An exhibition at Devon Guild focuses on a vital new project by curator and educator Raj Patel. He has persuaded local schools to work out doors with master craftspeople and learn old skills: using hand tools to work green wood. From this, the students un-earthed knowledge about sustainable woodland management, nature conservation and the important effect of trees and replanting, on climate change.
Tree planting days
The project’s Instagram page shows key moments and groups’ involvement with local tree-planting days.
Since September 2018 six local craftspeople have worked with Devon schools: The Grove Primary School, KEVICCs in Totnes and Ashburton Primary School.
Old Skills New Ways re-tells the students’ journey of how the groups connected with nature during the 2018 project, and explored the heritage craft of greenwood working. They joined skilled makers in the wood camp and got hands on with traditional techniques of woodcarving, shaving, whittling, joining and weaving.
The exhibition is an immersive show in 3 parts: the first area reconstructs the woodcraft camp environment within the gallery space. The second is a marketplace where the children will be enterprising and sell crafts they made: a range of basketry, stools, benches, wooden toys and coat hooks.
The final part presents craftwork by the 5 professional craftspeople who taught the groups: Linda Lemieux (basket maker); Sean Hellman (woodwright); Elizabeth Crawford (rush basketry); Astrid Arnold (carpenter) and Sharif Adams (bowl turner). Each was commissioned to make new work for the exhibition which will be displayed and for sale too.
Incredibly positive impact
Head teacher Hilary Priest, said of the Old Skills project: “We have seen first-hand the incredibly positive impact it has on young people, in terms of improving their confidence, mental health, self-esteem and how they view themselves as learners.” (The Grove)
Raj Patel, curator of the exhibition said: “The Old Skills New Ways project has been transformative for the students, teachers and makers involved. The exhibition at Devon Guild is a fantastic opportunity for students and craftspeople alike to show their talents in the context of one of the most prestigious craft galleries in the South West.”
Raj wants new generations to re-discover that you can use older ways such as these practical wood craft skills – to successfully make a living, no matter what your age or gender – while also caring for the environment!
To help spread the word (and plant the seed) there’s a Meet the Future maker-space in the gallery where visitors can interact with information about how trees grow and about cultivating woodlands. There is also an exciting programme of intergenerational workshops, Maker events and Tree Talks by forestry experts and woodworkers.
Exhibition is free and open daily, 10am – 5.30pm.
The exhibition comes with workshops, events, talks and opportunities to meet the makers. Visit the Devon Guild of Craftsmen site for details.
top image: Working as a team to cut a log using a traditional cross saw.
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