Plates & Platters: My Fellowship in Maine

Over the past month, I’ve been participating in a fellowship at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. I was here last March as well, and it’s a treat returning to a familiar place. The school’s main programs are longer-term woodworking intensives in furniture making & woodturning, but they also have an awesome fellowship program for professional woodworkers who are at various stages in their careers, to develop their designs and produce new work. I’m here for a six week stint, but some people stay up to six months. There is a fully equipped woodworking shop, lumber onsite, and a log merchant nearby who helps me with my greenwoodworking needs.

The pencil points to where my workbench is - smack dab in the middle of the Fellowship Building.

Currently there is more white snow than green grass.

Currently there is more white snow than green grass.

One of my main goals in coming back to the school was to make plates from large diameter trees - specifically cherry because I like incorporating the contrast of the white sapwood and pink heartwood.

This is how I layout plates that I turn on the lathe. I needed to get a large diameter log so that I could get quartersawn blanks and blanks with relatively parallel grain. This is in order to minimize warping as they dry.

This is how I layout plates that I turn on the lathe. I needed to get a large diameter log so that I could get quartersawn blanks and blanks with relatively parallel grain. This is in order to minimize warping as they dry.

The first week I got here, the resourceful and knowledge-full Mason McBrien took me to the log merchant in Windsor, ME and we selected two large diameter logs for me to work with, and an additional log for the students in the woodturning intensive. It was amazing to learn that the crane was manufactured in Two Harbors, Minnesota! A town a few hours from Grand Marais, MN, where I was living for the past year and a half.

This was my first time doing a production run of woodenware and below are the results. I created 7” and 8-7/8” diameter plates. They work really nicely together. I’m selling them as pairs, because by seeing two plates side by side, you can appreciate the design of the sapwood and heartwood better. They’re for sale on my website until the end of this week (2/22), and then I’ll sell them through stores. Next up, I’ll be working on hand carved platters - more photos and stories to come!

Pile of completed plates!

Finished plate & apple for scale.

Finished plate & apple for scale.

A stack of cherry plates with the sapwood lined up.

No Shortage of Ships in Stockholm

I arrived in Stockholm after a seven-hour train ride from Oslo, Norway, that took me across parched and flat farmlands. At Stockholm central, I sprinted to the closest kardemummabullar seller (cardamom roll) that I could find. Once satiated with this sweet and spice-filled delight, I navigated the mass transit system to the island of Skeppsholmen, my home for the night. I stayed in a repurposed wooden ship in a room with five roommates and two tiny portholes.

The dreamy kardemummabullar.

The dreamy kardemummabullar.

That afternoon I visited the Swedish crafts store, Slöjd Detaljer, and admired their selection of high quality goods. Knives, leather, gold leaf, Japanese saws, yarn, and the latest tool sharpening system made by the Swedish company Tormek.

High quality selection of tools at the arts and crafts store.

High quality selection of tools at the arts and crafts store.

Funky gold leaf project on display at Slöjd Detaljer.

Funky gold leaf project on display at Slöjd Detaljer.

I hadn’t treated myself to a restaurant in a month of travels, so decided to put my highly advanced Swedish language skills to use and find me some köttbullar (meatballs). I read reviews on Yelp of the best meatballs, (probably according to American visitors) and found a place close to my hostel.

When I walked in, the historic wooden interior, stained glass ceiling and wine glass-holding clientele suggested that my sweatpant culottes and bulging day backpack were a little out of place. The waitress came to my table and said in English, “Let me guess, you want the meatballs?” to which I proudly and slowly replied, “No. Jag vill skulle köttbullar och potatismos.” (No. I would like meatballs and mashed potatoes.”) Fortunately she smiled and complimented my pronunciation of “köttbullar” which is surprisingly “shet-boolar” (Tack to my language teacher, Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux.)

While devouring the classic Norwegian novel, Hunger, by Knut Hamsun (1890), I ate the salty gravy-covered meatballs, mashed potatis and tart lingonberry jam.

#potatis #köttbullar

#potatis #köttbullar

I watched a dramatic sunset through the porthole that night and slept well on the lightly rocking ship.

The next morning I put my tourist game face on, woke up early, and hopped on a ferry to Scandinavia’s most popular museum, the Vasa Museum, which is home to a monumental 17th century warship.

I decided to release my pent up energy by dancing to the museum, in the style of early ipod advertisements – white earbuds and a tiny screen in my hands.

What I looked like dancing in Stockholm.

What I looked like dancing in Stockholm.

Because it was so early, few folks were around so I let loose and imagined I was my dance hero Anne Marsen from the amazing Girl Talk music video “All Aboard.”

