Stephen Jenkinson - Handmade Life

Hand Made Life

Teaching: Hand Made Life

If you go far enough down into your personal ancestry and into the old stories of the world you’ll find three thrones of mystery, three places where awe always did and still gathers, even in our post Enlightenment, post Christian, post Holy, Information Idol time. Women, and all things feminine, where life comes into Life, have always been there. The dead have always been there, whispering a story of our lives that we no longer know. And the makers of things have the other throne of mystery, the ones to whom the Holy has always come as a co-conspirator, a relentlessly demanding ally.

Where the brute ingenuity of being human is pressed into service by the life defending power of the Holy, in that place is where craft is properly and well made. Think of the stories: the one who stole fire and died every day for the theft; the one whose children will always be lame for the alchemy of the forge; the one who spun gold with runes and chants. This is the old lineage of the craftsperson.

For years I have wanted to do teachings that make praise songs and songs of gratitude and encouragement for the makers in our midst who have not abandoned and forgotten their thumbs, and for the things they make, things that are routinely trivialized instead of being honourably employed. These workshops are those songs.

We do these workshops periodically at the Orphan Wisdom farm, but you can also bring them to your community centre or school. Become a local sponsor and help to make a teaching event that we could present in your community. Contact us to learn how.

The Skin of the World: Hide tanning workshop

The ages-old skills of hide and fur tanning came from a lived understanding of animal ways, and from a hard earned ceremonialized understanding of the place of hunting and food preparation in village and personal life. These skills are rooted in an always renewed and relearned relationship of human life and animal life, a relationship severed by commercialized, industrialized ways of ‘processing’ animals.

This hands-on workshop will teach the techniques and the deep history of leather tanning.

Note: This is at minimum a two day workshop. A short list of tools/materials is provided at registration.

Moving in the World: Handmade leather tailoring

Globalization may have begun with standardizing the inch and the foot, and from then on the body has had to suit the measurement. But good tailors learn the subtleties of the body in motion, of proportion, and a fine antidote to globalization is making clothing that fits the living body. The learning is deep when you cut the leather you tanned, and deeper still when you know the story of its origins.

This workshop teaches sinew stitching and lace braiding, pattern layout, cutting and sewing without metal. Possible tailoring projects include clothing, bags, and ceremonial regalia.

Walking in Beauty: Making footwear

With global commercialization, clothing that is true to one’s place and people is one of the first casualties, and now all you can tell from a person’s clothing, probably, is where they shop. Until modern times you could know who someone’s people were by seeing how they dressed. You could tell where a person was from by how they walked and by what they wore on their feet. When you can feel the ground beneath your feet, you can walk.

In this workshop you will learn some basic footwear designs from this part of the world, and sew a pair of shoes that are made for your feet.

The Bark Box: Making birch bark containers

In the northeast of this continent where we live and teach traditional people still revere wikwas, the birch. Its sap is nourishing, its wood is workable, and its bark is a marvel of strength and flexibility.

In this workshop you will learn the skills of sustainable bark harvest, spruce root gathering and sewing, maybe even birch bark biting, and make a lidded container from the bush.

Wikwas Chimaun: The birch bark canoe

The birch bark canoe incarnates the full genius of an aboriginal way of life. It is a spirited thing and a sonorous, beautiful way of moving in the water. It has much the same architecture as the human body, and it is a drum.
This workshop teaches the principles of bark, wood, root and gum harvesting and preparation, tool making (the awl and the crooked knife), steam bending, and the miraculous assembly of skin-first boat technology.

One of Your Own: The paddle

If God lives in the details, then the paddle surely is among the most Godly of things.

This workshop teaches the quiet skills of body measurement, wood seasoning and pattern layout, bone inlay, the noble taper and finish of a water ready paddle.
ROYAL, AND WARM: The little miracle of felt.

By the beginning of the 20th century you could tell who the poor people were in most Western countries by who was still wearing felt. Woven clothing eclipsed felted clothing almost everywhere it was available, and the recent revival of felting mostly relegates it to novelty and decoration. But felt has a noble, indigenous history for anyone whose ancestry is northern, and its compound beauty is in no animal dying for us to be warm, and royal in raiment.

This workshop teaches the communal skills of felting from fleece, and seamless clothing and footwear design. If you are a good worker, you can wear it home.

Heartbeat Box:A hand drum workshop

Learn the old tricks of making a living drum from steam bent wood and hide.

Contact us if your are interested in having Stephen lead any of the following ceremonies/workshops for you or your people.

School and Workshop Participant Testimonials