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!

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.

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