It’s calendar time again. Plan ahead and get yours for 2019, 2030 and 2041. Support the folks who are stewards of Bill Coperthwaite’s legacy – details here for the Dickinsons Reach Community – http://www.insearchofsimplicity.net/
When you see this little yurt. After Jogge’s class, a small group of friends made a special trip out to Bill Coperthwaite’s place called Dickinsons Reach in Maine. If you aren’t familiar with Bill’s work, his book A Handmade Life is one of my favorite pieces of inspiration. But Bill was more complicated than a book of course.
It’s a nice long walk through the woods to his place, and once you’re there, you have a lot to see.
In this case, the connections were a big part of what interested me. It was Bill who connected Jogge’s father, Wille Sundqvist, with Drew and Louise Langsner back in the mid-1970s. That eventually gave the Langsners the idea of starting a series of workshops in woodworking that continue to this day as Country Workshops. www.countryworkshops.org
Our semi-host was Peter Lamb who worked closely with Bill for many years, so knew the ins & outs of the place far better than any of the rest of us. I had visited a few times, Drew had been there once, over 35 years ago.
We poked around a bit, Jogge & Louise fixed an excellent supper, and the next day we explored around, talked of crafts, Bill, the various connections and ideas that were floating around. It was quite a time. some photos:
This one I stole from Jogge (sorry…) – a pattern Bill made of one of Wille’s spoons. It’s not really the best way to make a spoon, but Bill was trying to record some of the features…
I went out & walked for 2 hours the next morning.
Showed Jogge this great birch bark bucket…lashed in bark too.
Little things like this carved bird really caught my eye. Simple and beautiful.
I saw lots of birds outside, but only photographed these two in the main yurt. This bowl is from Siberia.
This shave is for hollowing bowls. Jogge thought it was Swedish.
I know these knives were some of Bill’s favorite forms. Not sure if these are from his Alaska travels or not…
Masashi Kutsuwa, Follansbee, Drew Langsner, Jogge Sundqvist, Peter Lamb. Louise was out looking for somewhere to swim.
I’m just back from two-plus weeks in Maine. Jogge Sundqvist came over from Sweden to teach a 2-day class in the techniques of sloyd; working riven green wood with axe and knife. It’s always greatly inspiring to work alongside Jogge.
I sat on the other side of the monitors while Lie-Nielsen shot a video the week before the class. Then after the class several of us, including Drew and Louise Langsner, took off on a mini-tour of coastal Maine, making several stops including a visit to Dickinsons Reach, the site of Bill Coperthwaite’s home for many decades. Here’s old friends and new: Drew Langsner, Peter Lamb, Louise Langsner, Jogge Sundqvist, Masashi Kutsawa.
It’s nearly 2 years now since Bill’s death, but as a small group of us explored his homesite, his impact was tangible. Jogge found tools and gifts from his father, Wille to Bill, and we spoke at length about the 1976 trip that landed Wille at the Langsner’s home in western North Carolina. Thus began Country Workshops, the school the Langsners have run since about 1977, which is where I met John (Jennie) Alexander in 1980 and Jogge in 1988.
Thanks to the staff at Lie-Nielsen, all the great students who came from near & far, and our hosts on the tour. More to come. Lots to think about. I have to sort out my desk, pay some bills and tend to some household stuff, then it’s back to woodworking. I’m so full of ideas, I don’t know where to begin.
If you’ve been here a while, you’ve heard me go on about Bill Coperthwaite. There’s a new book coming out this month about Peter Forbes’ and Helen Whybrow’s time spent with Bill. I’m watching the mailbox closely and can’t wait til it gets here.
Some time ago, I heard of some films recording Bill Coperthwaite at his home in Dickinsons Reach, Machiasport, ME. I got a hold of the filmaker, Anna Grimshaw and we corresponded a little bit. I wrote to her the other day, and found out that her films got picked up by Berkeley Media; a distributor of educational films. Here’s some of Anna’s note from today:
“I have just signed a distribution agreement with Berkeley Media that means that they now have all the rights to the material. I had hoped to find a distributor that would make DVDs available to individuals at a reasonable cost. I was unsuccessful, despite sending the work out quite widely to a range of non-profit/educational distributors.
Berkeley Media was very keen to have the work. They largely supply educational institutions — hence their prices are high but individuals and organizations can apply for a discount on purchases. It seemed important to me that the films about Bill be properly archived and distributed, so despite the restrictions and pricing, I decided Berkeley Media was my best bet.”
