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The Whittler of Wood

I spent a wonderful day recently with Michael Fairfax. His studio is in a wooded valley on the edge of the Brendon Hills and it is full of mysteries,carved creatures and musical contraptions. He sat in an arbour of gnarled wood outside, whittling a piece of ash. And out of the spiky branches a strange little being emerged with legs, arms, antlers, and a life of its own.

Michael is a man of the woods, he told me stories of growing up with his poet father and dancer mother, he and his brother left to their own devices fending for themselves in the countryside. Since then he has led a busy and creative life as a sculptor and he explained how this whittling of wood is the antithesis of the large public art commissions he has worked on over the years. Whittling is an ancient craft - carving and fashioning small branches from the hedgerows into walking sticks, spoons, pegs - firstly with flints, then knives. Michael isn't making those functional things though, he is in a world of the imagination as he finds little animals and creatures in the knobbles and branches, and his studio is full of them, crawling, stalking and parading over tables and up walls.

Michael is on instagram @michaellfairfax (be sure to put the extra l in the middle!)

My project 'The Old Craft in Somerset involves painting and drawing craftspeople at work and collecting their stories. There will be an exhibition and book featuring over 20 craftspeople - blacksmiths, farriers, dry stone waller, thatchers, potters, brushmaker, riddlemaker, weavers, hand made paper maker, and many more.

The collection will be exhibited at the Somerset Rural Life Museum, Glastonbury, in Spring 2022. Book launch at the same time. Please add your name to the mailing list for news. My instagram @katelynchartist



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