A year ago this month, my wife and I were at the John C. Campbell Folk School. The class I took was Chip Carving. My expectations of this week-long class was to discover if this technique was a viable one for enhancing some of my turned objects. What I didn’t expect was the bond that was established between the instructor, Wayne Barton, and myself.
Wayne is an extraordinary artist and craftsman, a totally engaging instructor, and a downright charming and entertaining person. For more information on Wayne, and to see his work, please click on his link in the right hand column.
During the past twelve months we have corresponded frequently by e-mail. Through that correspondence, we have discovered that we have so many things in common, that we often refer to ourselves as “brothers with different mothers.” A couple of days ago, I received an envelope from Wayne delivered by “snail mail.” With his permission I will share with you the entire contents of that envelope. This will make you chuckle.
The Letter (in part)
“Since you share your thoughts and efforts with others, I thought I’d pass one along to you. The enclosed pictures are of a project I did a few years ago when a carving friend essentially gave me four blocks of wood and said, ‘See what you can do with these.’ I stood them in my studio and glanced at them as I came and went for a couple of weeks. Then one morning it hit me and I went to work designing and then carving.
“It was such a fun project for me that when I finished it came to me that it needed a story. So I sat down and used the inspiration of the moment and banged out a history.”
WELCOME TO THE ABBEY
Solidly braced against the wind-swept cliffs along the western shores of Ireland, and consecrated in the year 1137 A.D. stands the Abbey, built upon the location of an ancient hermitage. Once a place of silence and solitude for the elderly hermit Alec who was dedicated to his daily devotions and yet worldly wise, the Abbey has since its completion become a place of pilgrimage for the devout all across the country.
The architectural style of the Abbey is early Gothic; an enlightened technical advancement over the darker and heavier Romanesque style which, until the Abbey’s construction, dominated religious facades. Like all Benedictine monasteries of its day, the Abbey is self-sufficient with its bountiful fields, orchards, sheep, and distilled spirits best used to warm body and soul against the cold and damp of long winters.
The Abbey is the largest monastery in its region, being inhabited by as many as 150 monks. Its walls are built high and thick, remembering the numerous Viking raids of an earlier time. The monks here, along with their religious obligations, are engaged in numerous other activities to sustain the Abbey. Their primary non-religious endeavor takes place in the scriptorium which often finds as many as fifty monks young and old faithfully copying and illuminating both religious and ancient secular books, preserving the history and knowledge of western civilization.
As you view the Abbey, you will find monks at work and leisure; from picking apples, hoeing, and drawing water at the well, to over-indulging in a liquid repast. Even the night watchman can be seen on his way to station.
With its candles lit, the whole scene and history of the Abbey may be enjoyed not only during the Holiday season, but every day throughout the year.
The Letter (continued)
“Here’s the really funny part. I put the piece on display at a show with the history next to it. A lady came along, saw it, read it, and said she had been to this monastery in Ireland. In as nice a tone as I could produce without bursting out in laughter, I explained that I had invented not only the carving but also the history.
“She replied, ‘Young man (that should give you an idea how old she was), You can’t fool me, I know exactly where this place is and I’ve been there.’ I looked her square in the eye but warmly and said after a long pause, ‘You’re probably right.’ She left with a most triumphant expression. I knew she was in a happy place.
So am I. Thank you, brother.