Recently, I reached out to a number of spoon carvers to talk about their work. I didn’t know Adam Kowalsky by name, but I had admired his carving for the past year or two on Instagram at @donkdadonk. The thing that grabbed me right from the start with Adam’s spoons is his clear understanding of carving technique, but even more engaging is his subtle yet strong use of embellishment with gougework, milk paint, and scorching. His spoons have a look that is ancient yet modern at the same time and are always exquisitely executed every time. They stand out in my mind as some of the most uniquely carved spoons that I’ve seen. It was a pleasure to learn more about Adam and his carving.
Tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Adam Kowalsky. I’m 45 years old, a husband and a father to three kids. Professionally I am a chef for a resort in the Catskills, we produce weddings and do a multitude of VIP events for music festivals. I have a history in fine art, mostly sculpture.
How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?
I have been carving spoons for going on 4 years. I’m not sure exactly how or why I started, it was like many other things in life where something sparks in you and it grows from a fleeting thought into a full blown obsession. At the time I was going through a full blown life crisis and real depressed dark episode. I carved a junky spoon with bad tools, shed some blood and found myself a few hours later realizing I was totally lost in it. There was no negative thoughts and I was in complete bliss looking at this pathetic little twig spoon. I was hooked not only on the craft but the way it took me out of my own head.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
Nic Westermann fawcett blade, twca cam and swan neck gouge. For knives I use a sloyd magnus large and small sloyd and a Mora 106. I use a Gransfors carving axe, and I’m patiently waiting for my Kalthoff small carver. That’s pretty much my whole kit.
Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
Mary Ann McGinn, Jarrod Dahl, Dan Lawrence, Pat from Klipnocky woods, Peter Follansbee, Dave Fisher, and so many others I can’t even wrap my head around names. I am constantly finding new people I’m in awe of in the spoon carving world.
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
Every time I carve anything I do something different. I am slowly but surely getting to the point where I can confidently think of something, carve it and it gets close to the mental picture.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
I love milk paint. I personally find kolrosing very frustrating, I always get those darn coffee grounds all in the grain of the spoon. Chip carving is the something I would love to learn to do properly. I have really enjoyed gouge carving my handles but sometimes it seems like it’s a one trick pony and I’ve seen some amazing chip carvers out there.
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
It’s usually the first thing I think about when I wake up and it’s what I doze off to sleep thinking about. It’s become not only my obsession but my way of dealing with the blues. It gives me focus and a drive to get better. I am thankful for all the history I can research and for the folks that started before me who I really admire which gave me words of encouragement and offered swaps and likes!
If you had to pick few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
Lately I’ve been listening to Advance Bass, old Vampire weekend, always Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead live from Europe and many many podcasts usually about aliens, magic or the end of the world as we know it.
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
Because i really just love it.
Thanks Adam! You can follow him and inquire about purchasing his spoons on Instagram at @donkdadonk.
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 craft of spoon carving.