For the love of wood

No better way is there to learn to love Nature than to understand Art. It dignifies every flower of the field. And, the boy who sees the thing of beauty which a bird on the wing becomes when transferred to wood or canvas will probably not throw the customary stone.
Oscar Wilde

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(fresh strawberries on a walnut trivet / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a walnut trivet topped with a couple of fried squash / Julie Cook / 2015)

When I first started this little blog of mine, or as my husband lovingly (cough cough) references as that “blob”, I was truly wet behind the ears not having a clue as to what I was doing.
I’d never “blogged” before nor was I any sort of computer guru, “thecie” or wizened journalist.
I was just a newly retired teacher who still had some “teach” left in me.

I started posting some pictures I’d taken, some words I’d written, some recipes I’d cooked and little by little I had some folks stopping in for a “visit”— eventually some of the visitors decided they liked what they saw, or read, or both, and wanted to hang around a while. . .

One of those early visitors happened to be a man named Michael.
Michael, who is also retired, lives in the neighboring state of South Carolina. Michael loves to cook, garden and enjoys living on “the mountain” as he lovingly refers to his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It seems that Michael has channeled those retired energies into his wood shop—as in he makes things.
All sorts of beautiful wooden things.

As a former art teacher, I greatly appreciate the gift of talent when I see it.
Michael has the gift—the gift of “eye” and talent in that he can see in a piece of lumber something beautiful.

His creations are not sculptures or decorative pieces of art but rather functional and utilitarian natural pieces of wonder.

Perusing his blog, where he shares his talent, I was amazed by what I saw. And lucky for me, for us, he sells these pieces of functional beauty.

https://michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com

A couple of Christmases back, I wrote a post about Michael’s work–espousing the difference between what makes art art verses the functionality of utilitarian objects—as well as how we may have the rare opportunity of finding both in one object.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/functional-or-decorative-or-both/

Over the past couple of years, I have been blessed to call Michael my friend.
I am also fortunate in that I have several of Michael’s cutting boards gracing my kitchen, a beautiful hand turned step stool, an ice-cream paddle and a handful of hand cut honey wands—I have given Michael’s pieces as both Christmas and wedding gifts.

There is just something very special about the tactile quality, coupled by the visual beauty, of a piece of wood that through both the vision and talent of a human being can take on a life of its own.
Michael is that gifted.

I want to share a few shots of an absolutely beautiful piece of burl wood that Michael has cut, sanded, finished and crafted into a cutting board like no other. Sadly a computer image cannot do justice to the tactile relationship we have with wood. To feel its weight, the smooth sanded core coupled by the rough bark exterior. . .to see the rich warm colors brought out by the lightly oiled surface is certainly best experienced in person. . . however these few pictures will simply have to do—not unless you too decide to wander on over to Michael’s blog where you might want to just try this all out first hand with your own board, birdhouse, honey wand, ice cream paddle or chopping block. . .

Thank you Michael!

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(16 x 10 at widest burl cutting board / Julie Cook / 2015)

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Along with the cutting board, I received yesterday two walnut trivets / coasters which will match my soon to be table chargers—of which I can’t wait for them to arrive as they will accent my kitchen so beautifully

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Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble…

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When visiting Vienna this past Fall, I wandered into a small shop sitting in the shadow of the great Stephansdom or St. Stephens Cathedral. St Stephens is a romanesque gothic wonder that stands on the same site in which it was first consecrated in 1147.

The shop’s name is Cecconi (http://www.cecconi.at/) and it’s a shop specializing in arts and crafts, particularly woodcarvings. There is a huge selection of German hand painted metal ornaments. Wood carvings of animals, nativity pieces, decorative ornaments as well as religious pieces. I actually visited the store twice. The Christmas ornaments were all so pretty, meticulously hand painted and beautifully displayed. Wonderful small treasures to take back home as a reminder of Wien (Vienna).

It was however a beautiful image of the crucified Christ which caught my eye as it hung on the wall behind the counter. I had never quite seen this type of particular “take” on the crucifixion. There was no cross, just a hanging, distorted torso, twisted in agony and at the exact moment of death–delicately carved from a piece of wood. It was captivating as well as moving.

I asked how much, and knew I must purchase it. The young man whose family owns the shop told me that it is actually a copy of a larger “Christos” on display in the Alps. He told me that when I get home, I need to find the “perfect” piece of wood on which to display it–perhaps a piece of drift wood. He wrapped the carving in a mountain of tissue paper and I proceeded to carry it as if it was a baby for the remainder of our journey abroad.

Once home, I scoured the woods and area around my house looking for a piece of wood. I opted to “distress” a piece of oak, as I don’t live near a place where I could find any drift wood. I added some broken nails for the carving to hang on and hung it in my dinning/ kitchen area so that those entering my home would immediately see it up on the wall. It is one of those things that holds your attention and doesn’t quite let go.

As today is Good Friday I am reminded of what this small wooden display actually represents. It is a day that you and I all stand before the Cross–There is a vast heaviness as we stand today contemplating this very Cross.

I want to share with you not only my small treasure from Vienna, not only a piece of beautiful artisanship, not only a unique display, but the very reason as to what brings us all to this particular day— the Agony and Death of One which gave, and continues to give, way to Hope and Salvation for All.

There is a haunting old “negro spiritual” that we would sing in my church when I was younger during the Good Friday service:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

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