Monday, 24 May 2010

Bleeding Thumb Show

Welcome to the 1st show of the Bleeding Thumb Whittling Club

From the 29 of may at 85 Kingsland High Street

The show will go on till 6th of June so please feel free to join us in any of our events during the week if you can't make it to the opening, or make an appointment to visit out-of-hours ( The 5th and 6th of June the show will be open between 12 and 6pm.

The opening will also be the launch of a catalogue and fanzine, featuring reproductions of some of the best BTWC imagery, writings from the blog, and new texts.


We will be showcasing various works made by members throughout the week and the opening will also be the occasion for the release of the BTWC back catalogue

Join us for the opening on Saturday the 29th of June between 3pm and 9pm or the next day for a brunch between 1.30pm-3.30pm.

On bank-holiday Monday the 31 of May we will be showing films connected to John Dillinger, the infamous criminal who managed to escape from prison using a secretly carved wooden gun, of which we will have a facsimile on display. First up at 7pm is "Public Enemies", a thriller starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christan Bale as the F.B.I agent Melvin Purvis. After that we will show "Manhattan Melodrama" starring Clark Gable, the film that John Dillinger saw shortly before he was shot outside a cinema by feds in a sting operation.

On Wednesday at 6.30pm we will have a whittling club meeting on the theme of the Serpent Handling Cult of Appalachia which Jack came across on his travels through middle-America. The religion is based on a literal interpretation of a passage from Book of Mark, Chapter 16, verses 17-18:

"And these signs shall follow those that believe: In my name they shall cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

We will have a serpent-box which will need to be filled with whittled snakes so bring any odd stick you find and we will provide the knives and other materials for you to turn the stick into a poisonous reptile (RSVP to

The 5th and 6th of June will be the last days of the show so keep you eyes on the blog where we will update with information about any possible events for these days.

San Francisco

For hundreds of years the native populations in North America have followed the Kachina system of beliefs. Several of the so called pueblo people of the "Four corners" in the southwest of the continent adhered to it, but the Hopi & Zuni are maybe the ones that are most closely associated with rituals based around the Kachinas.

A Kachina is a spirit that can refer to anything in the universe. It can be an animal or a being of some sort, but they can also represent something abstract like a concept. These spirits, which occupy a fog-like parallel universe to ours (like in the smoke of a burning object or the steam of exhaled air), were given figurative features so that the humans could interact with the forces they represented. It was believed that when a person died their spirit would travel to the west to become a Kachina and then return as a cloud, a conviction that led to the practice of putting wet cotton in a cloud-like manner on the face of the dead.

Zuni Kachina "Salamopea Kohana Ansuwa"

The kachinas are said to live on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona. They would spend half of the year in the mountains and the other half they would come down to dance with the people in the villages and bring them rain. The number of actual Kachina spirits is hard to pin down since the characters are in a constant flux, but the number is probably somewhere between 200 and 400 with some of them occupying a more permanent and important position.

Pethla She Woha

Atashlaskja Okya

Besides representing the Kachinas by dressing up as them during dance ceremonies, the Hopi would illustrate the different spirits by carving them out of cottonwood root. Although they are refereed to as Kachina dolls, and would be given by the Hopi men to the young girls of the tribe, they would not be played with as toys. Today these decorative figures are popular collectors items and have been sadly diluted into a sea of reproductions and tourist souvenirs.

For the past two meeting BTWC has let it self be inspired by the Kachinas. We are uncertain if there has been any contact made with the spirits in the San francisco peaks, but we know for sure that there is kindred souls down in the town. Derek from the Curiosity shop on Valencia Street in San Francisco has opened a new chapter of the whittling club; Bleeding Thumb Whittling Club SF. We thank him greatly for taking interest in the club, for bringing more whittling to the world and hopefully providing a new home for two of our whittlers, Brian & Neet, who have just left us (they are not dead, just took the plane) this week to go and live in the west.

You can check out the amazing stuff made by BTWC-SF here and here.

The Photographs above are from the collections of Brooklyn Museum.

Lemon wedge Kachina by Meave & Ben T

Hair Kachina by Jack

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Coco one-jo

I whittled and sawed and drilled this one-string banjo, else one-jo, or else really just a coconut monochord. The monochord is a right old instrument, being as it is - among other things - the tool with which Pythagoras investigated and laid out the principles of integer ratio consonance in sound.

The tuning peg, bridge, and bridge peg are all whittled from some nice dark walnut wood. The body is a coconut half (natch), and the neck is some worthless ply that gave me splinters throughout construction (I think the veneer was the main culprit). The neck intersects the body twice, and there is no gluing involved - the parts are just held together by the friction and tension inherent in tightening the string (a 12 gauge Ernie Ball). All surfaces were finished with a blade.

Coconut shell is pleasing material to whittle; similar to a peach pit only darker and perhaps a bit softer. It is similarly free of grain and has a lot of potential for figuration I suspect - poor man's ebony; black bone.

Sonic considerations. The bridge is rather heavy, and is at present attached to the neck; this could certainly be improved upon. A lighter bridge and some sort of membrane or sound board would increase the volume. I have a bit of paper in there at the moment which amplifies things - who knows why... The tone is good though, and it has a great deal of sustain. In terms of playing the little thing, I am using a pebble to "fret" it, in a similar style to the berimbau player, and knocking out pentatonic airs.

Time: four hours
Beers: two "Moretti"

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Viviennes skull

On a previous occasion I copied a design of a bow-tie that the Log Lady is wearing in twin peaks. Continuing this reproduction of wooden details, I whittled a simple small skull that has been seen worn by Vivenne Westwood in various photographs.