Archive | November, 2013
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Shed

29 Nov

Shed

Every man should have a shed. In my case courtesy of Yorkshire Artspace I now have a very fine studio, suitable for woodworking, teaching future woodworkers, thinking and making, developing my business.

Various factors made me chose to install myself here in this lovely Art Deco pile below the old Castle Market in Sheffield. My small business has expanded to the point where I need to process timber more efficiently and have several projects ‘on the go’ at any one time. I realised that working within a community of artists and makers was potentially very beneficial, and much safer, and serendipity was involved in it’s discovery. Wes Hedge, a woodworker friend, gave me the heads up a couple of months ago and hey presto – a perfect super duper shed.

The studio has high ceilings with skylights allowing natural daylight in; it is on the ground floor with easy access to a proper load bay and it is an annex to the main building. This means I can work safely and make a bit of noise without annoying my artistic colleagues and neighbours.

Clients can visit and see their commissions taking shape in a generous space which gives them room to think, and they can view finished pieces and stock.

I feel as if I finally have a head space fit for creating rustic, fine and lovingly crafted wooden pieces.

The acoustics are awesome too – my old Dual CS505 LP player and NAD amplifier sound better than ever…. to find me:

www.henkswoodwork.co.uk

Name

23 Nov

Juliet:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
Shakespeare

I doubt whether I always smell as sweet, and my name, though not fragrant is memorable.

I was born Peter Maarten Hendrik Littlewood on the 22nd of July in Kano, Nigeria, to Adrianna Littlewood (nee Van de Poll) and David Stuart Littlewood. My mother called me Henk – the shortened form of Hendrik – from birth. She gave me several explanations for the order of my Christian names:

“Henk, no one would remember the other two if I had not stuck them in front”
“It sound better in that order”
“It’s more distinguished”

I discovered many years later when I took up a research post in the Department of Zoology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, the wisdom of PMHL. The admin department had made up a door plaque for their new Research Associate –
Dr. H.M.P. Littlewood. I was henceforth known as Dr. Hump.

In early school years being called Henk, led to many confrontations with teachers, pupils and parents who insisted on calling me Hank. I would deliberately mispronounce the offender’s name where possible “yes Yon (John)” “pardon Payter (Peter)” ….making their names sound Dutch. They never got it. The stupid TWOTS.

At Secondary school (a provincial Grammar with delusions of grandeur), it took about 5 seconds for the class bully to muse “HENK??? Hank…. WANK. WANK WANK!!!! HA HA HA”. Great nickname when you are entering puberty.

Despite being slightly built as a boy. I developed a reputation for being a fighter. I hit a lot of boys, much bigger than me. Hard. I was pretty Humpy then.

The thing is ‘Henk Littlewood’ is a most unusual name. It has a nice curt sound at the front – whistling then solid, like the sound of an axe chopping into a lump of timber – followed by a descriptive surname worthy of someone who makes their living making things from a little wood.

So thank you mother! You mad witch.

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Tide

15 Nov

Sitting on the beach at Linda Mar, Pacifica, California watching my neice dig a hole in the fine sand with my wife, her mum turning cartwheels, her baby sister sleeping by me – I witnessed a rare conjunction.

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I have seen such a marine symphony only once before when my daughter was young. She and her mum (my first wife) and I had cycled along the coast of Northumberland camping along the way. One August eve, after supper on an open fire at Goswick sands, my daughter and her mum ran through the surf. The water was laden with Noctiluca and their shins and knees splashed ice blue phosphorescent fire under a starlit sky, unveiled in deep purple as the sun dipped blood red below the horizon. I was spellbound with the sheer beauty of the scene.

At Linda Mar my four women; two nieces, sister-in-law and wife animated a vibrant landscape with their own potency. Soft and strong, clever and loving, witty and warm, Littlewoods all.

The resonance with my early fatherhood was powerful, but it was the peace in me which their activity and conversation created, which moved me the most.

I have always preferred analogue to digital, tidal to linear flow – like breathing in and out, thoughts come and go. So when you can actually still your mind sufficiently to slow your racing thoughts – at the apogee of inspiration or the final moment of expiration, only then can you finally allow your true purpose to surface.

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Care for the women for they bring you laughter, sustenance and the best reason to live.

Fog

3 Nov

The Coastanoan People of San Francisco were discovered very late during the first wave of European Settlement by the Spanish. They lived in a veritable Shangri La, rich coastal fishing grounds providing salmon, Abalone, tuna, crab, Maui Maui – in great abundance; a superb climate in land (warm and sunny for most of the year) fertile soil, rich forests of lodgepole pine, redwoods, cedar and spruce for fire wood,

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grasses and leaves for building materials;

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a varied Geology with hot springs (like Harbin) in the North, flint for knapping arrow and spear heads and a fantastic natural harbour in San Francisco Bay.

I wondered how it was that the Spanish and later the Russians had failed for so long to wreak their colonial havoc on this beautiful Eden.

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This view of Linda Mar beach in Pacifica (Southern San Francisco) taken on the 1st of November underlines the paradisiacal quality of this land. The view left is of great rolling pacific breakers inhabited these days by skilful surfers, whales, sharks, dolphins, pelicans and seals

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Well don’t let this scene fool you. For most of the year segments of this coast are completely shrouded in dense fog. Only in the autumn and spring does nature lift her protective vale and reveal this land in all its fabulous glory.

My brother, Simon, who lives here suggested that this is why the early Conquistadores sailed on by, they relied heavily on close coastal navigation by land marks, and the shores here are steeply shelving, reef infested and bedevilled by strong rip tides.

It did not take long for the later colonialist Spanish to make short work of the indigenous people – assimilation through religious conversion(‘missionizing’), imported disease and economic exploitation was a lethal and tried and tested combination leading to social change in favour of the coloniser.

When the fog does descend you can almost here the echoes of the Coastanoans, fishing and singing and living in the land. Let the fog descend I say.