, so I can pull it out & finish it. The finger joints are OK, but not great. More beginner problems…this one’s about 6″ in diameter and about 8″ high.
Jarrod did a tutorial on his blog once http://woodspirithandcraft.com/blog/2014/01/birch-bark-box-tutorial.html?rq=birch If you aren’t familiar with his work, these days the best place to find him is Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/jarrodstonedahl/ To learn more about this work, see the book Celebrating Birch, but by far the best reference is Vladimir Yarish’s Plaited Basketry with Birch Bark.