Bird Houses, Ash Baskets and Wooden Spoons

Farm Market Report for January 19, 2016 Keith Helmuth

 A master furniture maker from Rockport, Maine, Peter Korn, has published a new book titled, Why We Make Things and Why It Matters. This book delves deeply into why making useful and beautiful items is one of the most satisfying things a human being can do.

The Woodstock Farm and Craft Market is loaded with evidence that Peter Korn is right about the importance of handcrafted products for both the maker and the user.

When you walk into the Farm Market you can immediately see a wide variety of locally made, handcrafted products on display. This report will focus on just three: bird houses, ash baskets, and wooden spoons.

Many folks will remember the remarkable birdhouses Dick Cougle once made and sold in Market. You could tell he got a lot of satisfaction from making them.

With Dick gone, Ramona Paul has now begun constructing her own version of his birdhouse design. She demurs at the comparison, but Dick was definitely her mentor in birdhouse building.

Ask Ramona about her colourful birdhouses on Friday and you will quickly see how much she enjoys following in Dick’s footsteps. As for the “importance” of the product, well, just think about the tree swallows and chickadees who will be looking for good nesting places in the spring.

Basket making from split ash is the hallmark of the First Nations’ artisan tradition in our region. Peter Clair, from Tobique, makes some of the finest baskets available and is often set up on the Market veranda on Fridays during the warm seasons.

In addition, woodworker and basket maker, James Buxton, has a regular stall in the Market and has recently brought in a new supply of finely crafted baskets. Among the items on display is a round basket with a birds-eye maple cover that has two holes in it. The basket is for holding balls of yarn. The yarn feeds through the holes to the knitter’s hands, while the ball stays put in the basket. Neat idea. No more rolling across the floor.

spoons-WFCMA small “tree” with wooden spoons hanging from its branches is now on display in Matthew Culberson’s stall. The spoons come in many shape and sizes and are made from maple and cherry.

These spoons are the ultimate in a handcrafted product; they are entirely hand carved and finished. No power tools are used in their production.

Think about how long ago wooden spoons were first made like this; there is probably no more ancient tradition of technology linking us directly to all of human history than hand carved wooden spoons. They are truly heirloom items. They can be passed on to your grandchildren, and they are modestly priced. Where else but in the Woodstock Farm and Craft Market can such treasures be found?