The European Woodworking Show is a great place to meet up with some real craftsmen; people who’s crafts genuinely become a part of who they are. Another highlight for me last year was meeting with Willy Rackham, an archery enthusiast and expert at fletching and making longbows. Willy wasn’t hard to spot as he was the chap in the wonderfully produced traditional outfit which without better reference I’d have to describe as Robin Hood.
There was an obvious passion for bringing our history back to life and I was delighted to see the bits of furniture that had been brought along for the display. As their maker Willy shrugged off any sense of pride for the pieces; they’d been built for purpose and that was all, they were even left out in our typical English rain!
It was a small chest that had really caught my attention. A nailed together six board chest with a lovely honest character, note the lovely ripples left on its surfaces by the tools and the slight discolouration around the nail holes. It was not pretending to be anything more than it was and this gave it a real charm.
It turns out the chest was a scaled down version of one Willy had seen in a church and I really quite like its dinky proportions, much more practical for the modern home.
I enjoyed meeting with a man who had really found himself in his work, too often we can try too hard to be someone we’re not. We don’t all desire to dress up as Robin Hood nor have a taste for medieval chests but I think we can all aim for this kind of honesty in our work. When a piece turns out just as we intended then it’s likely it will carry a bit of our own personality with it and it’s this that can give even the simplest of work a true character of its own.