I just searched Berkeley Media’s website, but didn’t find the films. Maybe they’re not added yet…I’ve seen them, they follow Bill through the seasons at Dickinson’s Reach. Good stuff.
Anna kindly sent me the link to a “leftover” film, of Bill working on a chair he’s made. It’s not an action feature; no car chase, little suspense, etc. Nor is it a how-to, or a documentary. It is really a snapshot of Bill at work, tinkering around in his shop. When I know more about the other films, I’ll let you know. I really appreciate Anna making this available to us, and am grateful that she spent all that time recording Bill. If it asks you for a password – it’s Coperthwaite
This “green woodworking” arena is pretty small of course. While I was at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN I was reminded of a few peripheral connections I had to the place. Jogge Sundqvist has taught there a few times; Roger Abrahamson had one of Jogge’s knife/sheath creations, and he let me take some photos…
I mentioned the other day that I had met Roger before, and we have some mutual friends as well. One other small connection was Bill Coperthwaite. Bill taught out at North House before.
While we were talking, some folks asked if I knew what was going to happen to Bill’s place, Dickinson’s Reach. I said I didn’t, but I had forgotten that there were memorial services happening maybe right at the same time we were making bowls. When I got back, I had a nice email from Peter Lamb. Peter said they had over 300 people out at Dickinson’s Reach, including some from Malaysia, China & Japan. He sent along this short obit for Bill. I’ll keep the blog readers abreast of anything I hear about how folks are going to help steward Bill’s legacy. Thanks to Peter Lamb for sending this along.
Thanksgiving in the US is a big deal. But not for me in the usual way. I hate football, drinking & eating turkey & the “fixings” – always have. But Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, Plymouth – that’s the scene, whether it really started there or not. I can’t care, as my friend Pat would say. Working at Plimoth means huge crowds on Thanksgiving, maybe 4,000 people Thursday and the same or more on Friday. 20 years of working those days can also make you a bit dazed…
I split, hewed & planed lots of red oak – big movements are easily seen by big crowds…
Folks were nice, but kinda quiet. At least they weren’t breaking out in fist-fights like many shoppers were. So while I was working away, my mind was often on Bill Coperthwaite. I took his book with me to the beach, where I had lunch. Read snippets here & there. His tag line is often quoted, “I want to live in a world where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.”
Back at the bench, I was speaking to a family/couple – I forget who was who. But one woman watched for a while, turned to her husband & said – “It makes me want to go home & make something!”
This isn’t the blog post I wanted to write tonight. A few readers emailed me with the news that Bill Coperthwaite died in a car accident in Maine on Tuesday. Icy road conditions, lost control of the van. Died at the scene.
So what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? Simple – having met Bill. About 10 years ago, the museum acted as training ground and consultants for a PBS program called Colonial House. I had little to do with it, other than making 4 housefuls of furniture. But my wife Maureen & I, along with several of our great friends and co-workers back then, were part of the clean-up crew. That meant we travelled to Machias, ME and stayed out in this glorious seaside house, while we worked at the site dis-mantling the innards of several 17th-century style houses…in absolutely perfect New England early October weather as I recall. We liked it so much that several of us, in one configuration or another, rented the same house for a vacation for several years after that.
Here’s the view out the front door of that house:
When we were there the first time, I remembered one of the young members of our building crew telling us about a guy who lived around the cove in a few yurts. I thought, “that’s Coperthwaite.” I had never met Bill, but we had several mutual friends, foremost Drew & Louise Langsner. Look in Drew’s early book Country Woodcraft, and Bill wrote the introduction.
We had no time to chase down Bill’s place that first season, but the next year we had no work to do, so my friend Tom & I decided to try to find him. Catch was we had no boat, so had to figure out how to get there by land. It’s Maine – the place that invented “you can’t get there from here.” When we finally did get to Bill’s trail, and started walking in, out came Bill, en route to a workshop. He invited us to come help, but that was the day we were headed home (an 8 or 9 hour drive.)
Life got in my way & it took me several years before I was out that way again. After working with the folks at Lie-Nielsen a bunch, I decided to tack on a trip to Machiasport after one of my stints at LN. I got to spend a couple of afternoons with Bill, no where near enough time, but glad I made it happen. What an interesting person! It was fun to watch & listen as Bill never answered a question directly, everything became a teaching opportunity.
When people ask me, I always say that A Handmade Life is my favorite book…some can’t stand it, but I take what I need from it & leave the rest.