The BBC2 TV series 'Mastercrafts', presented by Monty Don and including an episode filmed in the Woodland Workshop, started broadcasting on the 12th February 2010. The very first episode was 'our' one, focusing on green woodworking. I was the wood mentor, teaching green wood chair making to three participants in the Woodland Workshop over several months.
Some selected excerpts from the show are available on YouTube:
It was a fantastic experience and a joy to spend six weeks with the three trainees that featured in the show, working our way through our range of green woodworking courses and discussing the role of traditional craft in the 21st century. Tom, Charles and Sarah worked incredibly hard and we were all delighted with their final projects. It was strange to go from telling guests that our courses are non-competitive to finding myself having to stand back and let them get on with their final project without helping - as this time it WAS a competition!
We were honoured to have Mike Abbott here on the final days to judge the work of the trainees. Mike has been working in green wood for many years and wrote the books that helped me on my transition from cabinet-making to green woodwork. We could not have had a more respected green woodworker to decide the winner. I was also pleased not to have to pick between them at the end of six weeks working together!
Our neighbours at Forde Abbey were also incredibly helpful and we were able to spend some time in their woods selecting suitable ash trees for felling for the final projects - using horses of course.
A bonus for me that came out of the research for the series was to get to know and correspond with Robin Wood who, as well as being a fine craftsman making bowls on a pole lathe, writing books and teaching, also helps run the Heritage Crafts Association. This has been granted charitable status. With the Mastercrafts series and other public exposure for traditional crafts, I am sure the Association's establishment has been very timely and will help further spread the word about traditional crafts - be it for heritage, leisure, product, therapy or education.
Since working on Mastercrafts I have enjoyed working on and featuring in a number of other TV series, and there are more projects in the pipeline. This work has proved very popular and I enjoy sharing my passion for wood and designing with wood, and - I hope - spreading enthusiasm and knowledge about craft skills. It is very gratifying to receive emails on a regular basis telling tales of how this work has inspired people to revisit or take up a craft in their own lives.