Transferred Touch

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Things men have made with wakened hands
are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing
for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely

warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.

— D. H. Lawrence, “Things Men Have Made”, from Pansies (1929)

Not long ago, a person who has been a great influence on my woodworking informed me that I’d be receiving a carved wooden bowl in the mail; had had it for years and was passing it along to me.   I’ll write more about that person in a special post to come.

A couple weeks ago, the package arrived on my porch.  I can’t fully explain what I felt upon opening the box and holding a bowl carved twenty years ago by Bengt Lidstrom, but to say the least, I was thrilled and overwhelmed.

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I wrote a post about Bengt Lidstrom over two years ago, including a link to an extensive article about him from a Swedish museum.  Bengt’s work has been inspirational to me.   To now have a piece made by his hands, to hold it and learn from it, is an incredible gift.  As D. H. Lawrence suggests about such objects, this bowl is “warm still” with Bengt’s life and will continue to be for years to come.

I’ve rolled this bowl over in my hands every day, and I thought I’d share a few things I’ve noticed about it, and learned from it.

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At about 11 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 5 inches high, it did not require a grand piece of wood, in terms of size or quality.  The birch log he used was far from perfect.  It has a knot running along one end wall, for example.  Don’t let the limitations of available material stop you from making the best of it.  The strength of Bengt’s design just brushes those issues aside.  He considered the unique nature of the piece he was working with and made it sing.

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All surfaces of the bowl come alive with Bengt’s confident cuts.  No need to drive yourself crazy with the “perfection” of every facet.  The surface is vigorous yet soft.  The bowl beckons to be touched.  The flow of the form is a feast for the eyes as the light changes throughout the day, but to me the bowl reveals the most by being held.  To feel the texture, the thinness of the undercut sidewall — just enough to allow for the depth of decorative carving on the side panel.  Even the sounds of tapping fingertips resonating through the wood…   Again, to quote Lawrence, this bowl is “awake through years with transferred touch.”

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This bowl has many more stories to tell and lessons to teach, but I’ll mention just one more for now.  The bottom of the bowl is carved with “BL 99.”  He was 83 when he carved this bowl, and there’s a lesson and encouragement in that for us all.

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This entry was posted in bowls, finding wood, historical reference, patterns, proportions, quotes and excerpts, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Transferred Touch

  1. Emil says:

    So COOL!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Scott Thomas says:

    What an amazing gift. It’s easy to see Bengt’s influence in your own work, which I would guess is really more pleasure than work.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kalia Kliban says:

    That poem is tacked on the wall of my shop. No surprise to see it show up here as well. And that feeling of letting your hands run over a piece, and by a remove, touch the hands that made it, is one that first really hit me when I was touching a piece of Roman stone molding in England years ago. Thousands of years after the mason finished it, my hands followed in the path of the first, feeling the little bumps and tool marks and the fairness of the curves. It gave me goosebumps, and also helped me see my own work as a series of little time capsules. Maybe in a few hundred years, someone will be holding one of my bowls and running their hands over the carving, wondering about the person who made it. All those hands, connected through thousands of years of making and crafting…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Love the story of the Roman molding, Kalia. And, being familiar with your bowls, I am positive they will touch people long into the future. Thanks for sharing those thoughts.

      Like

  4. pfollansbee says:

    how great for you to have Bengt’s bowl. Perfect home for it…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Scott Kinsey says:

    I agree while heartedly with Mr Follansbee. That bowl is in the right hands and the transference will continue and grow.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Gene Felder says:

    Beautiful poem, thought and bowl.
    I’m currently working on a bowl that I can’t seem to put down…I mean literally. It feels so good to hold, better than just looking at it, or not looking at it at all. I made a bowl for my cousin for his new home in Ventura Beach, CA. that had the same quality. It’s like the bowl was made to be held. Funny. Gonna miss you at this year’s GreenWood Fest.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. nrhiller says:

    You’re killing me. This is awe inspiring — the form, the decorative carving, the green.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. francedozois says:

    what a wonderful gift–perfect

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tone says:

    Wow. Legendary, old, Swedish, bowl carver Bengt Lidstrom (reputed originator of the reverse bowl) “passes the torch on” to (worthy) American bowl carver David Fisher! What a lovely gesture of recognition and appreciation. I think you have already taken things to a new level David, a worthy successor. 🙂

    Your BL99 bowl is collectable and, no doubt, already valuable and will increase in value – much as your own bowls have already. Do the Smithsonian Museum and Victoria and Albert museum have David Fisher bowls yet? I think they will, one day. You are the Ansel Adams/Georgia O’Keeffe of bowl carving.

