Bodgers: new lessons on an old art form

from exhibit "Joints"

In this day of blogging–oh the pressures of it all!–it’s refreshing to spend time in the woods with the bodgers. I first heard about these folks while I was researching an obituary on Mike Myers, a “Renaissance man [who] went where inspiration took him.” That was the headline given the piece when it appeared in yesterday’s Globe and Mail.

Bodgers were itinerant woodworkers living in the chalk hills of the Chilterns, in Buckinghamshire, England. They set up shacks and carved their furniture from beech, ash, oak and elm trees there on site with the squirrels. It was easier for them to work from the source of the timber than move heavy logs to a workshop.

Myers spent his days with these craftsmen in the woods behind his home in High Wycombe. “I liked nothing better than to sit with the bodgers,” he said, “those skilled artisans with magic in their fingers who worked in makeshift shacks in the woods, making their old chair parts.”

“My neighbours were cabinet-makers, chair-makers, and upholsterers.”

Sixty years later, still captured by their magic, he returned to the area with an exhibition called Joints. In a dozen outdoor sculptures, he followed centuries-old patterns exposing the normally hidden anatomy of common joints used in furniture.

Mike Myers charmed me.

If you get a chance, look at his picture and see if he doesn’t also remind you of a thin, jubilant Albert Einstein, standing there in front of his snooker painting (also, read about his remarkable snooker series).

Finding ways to link blogging with bodgering is a treat. Such are the kinds of pleasures I get as an obituary writer, educating myself while capturing the nuances of Canadian history. Retaining all these lovely pictures in my head.

I’m attending a memorial for Myers in a few days. I wish the impossible could happen and I’d find him there welcoming me to his art.

MYERS Mike G&M Feb. 2, 11

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About Nor

I'm a creative non-fiction writer, with a special interest in memoirs and obituaries--life stories, local histories with flesh & blood anecdotal details. I'm also beginning to create podcasts of people's stories and expanding their audiences. I'm a diarist, an editor, and a political activist. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and spend days tapping keys or staining my fingers in ink.
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