Just before leaving I asked Tamás about the decoration of the big chest he was working on, as it had to be finished for a customer within a few days. He will take some careful time and thought over the carvings, which are executed freehand, or with straight line and compass, but otherwise done freely and from memory. They carry complex meaning relating to both faith and culture and discussion of this makes up a large portion of the first book he published. It is essential for Tamás to get them right. Since I left he forwarded me photos of the completed decoration.
Digressing from chests briefly, as promised I wanted to give a little insight into a couple of other things. Tamás has contributed to the construction of many little monuments in his village, all carrying symbolic and religious significance to him, his family, and the community.
A memorial to an old friend
A bell tower with shingles
Another bell tower with the folk carvings common in the region silhouetted
Thanks to Agi this oven was an endless source of delicious Hungarian baked treats.
In experiencing a snippet of the Gyenes lifestyle and beliefs, the strongest impression left on me was the reminder to take joy in the simple pleasures of working with wood. Tamás looks with a kind of childlike sense of enchantment and wonderment at the wood and his tools. Making the finishing cuts on a freshly hewn plank is something savoured with zeal, and as I mentioned in my previous post work often stops to admire a good shaving. Pauses to appraise the work and bask in the completion of little tasks were incorporated throughout the day during my visit (although I now Tamas works at high speed when I’m not getting in the way). Partially completed chests, multiple planks and chunks of beech, and many tools sit on beds of shavings in the house to be studied and meditated upon after the hard work finished each day.
£0 pages of notes written in 4 days…
Chest resting at the end of the day. The rope is used before drilling and pegging
One could look at my view of all this as idealistic, or romanticising work that was once, and still is for Tamás, hard labour done at a fast pace under pressure to complete work and make a living. In the past it was carried out by rural people often in the toughest conditions. But I wonder if the woodworker of old paused to cradle a shaving and spend a few seconds staring at it with satisfaction, or took pleasure in the sound of a sweetly cutting tool. Surely they did. For each individual the context may be very different, but that experience in the joy of making things must be common across time and independent of motivation. It was a coincidence that as I came back online after being away and my mind was full of these things I saw this quote of Bill Coperthwaite’s carved into an axe handle by Peter Follansbee. A nice thought.