Greenwood Fest 2017
Imagine waking up to birdsong in a small cabin among the pines, surrounded by clear glacial ponds and lots of folks with axes. That is the scene at the idyllic and historic Pinewoods Dance Camp, the site of Greenwood Fest.
Nearly 400 years after the Mayflower, another hardy band of pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, Mass., also seeking truth, opportunity, and fulfillment. Of course there are differences. Over half of those original settlers died within a year; the survival rate is much higher at Greenwood Fest.
The Plymouth Center for Restoration Arts and Forgotten Trades—Plymouth CRAFT—organized the first Greenwood Fest in June of 2016, and repeated the monumental task again this past June. The event is the highlight of Plymouth CRAFT’s programs throughout the year aimed at improving hand skills and deepening appreciation for traditional craft. I’ve had the good fortune of being a part of the event both years, and I’d like to give you some idea of what Greenwood Fest is and what makes it so special, beginning with the setting.
Imagine waking up to birdsong in a small cabin among the pines, surrounded by clear glacial ponds and lots of folks with axes. That is the scene at the idyllic and historic Pinewoods Dance Camp, the site of Greenwood Fest. It is a setting that seems to promote creativity, thought, and personal interaction. Cell phones are eschewed and hands are used for making things and greeting others.
Biology professors, carpenters, helicopter pilots, weavers, are all brought together by a common passion for making things from green wood with hand tools, a passion that brings them from as far away as Istanbul and Seattle for this Plymouth pilgrimage. Men and women of all ages share, work, and laugh together on a carpet of pine needles. And they eat together too!
The staff at Pinewoods create three hearty meals daily that are a culinary delight. Dishes of beef brisket and lentil soup, just to name a couple, draw people together around the appropriately family-style table. Freshly baked artisan loaves and mouthwatering desserts put it all over the top. And a stream of fresh coffee is ever-flowing to wash it all down.
Walking around the grounds, you’ll see the participants sharing ideas, skills, and tools. They are joined by over a dozen instructors in techniques including spoon carving, chairmaking, clog making, pole-lathe turning, sharpening, hewing, fire making, bowl carving, and joinery. This international contingent offers instruction through Pre-Fest courses as well as demonstrations and programs during the three days of the festival proper.
And there’s plenty of opportunity to let your hair down! Saturday night the dance floor opens up in front of The Dinghies, a great local band full of infectious energy and fun. You might even find yourself running beside a Swede as he tosses his knife aside before jumping into the pond.
Plymouth Craft also brought together many legends of the handwork movement to this year’s Greenwood Fest. What a treat it was to watch and listen as Roy Underhill, with his incredible wit and passion, wove together poetry and woodworking in a way that resonated deeply. And what a thrill to listen as Drew and Louise Langsner shared the story of Country Workshops, tying together the influences of people like Wille Sundqvist, Bill Coperthwaite, Jennie Alexander, and others.
Yet many of the most special moments occur outside of scheduled presentations. For example, one evening after dinner I found myself in a conversation with Drew Langsner, 15-year-old AJ, and his father, Alex. The mix of young and old and the passing down of the universal human joy of creating from nature struck me. The efforts of Paula Marcoux and the incredible team at Plymouth CRAFT make moments like that possible.
I’ve got my fingers crossed that they’ll do it again in 2018. Grab your axe and get started for Plymouth!
More about green woodworking on FineWoodworking.com
- Interested in giving spoon carving a try? In this article, Peter Galbert will get you started.
- In this FWW classic, Dale Nish says finding green wood is almost as fulfilling as actually working it.