    Like

  10. Tone says:

    Great quote, very apt. I feel the same way about old tools. Using tools that once belonged to my late father and/or grandfather feels particularly “magical”/special to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Karl says:

    Don’t hate me for saying this, but to my eye, your bowls are vastly, vastly better than this one.

    Like

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Of course I won’t hate you, whatever crazy notions you may have! I know you mean no insult to Bengt or anything, and this is just one example of his wonderful work. Really, the whole idea of comparing in that way doesn’t occur to me. We all just strive to improve, explore, and savor the joy of making. Create the best we can. There’s no first, second, third places because there’s literally no contest — other than with ourselves.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Eric Goodson says:

    Oh my, such a wonderful gift, and I love the sentiment of this post. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Bob Eddy says:

    Thank you for sharing this bowl and your feelings. Us guys are a bit short on those a lot of the time. This transferred touch statement rings true to me and right to the heart of what I feel when carving a bowl or spoon. Since I am still working I am going to do some of that this weekend if a window shows up in my get er done list. Thanks for sharing-I am stealing that quote and adopting it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. kneetoknee says:

    Lovely reflections Dave, as always

    Liked by 1 person

  15. cynthamum says:

    Thanks! This blog helps me to keep trying.

    On Thu, Apr 12, 2018, 2:04 PM David Fisher, Carving Explorations wrote:

    > Dave Fisher posted: ” Things men have made with wakened hands are awake > through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years. And > for this reason, some old things are lovely warm still with the life of > forgotten men who made them. — D. H. Lawrence, “Thin” >

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Darrick says:

    What a treat. I was enamored with the video, I’ve watched it several times and channeled it every time a bowl is made. Right down to the gentle whistle that paces certain cuts. I’m very happy you have one Dave.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Kevin Holler says:

    Just a few weeks ago I was sitting next to you in plymouth listening to some fine musicians, what a time! I am curious if leaving big surfaces like that means the side walls of the bowl are thicker, and if thag, in turn, makes the bowl more likely to crack as it dries, with more bulk on the side keeping the bowl from warping if it needs to. I have tried to carve a few bowls from big branches, and they always crack on theninside of the bowl just above the heartwood. Someone suggested to me that if my walls were thinner the stresses would cause the bowl to warp instead of tear itself apart. Does this ring true? I could include some photos that may help illustrate what I am asking. Thanks for your time and hope you don’t mind the questions…

    Like

    • Dave Fisher says:

      I remember it well, Kevin! What a group of musicians that happened to come together for this year’s Fest. I was completely captivated by watching them work their magic.

      Good question about the bowls with the side panels. On this bowl by Bengt, he handles that issue by undercutting the inner sides of the bowl to better match the outer form of the bowl and keep the sides relatively thin.

      It is true in general that if a bowl’s walls are thinner, the moisture can escape more evenly and there will be less likelihood of cracking. The moisture differential between heartwood and sapwood can also cause some problems, especially if the wood is harvested in Spring when the sapwood especially has a higher moisture level than the heartwood. This may also be contributing to why you are experiencing cracks just above the heartwood, in the sapwood.

      Like

      • Kevin Holler says:

        Thanks for the answer! I think it is from branches that got damaged during a spring storm. You have a youtube video where you show laying out larger side panels for more decoration space. Do you handle the side thickness the same way? Is the thickness of the bowl walls more ore less uniform all the way around? Thanks again!

        Like

    • Dave Fisher says:

      I don’t remember how much I undercut that bowl from the video. I think not much, but all worked out fine with the drying.

      Like

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