Butcher, Baker, handplane maker.
Last week we wrapped up our annual Workshop on Wheels Tour with good friend James Otter and his wooden surfboard company. Taking their bespoke craft to our stores across the country, all in the name of reconnecting with your hands and facilitating some quality time in the ocean.
With a mobile workshop packed into the van, sell out sessions from Bristol to Edinburgh and an unrivalled enthusiasm and expertise good enough to empower the most novice of makers amongst us, we opened our doors to the barefooted craftsman once more.
"It was a windy and wild day by the coast when we loaded the van with all of our tools and half of the workshop. We headed North, well, as North as we could from Cornwall, and homed in on the Bristol store, where we were going to be running the first stop of our Workshop on Wheels tour. We had prepared a handful of handplane blanks and spent the evening with a crew of five making some bodysurfing toys and plenty of sawdust in the front of the Finisterre store on Park Street in the City centre. It's always intriguing to see the reaction and motivation for city dwellers to engage with us in making and who spend most weekends and evenings planning escapes to the coast. Ultimately it all comes back to a connection to the ocean, which is something we all bonded over.
The store staff were excited to have us and brilliant hosts and got involved in some making too, so the excitement and anticipation grew through the evening as discussions turned to where the handplanes would glide along their first few waves.
Once we'd taken people through the cutting, rasping, shaping and sanding phases, they were all stamped and signed off before we packed down and hit the road late at night with our sights set on London.
We headed east and planned a daytime workshop on Earlham street on a Saturday, which meant rising early to set up our workshop downstairs before the official opening of the store and the inevitable influx of feet from the bustling streets of Covent Garden. It was great for us to be able to set up our own space downstairs; it was like a small retreat from the busy-ness and pace of London life and the people that joined us definitely connected to the refreshing sense of head-space and the pause that making offered them. With the physical focus and the buzz of excitement for what they were making, everyone left with a big smile on their face and thanks to the store staff, bellies full of pizza.
It was time for us to head off to our final destination and settle into the long drive North to Edinburgh; a city neither Ally or myself had been to before, yet one we ended up feeling incredibly at home in. From our limited travel experiences, it sure sits pretty high on our list of 'friendliest' cities. The plan this time was to run an evening workshop, much like in Bristol, but this time we had a day to explore the depth of history and culture that the city had to offer. We set up our workshop in the front of the store on George Street and as the last few customers of the day slipped out the door, our handplane makers began to fill in and were greeted by a warm welcome to the store from Dave and his crew of staff. We were excited to meet the crew of people who had come along as the Edinburgh store was the fastest to sell-out and it seems they were all excited to meet us too and get stuck into making their own handplanes, so we quickly started to discuss the options of shapes that they could choose to make. The evening then flowed as the workshops in London and Bristol had done and before long we were tearing off sheets of sandpaper for the makers to work through the final stages of the session.
After we'd hugged everyone on their way out, we began the last loading of the van and were thankful for the help of the guys from Finisterre as we knew we had a long drive back South ahead of us and were keen to get to our beds to rest and recharge.
On the journey home, we reflected on how with Finisterre's help we'd managed to reach new audiences and spread the fun of making and a connection to our hands and the ocean with a wider range of people in such a short space of time than we'd ever manage to do ourselves. We're also excited to do it again in the future as everywhere we went we were met with questions of "when are you doing this again?"...."Soon" we said, "very soon."
Photography courtesy of Ross Dickie