My dancepiration & doppleganger, Anne Marsen.

My dancepiration & doppleganger, Anne Marsen.

Once I got in to the museum, I was in instant awe of the ship’s jaw-dropping scale.

The bow of Vasa. It felt impossible to take a single photo of the entire ship.

The bow of Vasa. It felt impossible to take a single photo of the entire ship.

I consider it the ultimate bestest museum of hubris. It is home to a 226’ long wooden warship that was sunk by a sudden breeze, 25 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628. The design was top heavy due to its two decks holding 64 cannons and a narrow beam (width) at 38’. But like so many things in life, something that initially was, “oh no, that’s bad...” became, “oh no, that’s good!”

Because it sank so quickly, it was in relatively shallow water and was able to be excavated and restored starting in the 1960s. It’s the largest intact shipwreck in the world and the most visited museum in Scandinavia. It’s also a really inspiring and didactic museum model with thorough displays, conservationists you can talk to and an amazing building design with artificial masts on the top of the roof.

Onsite conversational conservationists.

Onsite conversational conservationists.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the ornate figure carvings, with Roman emperors, the king’s son, an enormous lion and much more. 

The ornate stern of the ship. Description from the exhibit: "The national coat of arms, Sweden's symbol. The lions have featured since the 13th century. The three crowns symbolize the Three Holy Kings. The central shield bears the arms of the Vasa family, a sheaf of corn, ("vase" in old Swedish). The crown emphasizes the royal status of the dynasty."

The ornate stern of the ship. Description from the exhibit: "The national coat of arms, Sweden's symbol. The lions have featured since the 13th century. The three crowns symbolize the Three Holy Kings. The central shield bears the arms of the Vasa family, a sheaf of corn, ("vase" in old Swedish). The crown emphasizes the royal status of the dynasty."

Description from the exhibit: "Two griffins - Charles IX's heraldic animals - hold the royal crown above the young Gustavus Adolphus' head. As a boy he was already his father's chosen successor."

Description from the exhibit: "Two griffins - Charles IX's heraldic animals - hold the royal crown above the young Gustavus Adolphus' head. As a boy he was already his father's chosen successor."

An approximation of what some of the ship's carvings would have looked like with their original colors.

An approximation of what some of the ship's carvings would have looked like with their original colors.

An exterior room connected to the captain's quarters.

An exterior room connected to the captain's quarters.

Close up of carved figures from the roof of the exterior room.

Close up of carved figures from the roof of the exterior room.

Lion at the bow of the ship.

Lion at the bow of the ship.

After viewing the ship, I hopped on a ship, and went back to my ship.

Wild Stools & Lots of Light

Since I arrived in Norway it's been a little non-stoppe! Which is how I enjoy traveling, but it's not the most conducive to prolific blog writing. So I will try to steppe it up.

I am staying outside of Lillehammer this evening, and it's pastoral and bucolic. Sheep and their little lambs are baaa-ing outside of my window, the sun is slowly setting (it's 10 o'clock and totally bright outside) on a far off hillside and I have a room to myself thanks to a generous member of the couchsurfing community. 

Outside of the home where I'm staying around 6 PM.

Outside of the home where I'm staying around 6 PM.

Lillehammer is a two-hour train ride north of Oslo, and is nestled in valley that is filled by a long and narrow lake, Lake Mjøsa. (*alert* lake factoid: in Norway, Mjøsa is the largest lake by surface area and the 4th deepest.)

A view of Lake Mjøsa from the train ride.

A view of Lake Mjøsa from the train ride.

I traveled here to visit the Maihuagen Museum, an enormous open air museum with buildings that span from the 1200s to the 1990s. I didn't get a chance to explore the grounds today, but instead went indoors to their archives and to meet with someone who works at the Norwegian Handicraft Institute. I will visit the outdoor part this weekend.

I could have spent days in their woodenware and furniture archives but alas, I only had an hour and a half. So I dove into their wooden containers and bowls area, carefully, and with gloves on. There were great locking lid boxes and wonderful decorations.  Feel free to click to enlarge.

I then sped walked over to the furniture building. Below are some of the stools that I fell in love with. Note the serpentine heads carved into multiple stools! I am curious if anyone has ideas about the potential significance of this design.

I am inspired by the use of natural curves, branches and play. If you're curious to see more images and information on these pieces, I recommend visiting the amazing online database, "Digitalt Museum."

Now that it's 11 PM, I guess I can say the sun is officially setting, or approaching setting. It's wild to witness so much light. 

The view outside my window as I write. Happy little lambs. 11 PM.

The view outside my window as I write. Happy little lambs. 11 PM.