Pathcarvers began over five years ago. When we started, we thought, quite early on, that having a carving club would be a great way of bringing some of the local carvers together and hopefully creating a group where everyone could get together and share skills and stories. Encourage the more experienced carvers to help the carvers who were starting, and provide a place where people could come along, sit, and listen to each other.
This early club grew and soon, due to the size of our tiny workshop at the time, started being held on two nights of the week – a Wednesday and a Thursday. The group continued to grow, some evenings sitting shoulder to shoulder with a sharpening station. We would help newcomers learn how to carve at separate sessions, who would then, once completing an introductory knife skills course, could join the group and carve along with us.
We did threaten, at all times, to go to one of the parks locally but never did really – we were all pretty happy, carving along in the little shop, talking about the week we had had, drinking coffee and tea, comparing biscuits, that kind of thing. We made many good friends at the first carving clubs, some we have not seen for quite a while, and some that stayed as we moved.
Then came Covid. What to do? We understood the club’s importance to us and to everyone else. We stopped our in-person groups pretty quickly and moved to zoom pretty soon. ‘Rise Up and Carve‘, a long-running zoom group pre-covid, very kindly offered us some space on their zoom channel; however, due to the nature of some of the discussions we had, we decided to create our own little space. The zoom group worked great, kept people in touch, and people from all over the world could come along. Kept us all together. We carried on. We would zoom into the group wherever we were. It meant the group stayed in contact with each other and that people who were shielding could come along and join in carving.
Our zoom group is still running – details below – and it gets a few people each week, looked after by one of our team Sean Tillett. a place to chat about anything and carve.
Lockdowns started easing. We had a few outdoor carving clubs at the back of our old workshop. One of our carving club attendees, who is now one of our team, Dave Edwards, bought Pathcarvers a tarp to sit under, and we could then carve outside. But then other lockdowns came, and we were back on zoom exclusively.
The big move
Then our lease came up on the shop. We felt the shop was too small for us to have carving clubs and lessons. We could not have more than five or six with us there at any time, so we decided to find somewhere else. We had made great friends with our landlord, who had been understanding from the start, helping us with rent and electricity. The landlord wanted us to stay, promising to keep our rent low, but we knew that we had to find somewhere bigger – so we moved to The Old Print Works in Balsall Heath. At the same time as we did this, we opened up to the idea of having our carving clubs in other spaces.
Our carving clubs now.
We use craft and active listening throughout the session. The craft is what occupies the hands enough to give space to your thoughts. We then listen to the people in the session and help them come to their own conclusions about whatever is affecting their lives. If we cannot resolve topics or subjects, we refer people to appropriate organisations that can help. Again, we are there to listen. All the group leaders have Mental Health First Aid training and other skills that they can utilise to assist the attendees.
Now we have four carving clubs at various spaces in Birmingham, including our weekly Zoom session.
Lightwoods Park and House – Wednesday 5.45 pm – 7.15 pm
These sessions grew out of a contact made at a celebration of a woodworker’s life held at Lightwoods House, Kieran Binnie. We were contacted by Lightwoods Park and asked if we would like to start a wood carving session there, so we did. This group started monthly and has now become a weekly session well attended.
Cotteridge Park – every Thursday, 5 pm until 7 pm, led by Sarah
These sessions started monthly and have now become weekly sessions on a Thursday. Again, all welcome.
Balsall Heath Second Saturdays – 11 am – 2 pm second Saturday of the month.
This session has become more of a family event although all are welcome – once a month as part of the Balsall Heath Second Saturday event.
The Old Print Works – third Thursday of the month, soon to be weekly
A monthly session – we will be going weekly this summer (just waiting for confirmation from The Old Print Works – if not there, then somewhere close by!). This group is a continuation of the original carving club. All welcome, of course.
and they are continuing to grow
We have a new carving club starting this year in Leeds, which Mike will lead from @mc-woodcrafts; details are coming soon.
We also love to encourage and teach active listening skills to the participants so that everyone who comes to the group becomes an active listener and radiates far beyond the woodcarving groups themselves and into the community.
Please consider donating to keep these sessions going and help us with many other things. We want to keep the sessions free and raise the money ourselves and through the Kieran Binnie Memorial Fund for Craft. You can find out more about the fund and donate here. The support from the woodwork community, Lost Art Press and the Binnie family, has and still is phenomenal and keeps us going.
We are also looking to grow more, so if you would like to start your Pathcarvers group, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org. We will help you set up the group and assist with tools thanks to fabulous donations from Wood Tools Ltd and Classic Hand Tools and letting people know about your group and some active listening and mental health courses. All we need are volunteers who are carvers and see how carving and being there to listen can help the people around you, wherever you are. The group can be part of a workplace, a school, or other community groups. Let’s carve something beautiful.