Mentors: Stephen Deeming

I worked with Stephen Deeming of Cadence woodwork for two days in his woodcraft studio, as well as a few pre-meetings and discussions.

Steve’s an experienced woodworker who was able to help me learn technique as well as offer his knowledge as we poured over plans and reference images of Greenland paddles so that we might attempt to make one. Steve is an excellent teacher and studio companion, I valued the discussions we had about the value and power of making things.

Jim's Boat (67 of 68)

(fig.1) Our greenland paddle in use with my work ‘Imagined Heritage’.

He embodies the impulse that first caused me to pursue a greater level of craft in my practice. Its a bodily reaction to making something that is tangible, physical and finely crafted.

The two days spent in his tiny studio also gave me confidence and ideas for my own studio conversion made as part of this project. His studio is long and thin, and fitting two grown men, along with the near two metre paddle and filming equipment was a squeeze. My new studio is probably less than a third the size of his studio… but for one thats workable and I can use the outdoor space. Steve showed me how passion and some smart decisions can overcome barriers that might otherwise exist.

We had some trouble cutting our blank out from the square timber before shaping. and tried a number of different tools. The perseverence of getting through that hurdle felt like a nice metaphor for art-making in general. In the end we had to use a circular saw- which was less than idea and ended up taking of too much material. This changed the shape of the paddle and gave us a lot of headaches later on. But without that saw we would have been stuck with the raw material. Sometimes its better to compromise so that you can make something, rather than to do nothing because the conditions aren’t perfect.

I had some great footage of making the paddle, which sadly was lost due to a corrupted memory card… which is part of the reason I am only writing this now despite spending that time with Stephen back in March.

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