Spoon Carving in Marrakech

In June 2016 on a family holiday to Marrakech, my father and I went searching for the spoon carvers. Anyone who has visited Morocco before will be familiar with the traditional wooden spoon – they are sold on every street corner throughout the city. We just knew that somewhere there had to be a group of people waist-deep in woodshavings, making thousands of these Moroccan spoons.

We found them out in the mountains, in a small village where most of the industry is centred around the woodwork. In a cool barn at the end of the street we come across the spoon carvers. There are four carvers, who work in teams of two to carve 120 spoons a day between the pair of them.

There are two older men who have been carving spoons a long time, and also two younger men, close to my age at the time, in their late teens, who have only been doing this for a few years. They are all incredibly skilled, working sat on the floor with a range of razer sharp adze.

The adze are a very clever design, super simple to make and handle.

The spoons they are making are a traditional soup spoon, with some remarkable design similarities with a welsh style of soup spoon – the Cawl spoon.

Notice the round bowls and long, tapering handles attached to the underside of the bowl?

We arrived in the afternoon, after they had spend the morning doing the rough carving on their pile of spoons for the day, and were working on finishing. One of the carvers showed us how they did the rough work, sawing the piece of citrus wood in two to get two spoons out of it, and using a large adze to carve it down to shape. A slightly smaller adze is then used for some finer detailed carving, and to start hollowing out the inside shape of the spoon.

At this point they then switch to the afternoons work. One of the team uses a tiny adze with a pushing action along the handle of the spoon to smooth all the surfaces out, while the other uses a double-edged spoon knife to skillfully hollow the bowl out, clamping the spoon using the feet. This process takes under a minute!

And the finished spoon, alongside the other half of the piece of wood –

The spoons are then usually transported into the city where they are rasped and sanded to the finished spoons that can be bought across Marrakech, but we just LOVE the beautifully smooth tooled surface that the carvers leave, so we bought 50 of them straight from the pile to bring home with us. After taking 50 spoons from spoon mountain, it didn’t look at all different!

A Grand Opening at Pathcarvers Workshop

As those of you who follow me on Facebook and Instagram know, lately I have been doing a lot of work with my social enterprise, Pathcarvers. For a long time now I have talked about the links between creativity and mental wellbeing. I have noticed myself in my own life, and also in others as a teacher, how fantastic the act of making can make you feel. Pathcarvers as a project helps try and spread that further.

We run craft courses which funds work with people who wouldn’t usually get to experience craft, helping them gain access to the fantastic benefits to help with mental, social and physical difficulties.

Earlier this year we moved into a workshop in Stirchley, Birmingham. The space is my workshop where I make and teach, and also a creative space for Pathcarvers. We have a weekly carving club, where we open our doors for likeminded people to come and carve together, we run courses in a range of crafts, and we have a growing shop with a range of wonderful hand-made goods, which helps us support both the project and also other artisans.

Although we moved in earlier in the year, we have yet to properly celebrate, so this Friday 17th we are having a Grand Opening. We are opening our doors and inviting people in from 4.30pm – 8.30pm. We will have drinks and nibbles, craft demonstrations and a string quartet – Aphrodite String Quartet

We will also be talking about who we are and what we do, so if you are in the area please do come down and see us on Friday!

Spring Spoon Carving Courses

April has been a month of education. I have been SUPER busy. After the latest spoon carving course I am just catching up with my pictures and finding time to reflect..

We started a couple of weeks ago with a beginners spoon carving course in Edale. Unlike my previous Edale course we had lovely weather, the first sun of the year. We spent one evening sat outside the village pub, shivering, but determined to soak up that vitamin D.

Peter & Jörg (above) had travelled all the way from Switzerland for the course. Apparently there is not much spoon carving in their country – they are going to take their skills away and kick things off.

The spoon knife is the trickiest of the tools to learn. We learn the knife grips in the afternoon then have a rest and sleep on the techniques, before putting them to practise the following morning, refreshed & ready to go.

Always a firm favourite part of the spoon carving course – lunch! I spend my evenings making a big pot of soup to eat, so everyone gets to experience eating with a wooden spoon. Piles of bread and cheese, pickles and salad, to keep our energy up – carving is hard work!

The end of the course. Eight happy people and their spoons. Ready to send off into the world, and make even more spoons.

My following course was in Birmingham – an eating spoon carving course. We were a smaller group & spent two days getting down into the nitty gritty of spoon details. Everyone was already well versed with the axe and knife so we got to spend our time getting into the depths of spoon nerdery. Steve (2nd from left, below) had attended my very first Birmingham course, and was back again to learn some more, which was lovely.

This course was run back-to-back with my following course (for less tidying up!) which was a day course.

Another lovely group of people, who got well stuck in and carved some fantastic first spoons.

