Chairs, Birthdays and Too Much Fun at Walter Forge

Chairs, Birthdays and Too Much Fun at Walter Forge

Monkeys with tools

Saturday was one of those rare days when it all comes together no matter how many wrenches the monkeys throw. Last minute changes had carefully spaced activities all happening at once. But all had patience with the hostess and the rain ceased to fall. Everyone visited and made new friends while I took care of business and made it look like I knew what I was doing.
We were honored this week end to have Lenton Williams, a master hand maker and teacher at the John C Campbell school in North Carolina, here to teach chair caning at the Forge. Lenton has spent the last 20 years after retiring from the military learning and teaching the life skills of mountain folk that have been passed from generation to generation. In addition to the chair caning he is here to teach us today, he also teaches how to make shaker boxes and broom making. He is a talented maker, a patient teacher and a good soul. We are proud to call him friend.
Lenton Williams waiting on his chair caning class students at Walters Forge.


Today we had two groups come for two activities. Two sisters and a dear friend drove 3 hours to get here so I had to make sure they had a good time. It was the birthday of one of Walter's best forging buddies, who happened to be married to one of the sisters so we now have a chair class, a forging session and a birthday party. The second group was a family from "up the road". Good folks. Their son is Walter's newest and the most promising apprentice Walter has had to date. What all this boils down to is that we had business in the front and party in the back. The guys had the forge going, beating and banging and having a good time. It makes my heart smile to see a 16 year old hanging with 2 elders soaking up everything they say both good and bad.
Three friends share knowledge and good times in celebration of a birthday by doing something they love.
Meanwhile up front the ladies and a couple of brave men gathered round and watched and listened as Lenton showed how simple and how complicated the process could be. The weaving of the cane was like making pot holders out of loops. Over, under, round and through. Keeping count of your pattern was another matter entirely and ended up being the source of much laughter. One lady finally declared she had given up on the herringbone pattern and had invented a new pattern called drunk monkeys. I also noticed that each one had a different style of chair. There were old chairs, small chairs and rocking chairs. Many of them had stories. Belonged to, found at, got for a bargain at...all that kind of stuff. You don't have to find connections with folks, life will take care of that for you.  
Students paying close attention to the Lenton Williams as he shows the correct technique to cane a chair bottom.

Funeral Cake

Lunch was a sandwich bar and homemade funeral cake made by mama Moody. Not sure about the funeral part but it sure was good. Handed down from Christy's Mom, she said it always smelled good and they couldn't have any. So when asked what kind of cake they wanted they would request a funeral cake. Almond pound cake with pecan streusel on top.
Funeral Cake. Homemade Almond Pound cake with Pecan Streusel topping made a good dessert for lunch.
We visited and had a table discussion about shape note singing and the things we love about rural life. There is something to be learned by seeing folks that are taken in different directions in life find such joy in returning to a place where they can take a deep breath and truly enjoy the passing of time and the company kept.
We got so busy after lunch I forgot to get photos of all the finished chairs! Every one had sore fingers and laughed at our rough work compared to Lenton's. We discovered there are lots of similar metaphors for chair bottoms and lady bottoms. But we LEARNED! We all know how, the time has come for practice. Everybody had something "to put on the refrigerator door" when they got home. Smiles on faces said, "Look what I did!" 
At the end of the day the guys were tired and dirty and after a quick clean up, Marc herded the ladies in the truck for the 3 hour trip home. Walter asked How he was gonna manage all the chatter on the trip. Marc just reached up, took out his hearing aid and smiled.
Wouldn't be wonderful if each day we could laugh as we learn and find joy in the work of our hands. Hope your week end was glorious! 
We will Praise Him with the anvils ring
Keep on Sparking! 
The blacksmiths wife
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