When I recently came across the chance to review Geoffrey Fisher’s Slingshots & Key Hooks: 15 Everyday Objects Made from Foraged and Gathered Wood, it was nearly impossible to say no. This is quite a strange decision because I am not, nor have I ever been, a carpenter, a woodworker, or even a wood hobbyist. But, what I am, is a creative person who loves making things with her own hands. And that is just what Slingshots & Key Hooks is all about.
To give you a little background about Fisher’s life, he is a woodworker and designer based in Buckinghamshire, England. His early creativity led him to art school where he zoned in on his love for working with wood. He used traditional prepared timber as many designers do, until his need for simplicity and creativity lead him to foraged, unprocessed wood that he gathered in his local woodlands. He started creating simple objects like hooks and key chains using traditional woodworking techniques.
In the beginning these beautiful, and eco-friendly creations were just a creative outlet for Fisher, providing a respite from the business and commercial aspect of his real designing work. But when friends suggest that he was onto something, he paid attention and saw the opportunity. Soon, Fisher was designing and selling one-off creations for gardens, further affirming the new career that lay ahead of him.
The new direction stuck when a tree in Fisher’s garden, quite literally fell at the end of its natural life. It provided him with good raw material, yes, but more importantly, it was the breakthrough for designing products based on the natural shape of the wood, rather than the other way around.
The “Trook” was born; an ingenious hook made out of an unseasoned tree branch that retains the natural elements of the tree. So, in essence, it looks more like a tree stump to hang your things, rather than a traditional hook design. The Trook hit the sweet spot in the retail market and from there on Fisher’s success has continued on as he developed more products which are currently sold worldwide on his website.
This book, Slingshots & Key Hooks seems like a natural progression of that success. In it, Fisher starts off by sharing his story, which as a reader, adds a whole new element in enjoying what is to follow. He also provides practical guidance on how to forage and identify the right pieces of wood in our own backyards, parks, and woodlands. This includes tips on when to ask for permission and forage legally; on what the term coppicing means, and all the basic tools one needs to get started.
Speaking of tools, I like how Fisher isn’t all about spending hundreds of dollars in new gadgets to make sure you can use that free branch you found in your backyard in a meaningful way. Instead, he has just the right suggestions on how to get your feet wet without much investment and then how to dive in deep with the proper tools should the hobby stick!
Some of my favorite projects in the book include the place card holder. the magnetic hook, and the keychain which all seem so practical and easy enough for a beginner like me. But it was hard not to get overly ambitious after I saw the slingshot, the jump-rope, and along with toys for children such as slingshots (of course!), jump rope, and the good old cup-and-ball.
Other beautiful projects in the book include wooden hangers, a whistle, ping-pong paddles, plant markers, bee hotels, and my favorite a cobweb brush/broom. Beautiful pictures of step by step instructions, not only make this book informative, but an artsy one to add to your coffee table collection.
For all the creative doers and the perpetual tinkerer out there, Slingshots & Key Hooks is a joyful read that will inspire you to connect with nature and create something beautiful!
Geoffrey Fisher lives and works in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England.