A Shetland Wool Week whittling workshop with Cecil Tait of Paparwark (and how to make a shawloon!)
by Abby -
I’ve always wanted to whittle. In particular, I‘ve always wanted to whittle a spoon. I confess I have a penchant for spoons - I collect them. If I see an unusual spoon for sale - I have to have it. So when I met Shetlander, Cecil Tait of Paparwark Furniture at his idyllic cottage and workshop with incredible views across to St Ninian’s Isle and home to a crazy ladder climbing cat called Murli, several chickens, ducks and a polytunnel filled with tomato and asparagus plants, and he said, over a cup of tea in his cosy kitchen, “I’m teaching a whittling workshop during Shetland Wool Week” (the annual woolly festival attended by yarn addicts from across the globe) well, I got very excited. “Will we be whittling spoons?” I asked Cecil. “No, Abby, it’s Wool Week - we’re whittling a shawl pin and ring”.
Several weeks later I met my whittling group in the village of Hoswick (home to a Visitor Centre with a fascinating wireless collection and funky knitwear studio Nielanell). The merry band of whittlers included a very lively lady from Wales called Catrin – more about her later. I sketched my shawl pin onto a piece of wood. Cecil showed me how to use the saw. I sawed away. My shawl pin was then ready to whittle with a carefully chosen (“that looks lovely”) penknife. Now, I like a chat and there was a very interesting lady to the left of me who use to design and make wedding dresses and we had a good ol’ gas about everything under the sun. However, it slowly came to my attention that my pin was rather large and cumbersome and that I was covered in more wood shavings than the rest of my whittling crew.....
I felt, in all honesty, as beads of sweat gathered on my brow and blisters on my hands grew to the size of walnuts, as if I was whittling a tree. Cecil came to my rescue and axed a bit more wood off the log pin and I continued whittling and talking. Catrin, the lively lady from Wales, cackled a great deal at my effort (she was the speediest whittler in the room) and nicknamed me Bamm Bamm, and then cackled some more. Yes, my pin did indeed resemble a Stone Age tool from The Flintstones. I modelled the club/spoon/pin in my hair, because Catrin insisted and I didn’t like to say no.
While everyone else had whittled stylish shawl pins (see Catrin showcasing several designs), I had whittled a shawloon - a shawl pin and spoon hybrid. I had failed to whittle the ring part of the shawl accessory because I was too busy posing for Catrin’s Facebook, learning Welsh and chatting to fellow whittlers....
I did say to Cecil, who, by the by was an excellent whittle host, that the next event should be a spoon whittling workshop, where no doubt I will whittle a shawl pin. I’m a bit contrary like that. He smiled and nodded in a wise whittling way and several weeks later shared some sound advice given by his dad, “he whaa niver maks a mistaak maks nothin!” Quite.
When Cecil isn’t teaching whittling workshops or working on the family croft, he’s a busy man in the Paparwark (means "priest's work") workshop creating a range of contemporary and traditional furniture influenced by Shetland’s heritage and culture. My favourite piece of Paparwark furnture is the Shetland chair and if you'd like to learn more about the chair, Cecil and Paparwark furniture - subscribe to 60 North magazine, winter issue - where my story continues, including information about Cecil's latest piece of furniture made out local sycamore, Christmas gift ideas and numerous other interesting bits and bobs. PS don't forget to join Cecil's Facebook page and see what he's up to or visit him on the Craft Trail and say hello. Top tip: follow a visit to his workshop with a breathtaking beach walk, and for afters - the Spiggie Hotel, where you will expererience the to-die-for sticky toffee pudding. Win-win!
Posted in: Creative Scene