Tell us a little about yourself:
Hey! We’re Aaron Margolis and Deirdre McGrath. We live in Ellsworth, Maine, about three hours north of Portland on the coast with our rescue pitbull Bella. We both grew up in Westchester County, NY, and met via the DIY punk and bicycle scene in NYC in the late 2000s. Even Bella is from NY, hence her fitting name. Deirdre briefly studied printmaking in college, and Aaron built steel bicycle frames and houses for a living back then. We moved to Maine about 10 years ago and did the whole build an off-the-grid house thing, which we added four extra corners to make it more challenging (it is octagonal). We fled Maine for a bit, and when we returned began fixing up our current shop and house, which is in an old horse barn from ~1900. We both pursue our art full-time in the typical starving artist fashion.
How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?
We started about 3 years ago. It was one of those things where you have seen other people’s work here and there but hadn’t thought too much about trying spoon carving yourself. And once it percolates through your brain, you finally give it a go, piques your interest, hey that might be fun. Our first exposure to green woodworking with handtools was via hewing timber for our octagonal house. We were researching different techniques and found these youtube videos from Robin Wood about Japanese hewing methods. He had up other videos on spoon carving and pole lathe turning. It really started there for us, must have been back in 2011.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
There are plenty that we haven’t tried yet due to our starving artist paygrade. But we have some Nic Westermann tools, and they’re pretty sweet. Also, a big fan of Josh Burrel’s axes, hoping to add more of his tools to our kit. Del Stubbs/Pinewood Forge makes excellent tools, and you can’t beat a basic accessible Morakniv set. A shave horse or spoon mule with drawknives is super handy if you have space (p.s. you can build one yourself). Lee Valley/Veritas makes a nifty little drawknife that’s great on a spoon mule. On the non-bladed front, 6B pencils are an invaluable tool for drawing on wood. Pfeil bent gouges and spoon gouges are awesome if you have a clamping device of some sort, they make short work of large bowls.
Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
There’s a lot of great books and educational info out there, and no one source that will teach you everything. Find something that appeals to you personally and experiment. That being said, the book Slojd in Wood by Jogge Sundquist is incredible and inspires us.
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
There’s kinda too many to name, from big-league names to friends who just want to chill and carve, and it would feel bad to miss someone. You can see how many accounts we follow on Instagram as a sign of how significant our source of inspiration is. But we’re overall inspired by different things. Inspiration doesn’t necessarily come from one person doing the same thing as us, although it can. It’s the entire world that you occupy that becomes inspirational.
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
Absolutely, our first spoons were total shite, so you could say our technique has changed over time, and it continues to change on the daily when we try new things. These days we’re more adventurous and less afraid of individual piece failure.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
All of them are fun to explore, although we use artist oil paint rather than milk paint. The more decoration, the merrier. Sometimes that’s the most enjoyable part. We’re firm believers in fine craft as art.
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
Slojd really rings the most true for us- the concept of making do with what you have, being handy, making functional but beautiful objects (for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term). We always get a weird laugh out of those dumb bumper stickers “life’s too short to own an ugly boat.” Still, it’s true, there’s no reason for stoic objects to exist and horribly ugly plastic crap to be made, and the things we create should inspire. The only limitation is the lack of imagination. There are many aspects of slojd that overlap with DIY/punk in a way that might be surprising, but it’s a huge part of how we wound up pursuing this. Whether you’re chasing geometric perfection or purely in it for aesthetics or just want to chop some wood with an axe, whatever you make should show some evidence of your passion for pursuing it.
If you had to pick a few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
Aaron – Anything by The Heartburns, DBoy, the King Kahn and BBQ Show, The Lupines/Brimstone Howl, Reverend Beatman.
Deirdre – Use Me 7″ from Hank Wood and the Hammerheads
You can find them all on Bandcamp.
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
This question feels somehow existential. But really, It’s something that we find enjoyable, no real life-changing reason. It’s something that we’ve discovered that we truly find fulfilling. That’s pretty much it! We get asked this question a lot and somehow never have an answer lined up for it. It boils down to the pursuit of what fulfills our creativity.
Thanks Aaron and Deirdre! You can follow them at @rustedpulchritude and visit their website at rustedpulchritude.com. If visiting Downeast Maine/Acadia National Park, they are members of a co-op gallery in Ellsworth called SevenArts. They also do a million craft shows in the summer (and travel too) up and down the east coast
As I have said previously, my goals with this website are to learn more about spoon carving and connect with the great community of spoon carvers out there. I welcome carvers to contact me if you would like to be interviewed to share your thoughts on the cr