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Who are the Women with Knives?

Well you should ask! In 1995, North Carolina carver Skeeter Harris attended a club where a number of people were carving with power tools at club meetings. (As it happened they were all male.) The noise precluded much in the way of socializing and it occurred to Skeeter that faithful day to wonder what she was even doing there. The following day, Skeeter telephoned Lois Henry to let off a little steam.

From that telephone evolved the idea for an all-woman club where by rule you could only carve with hand tools. Lois suggested the name, Woman With Knives, and things have not been the same since.

Women With Knives (WWK) started out as a local club, but has grow to include members throughout the United States and other countries. In September of 2001 many of the members gathered at the Ruby Lake Campground, Sandyville, West Virginia for the World Wide Women's Woodcarving Weekend (W5).

Lois Henry continues to maintain the WWK web site and member data base. WOM Editor Matt Kelley caught up with. Lois recently to get an update:

WOM: Where does the local (original) group meet.

We meet here in North Carolina in and around Durham. We started out meeting two Sundays a month at the studio of Ewing 'Skeeter' Harris (aka "The Mama"). Later on a group called the Wood Spirit Carvers was formed so that there could be a mixed gender group here and still allow the WWK to exist as females only. WWK continues to meet one Sunday a month at Skeeter's studio. A new tradition has formed whereby we also meet each Monday at one another's home. Whoever feels up to it volunteers to host the meeting. The Monday meetings are from 11:00 to 3:00 and include a brown bag lunch with occasional home cooked dishes for all. We talk and carve and laugh and make a mess of wood shavings. We carve in a family room, living room or studio - depending on whose house we visit.

WOM: So WWK continues to meet on a regular basis

You bet! There are times when there are a whole gang of us and other times when only a few can make it - but we get together as often as we can.

WOM: How did it come about that WWK starting getting members from outside the local area?

That started when I was traveling and demonstrating carving tools. I would meet women who were excited to find another woodcarver who was also female. They were either totally isolated from the rest of the woodcarving world or else the only women in their carving group. Skeeter had some patches made with the WWK logo on them. I began taking a few along to make honorary members and mailing membership cards to women I met on the travel circuit.

Later, I put up a WWK web site on Geocities which was free. This is important because we don't have any dues, treasury or any sort of formal structure. I had to pay for registering our domain name and later pay for some other web things, but the WWK kicked in on a voluntary basis. This year I covered expenses with some T shirt sales. Next year, who knows? But I digress...

The web site started with the local WWK. We began to hear from women who were in similar situations to those I had meet while traveling and from women who just thought we were cool. I began to invite the carvers that we heard from to join us on the web site. I also began an outreach contacting some carvers directly and inviting others with a message on the web site to "Join us to form a group linked around the world."

WOM: Is WWK encouraging "net" members? How does someone join who is not in the local area?

The inevitable happened. The free web site ran out of space. At the moment I don't have as much time to deal with the database and web site management. We are not adding new members right now but it is to be hoped that this will change.

WOM: Was the W5 Get Together in September 2001 just for WWK members?

Yes, and a few stalwart spouses.

WOM: Have there been other similar gatherings since? Any planned for the future?

No. We had hoped to have a gathering every year. WWK member Chips may have something in the works for a meeting in Vancouver, BC next year.

WOM: What does the future hold for WWK?

That is hard to predict. We are not actually a club. WWK is more of an idea than an organization. The entire gang, mob, whatever... is in contact via email and while no new photos are going up on the web site lately, they are passed around among us. We tell one another about new carving projects, excitements, disappointments and successes. There is a bond - especially among those of us who attended the W5 in 2001. Sometimes two WWK meet for the first time by arrangement or happenstance in home states or away from home. So far, this has been reported as wonderfully satisfying and lots of fun.

WOM: Where do you see the group in two years?

Certainly still together. And if there are wood and blades we will be carving still. The membership grew so fast for a while there that we were losing track of who was who. It could be that the new member hiatus will be a very good thing as we will have time to grow together. I would like to see the invitation to join us back up on the site within the next year or two.

Readers are welcome to visit the WWK web site at http://www.geocities.com/womenwithknives/