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!

The most inspirational spoon of 2014

I want to share a spoon with you. I’m not calling it the best spoon of the year, but it is by a long shot the most inspirational spoon. It’s made by a lovely Swedish chap called Olov. He’s not a spoon carver. He’s a shepherd. He simply spends his evenings carving away the time. And makes some of the most beautiful spoons I’ve ever seen.
I was lucky enough to meet him this summer when he came over to visit Spoonfest. He put a few of his spoons out in the spoonshop for people to buy and I saw this spoon and fell in love. At a glance it’s incredibly plain and simple and doesn’t jump out at all, especially next to his selection of wonderful earthy painted spoons. But as I was rummaging through them all and giving them a good fondle, I noticed what makes it quite so special.

Chipcarving. On the reverse of the spoon! There’s a lot of chip carving around in the spoon world at the minute, and most of it doesn’t take my fancy. It can be excessively elaborate and confuse the eye to the shapes of the spoon. But not this chip carving. This blends beautifully and acts as just a little accent to the lovely crisp edges of the spoon. And it’s hidden away on the back. With the front holding Olov’s makers mark.

It’s like a spoon turned upside down. It’s not showy, it’s subtle and clever and elegant and everything I want in a spoon. This is what chip carving should be. And it’s now become a firm favourite breakfast spoon.

Reclaiming the Lovespoon

Most of you will have heard of the Welsh love spoon. You may have seen modern love spoons – racks and racks of them hung up on walls in gift shops. Bandsawn and sanded. They weren’t always like that.

Once upon a time, at the very beginning of the tradition, they were very different things. The really early ones, and in my opinion the most beautiful ones, were functional spoons. As they developed they got more complicated, but up until very recently they were always hand made. And that’s what the real tradition is about. Not the symbolisms of all the different fancy twiddly bits. The fact that it’s made by hand specifically for a loved one.

I made this spoon for my partner last christmas. It’s not fancy. But it’s made with love. It’s a symbol and a meaning. It’s functional, so every time he eats his breakfast or his dinner with it he can be reminded how much I care about him.

love spoon

This christmas lets reclaim the love spoon. Make somebody you care about a spoon. Make it with thoughts of love in your head and heart. Spend your carving time thinking about them using it. Make it special. The meaning isn’t in the decoration, it’s in the time and the effort and the care.

Inspirations and painted spoons

Paint seems to be all the rage at the moment. And I’ve been so very inspired by a couple of people’s work and really quite fancying having a go myself for quite some time. So at last I have taken the plunge…

First let me talk about my inspirations for a bit. To start with, a swedish chap with exceptional facial hair, Magnus Sundelin. His combination of chip carving and paintwork on his fantastically carved spoons and shrink pots is amazing. The bold contrast, and the rich colours…

Who am I kidding. I just love the shiny gold paint..

The other stuff is amazing. I would love to own it. But as far as personal inspiration goes, ever since seeing his stuff, I’ve been dying to make all my things shiny and gold.

That spoon on the right there? I dithered terribly about contacting Magnus and seeing if it were available for weeks. I still regret that I didn’t. But perhaps it’s a good thing I never held it in my hands. As I talked about in a previous blog post, sometimes the idea is better than reality. This way it’s been stuck in my head for months now, and it’s coming out in my own work.
My next inspiration is the wonderful, amazing Anja Sundberg. Another Swede. She claims to not be a spooncarver. And yet her spoons are among the best in the world. I love her bold, elegant but fun shapes. This first picture has been stuck in the front of my sketchbook for aaaages now.
I own one of Anja’s spoons now – lucky me! – and one of the most inspiring things has got to be how well they work, as well as how beautiful they look. The combination of the two to such amazing levels is brilliant.

This second picture is a bit more of an unusual one. Anja’s tools. This painting is something she does a fair bit. That graduating colours. Fading from dark to light. And again with the mixture of chipcarving and paint.

When there are people who are this good in the world, it makes it somewhat difficult to start. Why bother, when these people have already mastered what I wish I could do, and to such high levels too!

Well I finally gave it a go. After the success of this spoon I felt I had to try some more. A little experiment on one of my oiled spoons first, to get my head in the game and warm my fingers up..

And then onto paint!!

Harder than I had anticipated. And I can’t wait to try out some more different kinds of paint. I have no idea how Magnus makes his gold so shiny, or how Anja blends her colours so evenly. But practise makes perfect. And I am very happy with how I’m starting out. What do you reckon? Have you a favourite yet? Let me know what you think!!

A sexy new leather knife sheath.

So while I was away in America, I got a message from my lovely other half. “I’m getting you a present” I was told, “it’s black and leather and will make you look super sexy.”

Best. Present. Ever.

It’s made by a lovely lady who I am now very keen to meet, Ruth Pullan. I highly recommend checking her stuff out, it’s beautiful. Such an amazing slick sense of style, and the craftwork is spectacular. I’ve dabbled in a little leatherworking in my time, and for anyone else who has I’m sure you’ll appreciate all the more her spotless seams and immaculate stitching. And the leather is simply divine!! Combined with the white of the stitches and the creamy natural edge..

Ahem. I’ll maybe rein my gushing in now!

For a sense of scale, that’s a mora 106 in it. And wowee what a lucky knife.

Rather than a traditional belt loop, it’s got a little loop fastened with a popper. So I can clip it to anything and not just a belt. Useful for those of us who rarely wear belts!

And now my woodworking knife shall travel everywhere with me, in outstanding style.

Chipcarving.

Subtitled: I like this spoon SO much, I might give it to myself!

Or maybe even: an ode to a spoon.

Since taking these photos, numerous blog posts have written themselves in my head, pondering different things I could talk about. Ultimately they have all been discarded – or stashed for a later date. Because what I really want to do is show this spoon off to the world, and share with you all its subtle beauties.

It’s a first for me – chipcarving. Carved engraving. Whatever you want to call it. Something I’ve never quite plucked up the courage to do before. But this spoon deserved it. What beautiful flowing lines and wonderfully balanced form! Just asking for that little something extra.

This spoon is one of my best yet.