CCA CarveAlong East 2008
by Mike Bloomquist
Most woodcarving events seem to naturally be special happenings that recharge the soul and remain with you for a long time afterwards. Then, sometimes, the planets all seem to align and it goes to another level that is pure magic. This was the case for me and the 2008 CCA CarveAlong East sponsored by the Mystic Carvers of Mystic, CT. Let’s start talking about “aligning planets” with the instructors. First they were all members of the CCA and for this CarveAlong the Mystic carvers had scheduled Joe You, Pete Ortel & Harley Refsal. Now from what I’ve read, Joe You doesn’t have too many classes, and I’ve never seen one advertised on the East coast. Then Pete Ortel is a fellow New Yorker (until recently) and a friend of mine. I’ve attended some great presentations of his, but never been lucky enough to attend any of his workshops or classes. And finally, there was the master of Scandinavian flat plane carving, Harley Refsal. Harley Refsal and Rick Butz were my woodcarving mentors yet I had never had the chance to meet Mr. Refsal. This was “it”… the perfect chance, the aligning of planets. But there's more. Then there was the location? The University of Rhode Island has an annex near West Greenwich, RI. On that property there’s the Whispering Pines convention center with its own lake, a couple of vintage New England farms, and the Alton B. Jones Environmental Education Center which is where this CarveAlong was held. The main lodge of the center had an arching cathedral ceiling upper floor which held the eating area and one classroom. Downstairs there was room for two other classes in there own rooms. Sleeping accommodations were provided by several cabins on the property. They typically slept sixteen, but since only the bottom bunks were utilized, each held eight for the weekend and the shared facilities were never crowded. When you drive into this facility and walk around the adjectives “idyllic” and “picturesque” come to mind easily. But wait! There’s more… there was the food. Now I’m an easy guy to feed and enjoy “adventures in eating”. There is very little on the planet that I consider inedible and I have tried a few things that might actually be in the inedible category, but this doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate really good food, and we were served really good food and often. There was easy and constant access to juices, teas, and coffee as well. And finally there was the weather and season. New England was just greening up which means the leaves were out, but the bugs weren’t… perfect. I came from the west, and to avoid Worcester on the beginning of Memorial Day weekend I jumped of the Mass Pike at Sturbridge and came to West Greenwich by the scenic route. Small towns, stone fences, green woods, and plenty of time to get there by 5pm registration… there’s that word “idyllic” again. Then there was the food…oops, sorry already covered that. And finally there was the weather, sunny, but not hot with chill evenings, but not cold… perfect. And did I say there was great food?
The format for the three day weekend is pretty simple. Registration and supper was Friday night followed with an introduction to the organizers, a description of the event schedule and a meet the instructors session. For Saturday Sunday & Monday, thirty three students are broken into three groups and rotated daily so each group gets to spend a day with each instructor. At the end of each evening an instructor gives a presentation of their choice. Sometimes a student is invited to present. This year there was a lame N.A. Flute presentation by some guy from Upstate New York. Luckily Harley Refsal step into the middle of it and bailed him out with some interesting material about Scandinavian bone flutes. Between the classes, meals, and programs, there was no need and no desire to leave the grounds.
Bottom line, even if my entry into the art of woodcarving had sacrificed a couple fingers and all I had left was a stump the number of woodcarving events I would not go back to could be counted on that hand. This CarveAlong is a level above the normally enjoyable woodcarving event, and not only do I recommend this one without reservation, but it’s now in my top five. Check it out! 2009 CCA CarveAlong
Mike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a regular contributor to WOM.
You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving HERE or email him at m.bloomquist AT verizon DOT net.