Raising Cain And Blisters

Bill and I spent last weekend at Woodlanders, an annual gathering of rustic furniture makers held at Shake Rag Alley Center for Arts and Crafts in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Bill has been going to this event for several years, but this is the first time I’ve been able to accompany him. We got to see some old friends and made some new ones, including a few of the winged variety.

It’s a stretched to say we raised cain, but we did our share of whooping and hollering during the boat race, in delight over the automatons in Judy’s studio, and in appreciation of an impromptu symphony of PVC instruments.

We both tried to earn our keep by teaching some short sessions. Bill taught how to make homemade soda pop, and took a variety of flavors for folks to sample. The people who don’t like rhubarb didn’t care for rhubarb soda, either, but there was great appreciation for strawberry-rhubarb, lemon-lime-hops, ginger-cherry, root beer, and the pièce de résistance, rose petal soda. I had fun teaching a couple of short sessions — Image Transfers on Wood and More and a Creativity Cram Session.

We both also had a chance to take some workshops. Bill made a floor lamp with Todd Kingery.

I spent Saturday in the Blacksmith Shop working with David Eagan. This was totally different from any kind of work I’ve done before.

David took us through the whole process, from building and maintaining the fire in the forge (I loved the forge), to making hot and cold cuts, shaping and twisting steel to make hooks and hangers, and to applying a finish with beeswax.

By the end of the day, I’d managed to raise one pretty good blister on my hand. It reminded me of all the beginning kayak students in our previous life. When everything is unfamiliar and just a little hazardous, it’s not unusual to latch onto your tools with a death grip. Even when you know it’s not the most effective way to use them, it’s hard to ease up.

That’s the main reason I took the blacksmithing workshops. It’s good to do something a little out of your comfort zone now and then. I needed that reminder to take a deep breath, think things through (oops on that one), and make each stroke count.

Funny how much blacksmithing is like embroidery.

What have you done lately to raise some cain and maybe a few blisters?

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin