yesterday morning i met up with melissa schulenberg for a different zone 4 session. melissa had asked me to teach her how to work with bone so she can make folders. we both share a love of bones and it seems utterly appropriate to fashion bones we forage and/or harvest into folders or other tools. so i gathered together my tools ones, and my bones, mostly deer leg bones i’ve found and cleaned. some of my tools hadn’t been touched in so long (my beautiful swedish hatchet stayed with melissa after our session for her to sharpen). she knows her way around metal edges better than i do. i studied with jim croft many years ago, and have made a few periodically over the years. but it’s been a while.
melissa has just returned from seven weeks in japan studying mokuhanga with a hand picked group who return each year to study with master printers, and to immerse in all things woodcut. she wanted to make bone folders for her fellow students, and she was able to crank out two in our mid-day session!
melissa showed me swatches of some lovely washi, including a 40 year old paper that her class used. even my untrained eye could see the difference between her mokuhanga on this old paper and new sheets. the colors lived beautifully on paper that was aged and, incidentally, beautiful.
i felt compelled to share this little mini-session with you all, because it’s of the utmost importance that we all share the knowledge or it will be lost. even if i am no expert, i still need to share. in this crazy time we are living through i find myself more and more drawn to the well-made, the poetics of making, the fineness of crafting a tool or a book or a print or a shirt for love for the glory on the making, for practice, for teaching our hands to know and understand things our brains scramble to catch up to. there is a joy in making a tool well, in working side by side with a woman friend sharing thoughts, plans, ideas, complaints, and stories, always the stories of our beautiful, small lives. and sometimes teaching someone a skill helps you become happier and better in yourself, can restore you to rightness. and having fun cutting up bones (and yes, we did make some nasty smells when sawing) is good work.
i needed to tell you all about working bone. about how it was a necessary wonderful task for me to do yesterday, how it’s an honor to teach, and how, now that i’ve wiggled my toes in this old river i will return. i will be carving out a few needles and pokey/foldey tools soon.