Review: Making Woodland Crafts by Patrick Harrison

This review by Philip Davies appeared in issue 119 of Montessori International over the summer. Read more about Montessori International here…

Front Cover Making Woodland Crafts

The author is an outdoor learning educator and Forest School practitioner and trainer. His aim with this book is to provide some basic knowledge and skills for both simple and advanced woodland craft, and what he has included comes from many hours “messing about in the woods”. He intends it for “…anyone, of any age, with a modicum of interest…”, and it will certainly be useful for both parents and their children and teachers and their pupils.

Divided into sections that the author intends to make the book as useful as possible, he also provides an introduction, a brief note on how to use the book and a two page spread detailing some basic “useful tools”.

The first section is “Choosing your wood”, which briefly introduces the readers/user to four types of woodland – hazel, willow, birch and elder – illustrated by black-and-white photos and with notes on past uses of each type of wood and how to identify them and, with the exception of birch, how to coppice them. This is followed by a section of “useful knots and lashings”.

There are pages on creating things like a hazel mask, a night torch and a staff, and sections on making frames and simple structures or fashioning a triangle, the latter going on to show hos basic triangles can be combined to make things like a tetrahedral step ladder or lantern.

The author’s illustrations are commendably clear and well-drawn, giving a good sense of the possibilities of the woodland activities you can get the children involved in. Furthermore the book has a good stout hardcover that should help preserve it as it is taken around outside.

Dead Hedging

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Editor’s Reviews from Kindling

These short yet sweet reviews appeared in Kindling: the Journal for Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Care and Education, issue 27. Reviewed by Janni Nicol. Many thanks, Kindling.

Making Woodland Crafts by Patrick Harrison

Making Woodland Crafts using green sticks, rods, poles, beads and string is written by Patrick Harrison, who is an illustrator and Forest School Educator. He makes whittling with children and adults in the woods look simple and engaging, and in this book, provides the basic skills to make many craft projects. It works across all abilities, and there are many ideas for exciting and creative outdoor play.

Making Peg Dolls & More by Margaret Bloom

Making Peg Dolls and More is another little craft book full of good ideas for making simple peg dolls into beautiful end products. Many of the projects are easy to do with children of all ages, and I have tried them myself, for peg dolls which fit onto the boat I made. Buying pegs is not so cheap, but they are available at all craft shops nowadays, and, of course, last forever! It’s a companion to Margaret Bloom’s first book Making Peg Dolls.

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Book Review: Making Woodland Crafts and Storytelling for a Greener World

Storytelling for a Greener World cover

This review of Making Woodland Crafts and Storytelling for a Greener World appeared in issue 51 (spring/Summer 2015) of Reforesting Scotland. It was reviewed by Ian Edwards.

After travels on five continents I concluded that the secret of an ‘indigenous’ education is a combination of practical learning and storytelling. Two new books from Hawthorn Press, Making Woodland Crafts and Storytelling for a Greener World, show that what works for traditional, pre-literate societies remains useful and powerful in our modern world.

Making Woodland Crafts is a well-produced and illustrated handbook by Forest School Educator Patrick Harrison. His ideas will be too basic for some people (e.g. making a tripod by tying three sticks or a blow pipe by removing the pith from an elder twig) but even those who have done these many times before might find it helpful to be reminded of possibilities before going out to the woods with a group. Patrick Harrison is also the illustrator and you feel sure he has done everything in it himself and it will work. He happily mixes the practical (camp furniture, ladder, stargazing chair) and purely decorative (bracelets, necklaces, festive candles) as do forest cultures the world over. Adults and children love using tools and the Forest School approach is to introduce knives, saws and axes at the appropriate stage and to provide practical instructions to minimise risk. But you can’t learn how to use a tool properly from a book so it is an ideas kit for leaders rather than a teach yourself manual.

Storytelling for a Greener World will also inspire Forest School leaders. Most of the tales began life as campfire yarns but the authors have gone on to deconstruct and analyse them to emphasise their significance for our changing times. It is a multi-author work with a range of styles but the editors have done a good job of providing a simple précis at the start of each chapter. Editor Edward Schieffelin makes the valid point that you need to appreciate the cultural context of a story to be able to understand it and use it yourself. Creation myths of people you have never met may seem academic compared with fireside tales of Scottish travellers who trod the same roads as you and I.

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Book Review: Making Woodland Crafts

front cover of Making Woodland Crafts

Reviewed by Saffia Farr and/or Tom Bullock in Juno, issue 39, March 2015

My 9-year-old son, Ben, really liked this book. He is a fan of sticks and was interested to look at new ideas for things to do with them. He particularly liked the dead hedging (pictured), which he said would be useful for den-making. The aim of the book, writes Patrick Harrison, is to help children explore what they can do with wood. There is a range of projects, and ideas are introduced in stages, so that first you learn to make a simple triangle, and then there are ideas for more complex structures building on that skill. Ben liked the range of ideas and introductory information about different trees and knots. Each project is illustrated with useful diagrams.

Dead Hedging

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Book Review: Making Woodland Crafts

Making Woodland Crafts by Patrick Harrison

Reviewed by Martine Horvath in the EYE journal, volume 16, No 10, February 2015. A link to their website is provided at the end.

Wow! This the author’s lifework condensed into one book so that readers can share in the fabulous fruits of this labour of love, fostered over many years in woodland education. Forest Schools have been all the rage in recent years and rightly so because children learn quite differently in an outdoor environment, surrounded by space, nature and the delights our changing seasons bring.

This book will help even the most nervous and inexperienced practitioner develop a joy and confidence around the potential for learning the outdoors can bring. With beautifully detailed, easy-to-follow, hand drawn illustrations, step-by-step instructions for creating woodland crafts [tried and tested!] for a range of abilities. This book will fast become your ‘Forest School Friend’.

It is the type of book you want to share, but be warned, you may end up buying for someone and then keeping it for yourself; it is that good!

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