Back in 1988, I met Jögge Sundqvist while I was the intern at Country Workshops, Drew & Louise Langsner’s school for green woodworking. Jögge came to teach a class that summer, and to shoot a video for Taunton Press on spoon & bowl carving. The video is a companion to his father Wille’s book Swedish Carving Techniques. He and I were both younger then,
While he & I were together in Maine in September, I floated the idea of coming back for Greenwood Fest in June 2016. And he said yes. Enough blather. Here’s Jögge’s blurb, in English.
“I am working with handtools in the self-sufficient scandinavian fine craft tradition, making stools, chairs, cupboards, knifes, spoons, sculpture and shelves painted with artist oil colour. Since the age of 4 I learned using the knife and the axe by my father Wille Sundqvist. Educated at the fine woodcraft Vindeln folkhighscool 1982 – 84. Under the name s u r o l l e I runa professional small business since 1999 where I make sloyd and fine craft. I also teach and give lectures, and write books.”
Last weekend was the class Jogge Sundqvist taught at Lie-Nielsen. I managed to stick my nose into it, but did almost no woodwork. Instead, I listened carefully, and tried to get around and see all the students as they worked. I failed in that regard, but there were too many interesting people there!
As always, it was great being there for Jogge’s class. His techniques and skills are extraordinary, but so is his outlook on craft and all its significance. I wish this class had been longer, but I still wouldn’t have seen it all. The class wasn’t about making a spoon, or this or that – but about techniques and the whole outlook Jogge uses in his sloyd work. Reading the trees, and seeing what’s inside them…that sort of thing.
Here. you see what a dull teacher he is, as Geoff Chapman busts open a birch section.
We had great weather, so got to have much of our work outside behind the toolworks. Roy Underhill had sharpened this saw for the LN Open House, so we put it to good use.
Really, Jogge is great & all that – but Kenneth, get up off your knees. It’s not like that!
The class made butter spreaders…I forget whose these are. They aren’t mine, that’s for sure. I started two and am not even sure where they are at this point. They’re great for practicing knife techniques.
The other “project”was a decorative distaff, one of the fittings for a linen wheel. Jogge showed us some historical examples that displayed a great array of decoration. To me, they looked like turned things made square…here, Masashi, Kenneth & Eric are looking one over & discussing its features.
When lining up an auger bit for boring, Jogge suggests getting a photographer to help you sight the angles…(I wasn’t the only one – there were about 4 of us at the same angle)
On the 2nd day of class, Drew & Louise Langsner showed up, having come up to Maine ahead of Drew’s class there the following weekend..here they are meeting Dave Fisher.
Dave and Eric Goodson both wrote about the class also –
The package arrived the other day. I only had a little time to view the spoon & the video at lunch, so when I got home later, I was looking at Wille’s spoon and just wanted to show someone. I took it into the living room, where Daniel was drawing. I said nothing, just handed him the spoon.
He held it, looked it over, and whispered “It’s perfect.” As if it was so good you had to be quiet around it…
Last fall or summer, I forget which, readers of this blog responded with great enthusiasm for the fund-raising campaign that helped Jogge Sundqvist and others make the film that chronicles his father Wille’s woodworking journey. The film is now available as a DVD – and if you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to go order it. It is a treasure. I’m sure if you’re reading this blog, you’ll love this film. I am so pleased for Wille and especially Jogge to have completed the task of making this film – it’s a great accomplishment.
Here’s the latest from Jogge about the film The Spoon the Bowl and the Knife – it includes ordering information, so have at it.
In this moment I´m waiting for all the DVD´s to come. Then we have to put them in the covers and do the special Kickstarters edition we promised you. So within two weeks the film will be in your mailboxes!
The 31 of january we will have the World Premiere at the Museum of Västerbotten with a lot of specially inivted people, it is the grand opening of the European Capital of Culture 2014 in Umeå the same weekend. The princess will be there, unfortunatly not to see the film, but the red carpet will be rolled out and a rope for Wille to cut on the shopping block as a grand opening ritual.
In Scandinavia and other Europe you can buy it from s u r o l l e.
It has been a great investment and a huge job to produce the film, far more than I could have imagined. But I’m happy with the result. We have gained the process of how to carve a spoon and how to turn a bowl. There is some grinding tips and a PDF with all the important carving grasps as Wille shows. The history section with some background on Willes life took a lot of research for images. That part felt important: to explain how it came about that the Swedish craft begun to spread in the United States.
So thanks again everybody for backing this film, you really made me do it.
