Pedal to the treadle

Richard Lees on the pole lathe. Photo: Colleen Spiro.

It’s intended to be an ‘olde worlde’ experience, doing things how they used to be done.

It’s called ‘Greenwood in Spring’, a weekend encampment where experienced craftsman and tutor Richard Lees will share his green wood techniques – green wood describing the range of ways in which unseasoned wood can be used.

“It’s not that we have anything against seasoned wood or modern technology,” says artist and organiser Andria Goodliffe. “It’s just that for us there is something wonderfully elemental – something starkly simple, primitive or even basic.”

The wood is fresh off the tree at the encampment venue – Kiwifruit Habitat Gallery on State Highway 29, Tauriko. “We can even leave the bark on,” says Andria. However tutor Richard Lees will be bringing some pear wood with him – pear wood has been described as ‘one of the most sensual and satisfying hardwoods a furniture maker can encounter.’

“Using a pole lathe, we can create furniture from green wood – stools, chairs, ladles, scoops, and wooden bowls. Pole lathes are the way lathes should be.”

A pole lathe is a wood-turning lathe using a long pole as a return spring for a foot treadle. Archaeological finds suggest Vikings used them. They died out in England after World War II but have been popularised again through the increased interest in green wood at a hobby rather than professional level.

Around Britain there are regular courses for learning the art of pole lathe turning and associated skills.

Andria’s favourite green item is something called a besom. “An old-fashioned broom, very much like a witches’ broom.”

Would she ever use a besom? “Well, I use it much more than I would ever use my vacuum which sits ignored in my cupboard. I see some dust or dirt and I take to it with my besom and swish, it’s gone.”

For most of those attending, the workshop is a re-connection with their ancestry. “It’s simple living, a slow living encampment, we aren’t in a hurry. We are learning processes and enjoying the journey in the making,” says Andria.

And like-minded people will socialise and chit-chat in a rural camping environment and enjoy a nice slow living feast cooked over an open fire. “It’s the blending of modern life with slow living,” says Andria.

The green wood experience all started with some wooden spoons being made at a previous workshop. “We all thought that was brilliant. And we wanted to take it a step further. Some even have plans to make furniture.” Like the dairy farmer who’s interested in making a milking stool. Perhaps for a house cow.

“The slow living is like a moving meditation because it gives you time to enjoy what you are doing. And you don’t feel rushed or compelled to get things done, to produce a finished product.

People interested in attending the workshop on September 16-17 should contact Andria on 021 0225 5898. There are still a few spaces left.