Hosting workshops for whittling wood by hand, the BTWC bring back the traditional role of craft in today's age
Inviting anyone to find a quality blade and a little piece of wood (even exotic varieties can be quite affordable) from white bark to birch, Bleeding Thumb Whittling Club have found an effective way to engage themselves in a robust experience of materiality. In the interests of the role of craft in an industrialised age, they have looked back at a self-sufficient cultures in pre-war America and post-hippy movements for inspiration. Touching on the Bauhaus school of design, the club focuses on workshop activities held at London’s b Store, whittling away lumps of wood for simple, modest purposes.
Dazed Digital: Where did the inspirations for the name stem from?
BTWC: The first cut that Jack (the founding members are Jana and Jack) sustained was a deep gash to the thumb. We probably didn't think about it at the time, but now it seems significant that the name immediately refers to the painful and dangerous part of whittling.
DD: What was it about b Store that attracted you as a venue?
BTWC: In the first instance it was the personal relationship with the people at b Store that precipitated the show. However, there's also an overlap in our interests; b Store stocks independent designers and, more recently, publishers. Kuni Awai, who works at b, made some beautiful leather sheaths for our knives by hand.
As for showing in a shop-window, Karl Ernst Osthaus of the Werkbund movement identified this place as 'the locus of alienation "in that it shows us the commodity and not its production"' (quote from F.J. Schwartz, 'The Werkbund'). He sought to change this and maybe at b Store we approach that in showing the whittled objects, the knives used to make them (including the ubiquitous Stanley Knife, model 199), and the mannequin in whittling pose. Because the objects on display are so small and simple, the tools cheap, people often react by feeling they could make one themselves, which is really positive.
DD: What is the ethos behind BTWC?
BTWC: To have fun whittling. The side effects of this may include: engagement with materiality and temporality, gaining knowledge of wood and tools, hanging out with your friends, de-alienation from the objects around you. We provide the tools and wood without charge - that's quite important to us. No copyright!
DD: What's next from you guys?
BTWC: Members are currently moving into making knives, musical instruments, and furniture. Some people in San Francisco (Derek et al. at The Curiosity Shoppe) saw our website and started their own Bleeding Thumb chapter over there. More clubs would be great.
b store, 24a Savile Row, W1S 3PR