Penland’s eight-week concentrations are known for being intense and immersive workshops that leave students with new ideas, new skills, and new friends. This spring’s timber framing concentration was all that, but it also left a permanent mark on the Penland campus. In just eight weeks, the class, led by instructor Raivo Vihman and studio assistant Tom Shields, raised a full timber frame that will become the permanent home of a historical display just behind the Craft House. It took weeks of work to prepare the beams and fit them all together, but the raising took place in just one exhilarating day! Here’s to teamwork, cranes, and careful planning.
Thank you, timber framers, for this gorgeous structure! It will be a cherished part of campus for years and years to come.
“My first frame was raised by hand with a group of a dozen friends, and by the end of the day limitless space was bounded by posts and rafters into the shape of a house. I was bewitched.” So Raivo Vihman describes his first experience constructing a timber frame.
Looking at the many timber frames Raivo has designed and built since, it’s not hard to see the appeal. His structures are at once graceful and solid, intricate and beautifully simple. Together, the wooden beams take the familiar shape of a house or a barn, but individually their knots and exposed grain still speak of nature. His structures are built with wood in the truest sense of the word—each beam is unique, and each one gives something of itself to the frame as a whole. For Raivo, even after years of building, every new timber frame is an opportunity: “It’s still about the act of creation, the interplay between aesthetic grace and functional design, and the beauty hidden in the wood.”
This spring, Raivo will be here at Penland to share his craft—and his love of his craft—with students in Timber!, an eight-week timber framing concentration. Like all Penland workshops, Timber! will be an opportunity to gain technical skills, a deeper understanding of materials, and exposure to new ideas. What makes it extra special is that students in the workshop will come together to build an enduring structure on campus. The resulting timber frame will reflect each of the students who’s hands worked to build it, as well as the Penland landscape it will become a part of.
In fact, the structure has already been set into motion. In spring of this year, Raivo was at Penland preparing wood. He and his studio assistant (and former Penland resident artist) Tom Shields stacked dozens of fir, pine, and cypress beams under temporary roofs. The beams have been curing so that they will be ready to frame come next spring:
Raivo also cut a number of beams from the woods right here at Penland. He wanted the structure to include local trees, and he wanted to incorporate pieces into the design that have natural curvature to them. With the help of some eager Penland volunteers, those logs, too, are awaiting next spring:
“The class will be tailored to student interests,” Raivo says. He has structured it to introduce students of all levels—from complete beginners to experienced builders—to the details of timber framing. The workshop will move through the complete process of designing and raising a frame, from drafting plans and building models to working with hand tools and different species of wood. For anyone like Raivo who is fascinated by the potential for both beauty and function in this type of building, Timber! will be an invaluable eight weeks.
Raivo Vihman – In this workshop we’ll delve into traditional carpentry as we cut, join, and raise a timber-framed structure that will become a permanent part of the Penland campus. We’ll explore various approaches to timber preparation, layout, joinery design and execution, and compound-angle joinery. We’ll also cover scribing techniques as we incorporate round logs into the structure of the frame. Students will begin by designing and building their own timber sawhorses and will leave the class with the skills needed to design and build their own timber frames. All levels. Code S00W
Carpenter, founder and proprietor of Haystack Joinery (ME); teaching: Waterfall Arts (ME), Miljandi Cultural Academy (Estonia).
“I don’t draw something and then go find a pile of wood and build it.
I find the pile of wood, respond to that pile of wood,
and then make something based on what’s there.” —Tom Shields
Found wood and one’s attention to it as inspiration for design will be at the core of Penland resident artist Tom Shields’s spring woodworking workshop. “Patinas, nail holes, rot in an old piece of wood–all of these can be springboards into what gets made,” says Tom.
Along with covering traditional woodworking techniques, the eight-week workshop will veer to embrace the nontraditional. Conversations about idea and content will be generated by activity in the workshop. For example, the first project: Shields’s students will all be asked to bring a loved object with them to Penland. Then, they will create a cabinet for the object. The function and design of the cabinet will be up to the maker: would you build something to hide, display, or protect your object?
Tom Shields – Make Do with What You Have, Take What You Can Get
March 9-May 2, 2014
In the wood studio
Want to learn woodworking while giving new life to discarded wood? We’ll spend time learning where to find recycled wood: the dump, junk stores, dumpsters, the woods. Then we’ll make sculptural, functional, and furniture pieces from any kind of wood object, applying traditional woodworking techniques and joinery to nontraditional materials. We’ll also use some new lumber to fabricate elements as needed. Both hand and power tools will be used as we incorporate woodworking and trash into the same vocabulary. The workshop will also cover sharpening, the proper use of tools, and safety. All levels.
To find out more and register for this workshop click here. Spring scholarship deadline is November 29.
Please note: applications need to be at Penland by this date to be considered for scholarship. Overnight service may not deliver to Penland’s campus on time, please plan accordingly.
Making something with what’s available in the world–and wholly rejecting the capitalist enterprise that tries to commodify it–was intrinsic to the punk movement of the 1970s and 80s and to Tom Shields’s own emergence in craft. Punk’s restless creative ethos is part of his philosophy of teaching today–with an emphasis on an open invitation to anyone to take and make, dispelling the cliché of “punk” as a closed zone of angst or aggression.
Tom Shields’s students will take their own DIY impulse into time and materials, while also picking up some incomparable experiences. Timber framer Raivo Vihman will be the studio assistant–he’ll be demonstrating large-scale timber framing and joinery. Annie Evelyn will also visit to demonstrate techniques in upholstery. Bob Biddlestone will cover router jigs, fixtures, and talk about applying woodworking techniques to other materials.
“I definitely like to teach people how to do just about everything with as little as possible. If you have a chisel, a block plane, a hand drill, and a Japanese saw, you can build just about anything.”
Tom Shields is a resident artist at Penland School of Crafts. He has taught previously at Penland and the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. His exhibitions include Blue Spiral 1 (NC) and the North Carolina Museum of Art. His work is part of collections at Decordova Museum (MA), Gregg Museum (NC), University of Arkansas, and the North Carolina Museum of Art, among others.