I have just one final course this spring, before I head of travelling for the summer. See more details here. I will be in Sweden teaching a class in late May, then Greenwood Fest in June, followed by a few weeks of travelling across the US.

Talking at the Heritage Crafts Association Conference 2018

I will be talking about my life and my work at the 2018 Heritage Crafts Association conference “Crafts for the Future” in London on Saturday 24th March. Here’s a sneak peak…

JoJo Wood aged 4 months on shave horse with Nicola Wood
On the shave horse aged 4 months
JoJo Wood aged 10 making gypsy flowers at Art in Action Ireland
First ‘job’, making wooden flowers at Art in Action Ireland, aged 10
JoJo Wood, aged 17, turning a wooden bowl on a pole lathe
First turned wooden bowl, aged 17
jojo wood teaching an advanced spoon carving class in america 2016
Teaching an advanced spoon carving course in the USA, aged 22

I will be talking about how I became the craftsperson I am today, the difficulties I have overcome, and where things will be going in the future. Also speaking will be a fantastic selection of other inspirational people. Check them out at the HCA website below. It will be a conference not to miss.

Book your tickets for the HCA conference here.

Look at what you’ve made me do, Follansbee

Hello internet, long time no see (again).

I’ve had a pretty busy summer. One of the things I did was travel to the US to teach at the very first Greenwood Fest. It was pretty great. So great, in fact, that I only have one picture on my camera from it.

The last stragglers at the end of ‘fest cleanup.
That chap there trying to hide behind his beard is Peter Follansbee. You might have heard of him. He did a lot of blogging about the event, you can find it all here.

I spent quite a while with Peter and Jögge about choice of timber. For some crazy reason, Peter seems to take pleasure in carving the twistiest hardest bits of fruitwood he can find. Whereas I just LOVE my nice, clean, straight birch.

So a couple of weeks later, back home sorting through the woodpile, I come across a couple of twisty bendy pieces of damson. Rather than throwing them on the firewood pile, as I probably should have done, I thought…. oooh, maybe there are some spoons in there? And maybe I could blog about them?! And now here we are. Look what you’ve made me do, Follansbee.

Pictures don’t do it justice, but the colours were GORGEOUS. It’s always the colour that seduces me into carving fruit wood. I think “oh it’s so PRETTY!”, decide to carve something, remember how much hard work it is, curse a lot, and swear to never do it ever again.
With Follansbee in mind and some wacky twisty bits of wood, I set to carving.
Bent wood means CRANKY!

This one with a lefty bias.

The real star of the wacky show

That spoon you never knew you needed, for serving things round corners?
There are a few more still in various stages of completion. Now that I’m home I have some time for carving, so they might even get finished and onto the website sometime soon! And then I’ll never carve damson ever again (til next time).
There are also a few more blog posts in the works, so keep an eye out..

Pocket Spoon

So recently facebook memories reminded me that I wrote this blog post three years ago..  Cue the trip down memory lane! It’s old and the picture is a bit pants but it’s still pretty special.

The spoon one in from the left is ‘pocket spoon’. Here’s pocket spoon today –

hand carved wooden pocket spoon
Pocket Spoon. Birch, 5.5″

What a gorgeous patina! Three years ago marks two special occasions. It was the year I seriously got into spoons. Growing up in a house full of talented craftspeople means I’ve always used tools, and also used wooden spoons. But as a child I was far more interested in shorter projects. Mostly spears and swords to stab my little brother with! The spoon bug didn’t catch me until later.

It also marks the year I first went down to Mike Abbott’s woodland chair workshop to work as an assistant. I couldn’t go away from home (and the spoon collection!) without a spoon of my own, so I grabbed on out of my little pile and stuck it in my pocket. Three years later and pocket spoon still lives in my pocket.

It’s been on quite some adventures. It’s travelled with me all around the UK, from fancy restaurants to numerous woodlands. It’s been over to America to build a birch bark canoe and visit North House Folk School, over to Sweden to their craft school Sätergläntan, and more recently over to France to a beautiful little festival in Brittany.

hand carved wooden pocket spoon

All adding to this beautiful patina. I LOVE the big bold facets on the back, and how the patina accentuates them. It’s part of the reason I love finishing my spoons straight off the knife – they just age SO beautifully.

I’ve a lot of fantastic spoons by fantastic makers in my collection, but none of them are as precious to me as pocket spoon is. It still stands up next to my spoons today as a damn good spoon. I found a lot of personal breakthrough and development while carving this collection of spoons. They’re truly seminal pieces. So pocket spoon is crammed full of memories, both of the time I was making it and everything that’s happened since.

I love having pocket spoon with me. Every wooden spoon lover should carry a spoon with them. Have you ever had to buy some food while out and been given a nasty plastic fork to eat with? It’s a horrible experience. And an easily avoidable one – carry a nice wooden spoon with you!