The Forge @ Ransberg – Part 4: The Second Workshop

On the afternoon of Friday 19 June we welcomed Pierre and Leslie, Joost, Melinda and Christina. Anna, Chrisje, Michaela and her daughter Gabriele and myself joined in the making. Heather and Chrisje both stepped in to support me in the kitchen.

The weather was cooler, there were moments of rain. Everyone found shelter and the show went on.

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Saturday was marked by two momentous occurrences. The first was a visit from Ton Akkermans, who had taught Gabriella, Quentin and Heather the bowl-making craft, together with his partner Carolina. It felt like such an honour to have the whole lineage of this sacred work present at this special time in this potent place. In the evening we held a solstice celebration, with a sound weaving by Heather, Gabriella and Quentin, followed by supper and a fire circle. In addition to our workshop community, we welcomed Christina’s partner David, our neighbour Claude and Matthieu with his son Nicolas. The workshop closed on Sunday with another crop of beautiful instruments, duly initiated and set to travel off to different corners of Europe.

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The experience of the Forge@Ransberg has worked in subtle ways on this place and our shared story. It is my hope that Chrisje and I can build up some facilities here to continue the bowl-making work independently, with support from Ton, Gabriella, Heather and Quentin. The workshops are certainly something to repeat.

View all the photos I took of the Forge @ Ransberg

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The Forge @ Ransberg – Part 3: Interlude

Deliciously, there followed four blissful, spacious days of summer, with nothing to do, nowhere to go, leftovers to eat, time to be together and live on the land and make to our heart’s content. Steve opened up more space on the swales, Ria brought her presence to the garden. Chrisje worked in the mornings and forged in the afternoons. Michaela brought her daughters to visit. We held our own intimate initiation ceremony for the new instruments we created, and Steve hosted a small Flow Game… On Thursday we lost Steve and gained Anna and Quentin, and on Friday we eased back into our workshop routine and flung open the doors for another small community of makers.

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The Forge @ Ransberg – Part 2: The First Workshop

For the first workshop we were joined by Nathalie and Erik, Bernard, Matthieu and his daughter Lucie, Andrea and Holger, as well as Michaela and Chrisje, who also took part in the bowl-making process, while I focused on preparing of food for the weekend.

We started in the tent, which had been transformed by the instruments that Gabriella and Heather had brought with them, into a lovely sacred circle space. Here we started and ended our days with sounding of the bowls, gongs and cymbals, all wreathed around with sounds of birds and the wind in the leaves of the poplars. And the occasional synchronistic syncopation from the village church bells, the jingle of the local ice cream van, and the disco sounds wafting down from the Hias Palace of Swing next door!

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From the opening moments, our little community sank seamlessly into the natural flow of the bowl-making process. The first afternoon was dedicated to choosing the metal for the bowls, scribing the circles and cutting and filing the discs.

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After supper, we all trooped down to the fire circle to share conversation as we waited for the fire to create the heat needed for the first annealing of the discs.

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A thoroughly absorbing and magical process, rounded off by some magical gonging in the gloaming by Heather and Gabriella.

Day two dawned wet, so breakfast was hosted indoors. The living space breathed out and we all fit in without even squeezing.

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By the time we were ready to start beating metal, the sun had appeared. Each maker found his or her place, and the alchemical process of shaping the bowls began, each person ensconced in their own private process, each hosted by the land in the place they had chosen to occupy. The valley rang with the never-before-heard tap-tap-tap of hammers on metal on wood.

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When undertaking creative physical work with natural materials in the open air, it seems especially important to eat pure and natural, nourishing food. Catering was my self-appointed task for these days, and it felt especially potent to be able to source some of our means from our own garden – salad and herbs were already online, even though it was relatively early in the year.

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The evening saw the return of Ria from her hosting assignment in Amsterdam, There was time for conversation, companionship and tarot, and good fatigue saw most folks early to bed.

Day three brought us through to the end of the process, each bowl found its coherence through fire and anvil, and a fresh new generation of singing bowls came into the world. The workshop closed with the ‘initiation’ of each new bowl, welcomed into the commonwealth of sacred frequencies resonant with the invitations of these times on planet earth. What a privilege to be in such work together!

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The Forge @ Ransberg – we become a Making Place

Part 1 – Preparation

This summer, for the first time, this place opened its arms for a short spell to a larger community of humans, for the sacred enterprise of crafting singing bowls.

I had been hoping for this to come about for some time, having seen our hearth as a ‘making place’ ever since first setting my feet on this land. It might never have materialised, though, without a special ‘yes’ from a number people. Our neighbour, Claude, generously consented to offer the spare bedrooms of her magical home to house any of our guests who needed to sleep over during the making process. Michaela became my logistics angel and sheet anchor, holding the details with competence and absolute calm while I flopped around in resistance and debutante’s nerves. Ria’s friends Jim and Gie loaned us the use of their big party tent – an absolute must when planning outdoor activity in June in Belgium! And, above all, Chrisje, who took the massive step of opening her home to an unspecified number of complete strangers – many speaking no Flemish – for 10 days, during a working week. As an extra bulwark, Steve nomaded in, in the nick of time to help prepare for the arrivals.

I must admit, I had some trepidation about hosting so many people on the land for the first time. Would there be enough space for everything and everyone? Would the inhabitants of this place (including Twinkie, the chicken and the frogs) still find their needed moments of solitude and peace? Would I manage to cook for so many without melting down into a puddle of hysterical neurosis?