Please tell friends about “The Spoon, the Bowl and the Knife!
We want it to be spread all over the world.
Tonight after posting my story about shop-moving, some link-following took me to this video that I had never seen before. It’s Jogge telling his 4-walls story, and the story of his alter-ego Surolle. He’s one of the best craftsmen I know, and a great teacher. Also has one of the most colorful websites around.
I got a note back from Jogge Sundqvist the other day, when I wrote to congratulate him on the immediate success of the kickstarter fundraising. Here’s part of what he wrote:
This is just overwhelming!
I haven´t in my deepest imagination ever thought that we should reach the goal so quickly. Within 24 hrs…
This is so helpful, not just the money, it also strengthens everyone involved in self-confidence and trust in the movie to be something really good.
And everyone involved in the film is full of humility and wonder at the response we’ve had to make the film about Wille.
We have a little way to go before our actual budget… I hope you still want to continue to spread the word about the film, every little contribution is incredibly valuable to make a film of high artistic quality and with a clear content.
BUT – you might ask: What’s all the fuss about Wille Sundqvist and some wooden spoons? Ha! You’d be amazed.
As the years keep ticking by, I often think about connections and chronologies. May times people will think about events in their lives, and how one simple happening might turn your life this direction or that…and I think that without Wille, I might not be a joiner/woodworker today. Certainly not a spoon carver. And yet we barely know each other…
I first heard of Wille of course from Drew Langsner, whom I met in 1980. That was the start of my woodworking career, although you wouldn’t have seen it coming then! I have often told the story of how I got to Drew’s Country Workshops to learn traditional woodworking. I was a mainstay there in the 2nd half of the 1980s and early 1990s (til I got a job…).
But how did Country Workshops begin? Drew has told me and many others the story many times, and a while back wrote it down in one of the Country Workshops e-newsletters. http://www.countryworkshops.org/newsletter31/ (scroll down to “CW History” – and if you haven’t yet, you can sign up for their free newsletter. It always has good stuff in it, besides update on classes and tools, etc.)
The gist of it is that Bill Coperthwaite brought Wille Sundqvist to meet Drew & Louise in 1976 or 77. Drew had a couple days’ worth of lessons from Wille, and was wanting more. Thus the idea of inviting him to come teach a workshop, which led to the Langsners hosting woodworking classes ever since.
Drew included Wille in his first woodworking how-to book, Country Woodcraft, in 1978. That’s where I first saw/heard of Wille.
Then as I became a regular student at Country Workshops, I often heard stories of Wille’s craft and his teaching, and also saw examples of his work. As it turned out, I met his son Jogge first, in 1988. Then a few years later I was able to attend one of Wille’s classes.
Here is a quote from Wille’s book, Swedish Carving Techniques (Taunton Press, 1990):
“Carving something with a knife or an ax is a very tangible way to get a sense of design. Because the object being made doesn’t have to be secured in any way, it’s easy to move it to different positions and see its lines and shape grow out of the blank. A three-dimensional object isn’t just a picture. It’s an infinite number of pictures, and all of the pictures must find harmony within the object. The lines of the object must compose one unit, congruent from whatever direction it is seen. Carving teaches design.”
And that is really a big part of it. Wille’s spoons are very deceptive. Unlike any furniture work I do, these are subtractive woodworking – you’re cutting wood away & leaving just the right bits. You hope. Each cut means something. There’s so many layers to what Wille teaches – the postures, the tools, the design. You learn about wood and how it grows; and its strengths and weaknesses. Also about the tools, the edge and how it slices. If you have ever seen me use a hatchet, that work comes to me from Wille, some of it directly and much of it through Drew & Jogge.
To me, the spoon carving is a revolutionary act. It helps cut through the mass-produced cheap culture that we have absorbed like zombies. Such a simple household implement, taken to extraordinary heights. Why shouldn’t our most basic kitchen stuff be beautiful? Out with plastic! Think about Coperthwaite and his quote “I want to live in a world where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.”
The kickstarter campaign runs for 4o more days and at this writing is over $7,000. That’s not counting whatever got donated directly to Drew or Jogge. Thanks to everyone from here who helped. If you’re inclined, please spread the word.
I have a funny job. 8 months out of the year, I answer questions as I work in the shop. You tend to hear some of them over & over again. And again. I’m going to answer some of them here from time to time. Here’s the first one.
How did I get started in this kind of woodworking, hand tools, green wood?
