Tell us a little about yourself:
I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, though I am originally from outside Sydney, Australia. I settled in the Pacific Northwest 9 years ago after growing up playing music in Australia. I quickly formed a band after I moved to Vancouver, and have toured extensively across Canada and Australia ever since. I have always worked with my hands, I grew up on property and learned to feel comfortable around hand tools at an early age. I currently work in construction, arborculture, and hardscape in Vancouver, and still write and record as much as I can. Most importantly, every chance I get I carve spoons!
How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?
I have actually only been hand carving since March of this year. I was married in October 2019, and one of my close friends organised a “spoon night” the week after the wedding before people started leaving Vancouver. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant at the time, but it turned out I had multiple family members who were all carvers! I spent the evening with family and friends, each forming a spoon on machines. I went home later that night and felt something click, but I knew that I wanted to explore the traditional form.
At the start of this year I bought the bare essentials (camp axe, mora 106, fixed radius spoon knife), and when my work was put on hold in February due to the current situation, I threw myself into carving. I watched every video I could find, upgraded some tools, sourced wood from work sites I had worked on (and council clearing wood piles), read everything I could, and began what I now know without a doubt to be a lifelong obsession. Already having years of experience working with wood gave me a foundation to work with, and I have been learning and refining every single day.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
I have a relatively Spartan kit, so my favourites also cover most of my essentials. I recently upgraded my axe to a Gransfors Bruk large swedish carving axe, which has been a joy to use. I have a Wood Tools compound spoon knife that has also been a great tool to switch to for certain shallow bowl types. And while it might not seem too flashy, the Mora 106 is a favourite. I have a few makers in mind that I am looking forward to ordering a sloyd knife from, and when that happens I am sure I will have much more to add to this answer.
Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
The first video series that I watched obsessively to get a few basics was the Spoon Club UK videos, specifically the silent carving videos with Barn on YouTube. I currently have “Sloyd In Wood” by Jogge Sundqvist on order, which came highly recommended, so I feel quite safe forwarding that recommendation sight unseen. Also, the interviews on Zedd Outdoors with Adam Hawker, Will Priestly, and Owen Thomas are a great resource.
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
So many! Liesl Chatman has been an enormous inspiration for me in my carving journey. Other carvers that have inspired me to keep working and focus on carving as a full spectrum pursuit include Emmet Van Driesche, Myron Unrau, Pat at Klipnocky Woods, Paul Oak, and my own mother, Andrea Phelan.
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
I think the main thing that has changed over the short time is the patience to make sure that each step is completed before moving on, while still thinking of the overall form of the spoon. I am much more methodical, I stay on the axe for longer. admittedly, I am still working through different sloyd grips for symmetry, but this all comes with time. In the way of process, I still change my order of operations (crank, profile, bowl) depending on the spoon. I’ll see an example of someone trying a method I have not tried, and dive into it to see what benefits it might have to my own carving process. I am always trying to stay open to changing my techniques for the better all the time.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
I have only practiced kolrosing, and am far from an expert when it comes to carving decoration in any sense, so I would gladly defer to other artists in that area. I would only say that it is a liberating craft that offers so many secondary expressions. Once you have created the spoon itself, the opportunity to further imprint your personality on that piece of art in so many different ways is incredibly satisfying to me.
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
Personally, I see it as the opportunity to understand that everyone has the ability to create, and to learn more about the world they live in. There is so much room for learning, and even the simple act of using your hands to change something tangible, regardless of the outcome, is a really meditative and powerful thing.
If you had to pick a few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
I tend to let albums play as I carve, so I will say that recently I have been listening to a lot of Daniel Romano (particularly his new live record “Okay Wow”), Pinegrove, Gillian Welch, and Hiss Golden Messenger. All highly recommended spoon carving soundtracks!
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
I carve to find peace. I truly believe it is one of the most peaceful personal forms of expression, in all of its weird and wonderful ways.
Thanks Andy! You can follow him and inquire about purchasing his spoons on Instagram at @andyspoons.
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.