Late on the evening of Wednesday 10 June, Gabriella ‘Songbird’ Kapfer and Heather Cowen arrived in their big orange van full of smithing equipment and deep expertise, to accompany us in the adventure of making these new instruments. Their first sight of the valley, in the gloaming just as night drew on, created quite an impression for these very perceptive and place-savvy ladies.

We spent Thursday scoping the land and sensing into where to place the different stations on the bowl-making journey. The party tent, the forge, the tools and equipment… Steve started in on the tent construction – foresight had had me up very early during the heatwave of the previous weekend scything the tall, dew-laden grass at the bottom boundary to clear a space for it.

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Everything felt spacious, everything found its place. The sun shone and the land opened itself to accommodate all our needs, perceived and real. Chrisje miraculously manifested industrial quantities of divine dessert when she came home from work. There was even time for some sound treatment with Steve’s Tibetan healing bowls before bed.

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Open Garden Days in June 2015

Again this year we opened our doors to organic garden-lovers from throughout Flanders, under the auspices of Velt, the Flemish association for eco-gardeners. We received around 100 visitors over the two days, including friends, colleagues, neighbours and gardening enthusiasts. Ria guided people around the garden, answering questions and exchanging tips with beginners and masters alike. Much was learned on all sides.

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For my part, I was really with the land during these days, sensing its response to the stimulus of so many new life forms entering this space. It seems that there is a ‘human’ level of seeing, which sees the ‘garden’ that the human inhabitants have co-shaped with the land; and then there is a ‘creature’ level of seeing the land itself, feeling the place and being seen by it. Many of the people whom I spoke to mentioned feeling the uniqueness of this small piece of land, which harbours so many little biotopes and spots with different characters – the kitchen garden, the pond, the fire circle, the swales, the small island of wilderness at the core.

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Many people also stayed for tea, cake and conversations, and took the time to look through the picture books which tell the story, year by year, of the shaping of the place. I felt as though I had made many new friends and met some new neighbours this weekend. The cherry on the cake came on Sunday late in the afternoon, when two of the grandchildren of the couple who used to live here showed up. What a joy! We took a leisurely stroll around, and heard from these two cousins how it had been to grow up in relation to this place. How the land had been worked, and how their grandparents had held and lived here. Weaving some new stories into our field, drawing in some more of the history of the place, creating more wholeness.

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The kitchen story

As soon as work stopped (suspended by lack of funds) on our new living space, we moved in and started living there anyway. As my mother always used to say, contemplating small nooks and crannies in the family’s holiday cottage in France that were all inhabited by some form of wildlife: “nature abhors a vacuum”. So we became the wildlife that moved into the vacuum of the empty living space.

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We soon installed a ‘temporary kitchen’ – a sink set in a plank balanced on old cupboards, an old table with a camping gas stove, and all our other old dressers and kitchen cupboards all clustered around the fridge and the oven… We lived like that, quite comfortably, for almost 2 years! Except that Chrisje was always longing for her first real and proper kitchen of her own… and, since my funds were now all gone, she was going to provide the resources to manifest it! Some of the kitchen equipment (oven, steam oven, gas stove) were already ordered and waiting for delivery, and Martin had already drawn us up some great 3d plans made to measure.

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It seemed to take forever to finally decide to ask Bert, the son of Michel who made our windows and stairs, to build the new kitchen furniture for us from organic ash wood. But once we did, there was a whole cascade of other stuff to coordinate and get done – all by different folks – beforehand: breaking down the temporary kitchen, emptying the living space and moving back into the old living space in the ground floor front rooms (us); fixing the warped planks in the ceiling – that needed scaffolding – (Paulus); and laying the beech wood floor (Guido); painting and oiling the new kitchen components (us); constructing the kitchen in situ (Bert); wiring up the electrics (Leo)…

It felt really strange moving out of that gorgeous, warm and light environment back into the dark, musty old front rooms at the end of January. We especially missed watching the birds in the garden as we sat at the table. But knowing we were depriving ourselves for a good cause, we made the best of it.

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Everything ran smoothly, and in late February Bert delivered all the component pieces of the kitchen for us to paint and oil – Chrisje prefers to do these things herself! Thankfully, we had a nice empty space big enough to fit everything!

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The new kitchen was installed in mid-March and since then we’ve been happily learning how to live in it!

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Resounding Earth comes to the Forge @ Ransberg!

Craft a Singing Bowl
with Gabriella, Heather and Quentin

June 12 – 14, 2015


June 19 – 21, 2015


“These workshops provide a rare opportunity to enter into an authentic alchemical process, whereby what outwardly appears to be a transformation of base metal, is in effect, a transformation of ourselves.”

I am thrilled to announce that one of my dearest dreams for our Dorpsstraat adventure is soon to come true – with a little help from YOU!!! Our beloved place has a vocation as a ‘making place’, and these workshops will be a first step in that direction.

The singing bowls born in Quentin’s forge bring new resonances into the world — their function is similar to that of the ancient Tibetan bowls, but their frequencies are resonant with the needs of today.

For details you can download the flyer here: Invitation Crafting your Singing Bowl Belgium

Register online here

Logistics: Friday 2.30 pm – 9.30 pm; Saturday & Sunday 9.30 am – 5.30 pm
The first workshop (June 12 – 14) will include a special focus on how the bowl-making process can support the practise of hosting transformative conversation – priority will be given to practitioners of the Art of Hosting and Participatory Leadership.

Venue: Dorpsstraat 136, 3470 Ransberg – Kortenaken
(close to Diest, Tienen, St. Truiden; about an hour east of Brussels)

Fee: £ 345 for workshop; details about costs for accommodation and catering on the registration form

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