Stories of a Woodsman, with Bill Mackowski 

Bill Mackowski has been a lot of things in life, including wildlife biologist and farmer.For many years, he’s channeled his love of the outdoors into sturdy, hand-crafted woodsman’s tools, like snowshoes and pack baskets.And while the Milford man won’t be selling his wares at Folk Festival this year, he will be passing on a bit of what he’s learned, in a special tent for people who work with the materials mother nature’s provided.Sarah Komuniecki has more.Bill Mackowski works hard. But he’s quick with a story, and has lots to share.”I’ve spent a good portion of my life in the woods doing something. Whether it was trapping, or listening to frogs, or fishing or something. So I’ve always had that connection with the outdoors,” Mackowski says.He says he learned fifty years ago that being in the woods meant being prepared, with a sturdy pack basket, a strong pair of snowshoes and a good-size fishing creel.These tools of the woodsman’s trade he makes right from the Northern woods themselves, each nuance significant and unique to its maker.”That’s what interests me. It’s not just how to make a pack basket, but who else made them and why it looks like that, and why it’s styled that way and everything that goes on behind it,” he says.He’s spent years seeking out the best craftsmen, collecting their stories and learning their trades, to carry on these traditions before they’re lost. “I look back and I look at one of these spectacular old pairs of snowshoes and I think, you know, this guy was a artist. Way before there was any value placed on the artistry of what he was doing,” Mackowski says.Through the years his work has caught the eye of everyone from Orvis to Martha Stewart. But for this woodsman, it all goes back to that connection we have to the land around us.”I’ve just been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel, to meet people and have these skilled, skilled artisans and craftsmen spend the time with me, and be willing to share and to teach. You know, what can I say? I’m a lucky guy.” So if you see Bill at the Folk Festival, go ahead and step right up. You might just learn a thing or two.”Well it’s fun, but it’s also fun to share it with people that are interested,” he says.You can see Bill on Saturday and Sunday, along with other crafters and storytellers, in the tent for folk and traditional arts demonstrations next to the main food court.