It’s not a simple answer like “I served an apprenticeship” or anything along those lines. When I was younger, I inherited from my father a tablesaw, drill press, router, jointer, lathe, etc. – all electric. All 1950s & early ‘60s vintage. I tried to learn something of how to use them. Fumbled around a bit, until I saw a 1978 issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. In it were two articles that somehow struck me just right. One was an excerpt from Make a Chair from a Tree, by (then) John Alexander. The other was an article by Drew Langsner about cleaving wood from a log. I ordered Alexander’s book and tracked down a copy of Drew’s then-new book Country Woodcraft (Rodale Press, 1978)
That was the beginning of my real woodworking education. Two years later, I went down to Marshall, N.C. for my first-ever visit to Country Workshops, the school run by Drew and his wife Louise. I was not a stellar student that year by any stretch of the imagination. The wood was not the only “green” thing around, let’s leave it at that.
Readers of this blog know the relationship that eventually came about between Alexander & I – its importance I have already written about. But the same is true of Drew’s impact on my career. I see him as the unsung hero of green woodworking…for over 30 years he’s been teaching class after class and studying & exploring numerous aspects of woodcraft.
I went back to Drew & Louise’s place many times between about 1985 and and 1994. My first class there was in a barn shared with the animals. I seem to remember Alexander standing on a hay bale to write on a blackboard. Over the years the facility grew and improved through a strong commitment on the Langsners’ part.
Drew’s Country Woodcraft is a neat book, I dug out my copy last week to look it over. Many things in there I never made; I have no use thus far for a Spike-tooth A-harrow, nor a drag. But this might be the first place I saw a spring pole lathe…and I certainly first saw spoon carving in this book.
The Logbuilder’s Handbook chronicles how they built their log house. I have the book, read it cover-to-cover, but never did any hewing of timbers. I aim to tackle some hewing this winter.
After my first trip in 1980, I shook a few demons for a couple of years before I returned in 1985 to try my hand at timber framing in oak. There I met Daniel O’Hagan from Pennsylvania, who became a great influence on me as well. From then on, I remember waiting each winter for the Country Workshops newsletter/catalog to come in the mail , so I could see what classes were being offered & start making plans for the summer’s trip to N.C.
I went again & again. Timber framing a few times, Windsor chairs with Curtis Buchanan, basketry, spoon carving with both Jogge & Wille Sundqvist, coopering with Drew..
For a while I tried each class they offered just about. Drew went on to write many books and articles, – his Green Woodworking is a great book and the Chairmaker’s Workshop is a very detailed exploration into how Drew makes several styles of chairs that have been the focal point of Country Workshops, starting with Alexander’s first class there in 1979.
I spent the summer of 1988 living and working with Drew & Louise. What an experience. The years kept going by. Making great quality tools available became another focus for Drew and Country Workshops, as they started to import blacksmith-made hatchets, gouges, etc. Similarly, there was a series of woodcraft videos, one on spoons & bowls by Jogge Sundqvist, then Drew’s first woodworking teacher Ruedi Kohler, the Swiss cooper. They did another excellent one about Bengt Lidstrom making hewn bowls in Sweden. All well worth having.
By 1994, I got a job. That was great in some ways, my museum work has been another very exciting chapter in my work, but it also changed my travel inclinations for about 10 years. In that time, my travels were about research, studying oak furniture, lecturing, etc. So no time really for woodworking classes. I kept in touch with Drew & Louise through the mail, then email…always with an eye on what was happening down there.
I finally made it back there when the twins were just toddlers, and have been several times in the past 6 years or so.
It’s great to be back, and I am really looking forward to August 2013 when I will again teach how to rive, plane and carve oak to make a 17th-century box. If you have been to Langsner’s you don’t need me to tell you about it, if you haven’t – here’s your chance. Don’t miss out. Take my class, take a chairmaking class, spoons & bowls, or any of the others. Just get there. Here’s the website http://countryworkshops.org/ sign up for the newsletter, sign up for their catalog/class listings. Get on the mailing list so it comes to your house, just like the old days.
Here’s Drew’s website, http://drewlangsner.com/ you can see the sort of wooden ware he’s interested in making lately. To me, it harks back to his days as a sculpture/art student. And while you’re at it, here once again is the link to Louise’s blog about her cooking & gardening. I know I point to this stuff a lot, but we have some new readers here. So bear with me. http://louiselangsner.wordpress.com/
I really can’t state strongly enough just how important Drew’s work has been to mine. Getting to know Drew and Louise has been one of the best parts of my adult life. I can say without reservation, without them, I would not be where I am today. No bones about it. They literally made me feel a part of their family, and have been so generous over the years. See you in N.C.