I’m very happy to share an interview with Björn Svantesson.
Tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Björn Svantesson, and I’m from the southwest of Sweden. I recently celebrated ten years of spoon carving, hooray! I carved my first spoon at Sätergläntan school of crafts, where I studied for two years. Sätergläntan was a truly inspiring place to me, it really opened my eyes to the old craft traditions and taught me the basics of traditional woodworking and slöjd.
But even before Sätergläntan, creating things with my hands has always been important to me. I got my first knife when I was four years old. Whittling away on sticks and pieces of driftwood was just one of many ways of scratching that creative itch when I grew up, alongside with drawing and playing music.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
When it comes to knives, not much beats a slightly worn-down Mora 106. But really any longer, not too wide, hollow ground knife that keeps a good edge does the job. For hook knives, I use a smaller one made by the legendary Swedish blacksmith Bo Helgesson and a large twca cam by Hans Karlsson. Both are really good. The axe I mostly use is an antique Swedish carpenters axe from Urafors.
Any suggestions for books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
To me, the silent carving videos with Barn are really inspiring and informative. You’ll find them on Youtube. They’re well-made and really show the process without unnecessary talk. There are also a few really skilled carvers on Instagram who have shared their methods in step by step tutorials. Check out Emmet van Driesche and Darrick Sanderson.
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
Barn the Spoon and Darrick Sanderson are really inspiring to me. They both have a brilliant sense of lines and proportions. But there are so many good carvers out there who constantly inspire me.
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
I have been working with the same tools and methods since I started. Axe, knife, and hook knife working together to create a spoon. But I have been refining my techniques over the years. Changing the order in which I carve certain parts of the spoon and improving my control over the tools.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
I usually don’t to a lot of any of it, just the occasional chip carving. But I can really enjoy other people’s work. Some kolrosing can really give that extra touch to a spoon.
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
The concept of sloyd (or slöjd, as we say in Swedish) and what is and what is not slöjd is a tricky but interesting question to me. As a craft tradition that, like many other craft traditions, originates from a society of self-sufficiency, it tells me something about being able to be reliant on yourself. To, with the help of a few simple hand tools, and some basic knowledge, be able to create what you need. Without romanticizing past, hard times, I think that is a good thing. Maybe more today than ever, not for your survival or because you actually need to, but because I think it makes you grow as a human. We are surrounded by anonymous products that have gone through a long chain of production. Boring, lifeless plastic junk. To me, slöjd is a counterweight to that. Slöjd gives you a choice to make it yourself instead. To be in control, and to feel the power and joy of creating something with your hands. Well, I can go on and on about this, but I think you get it.
If you had to pick a few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
Good music is one of my best companions when I’m working on my own. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, but I have a few songs that I keep coming back to. Here’s three of them:
“Firecracker” by Frazey Ford. American folk singer with the most amazing voice.
“Vesna” by DakhaBrakha. This is a band that plays Ukrainian folk music. It can’t be described, but please listen. It’s fantastic!
“If I could only fly” by Blaze Foley. Blaze is one of my favorite songwriters, if you don’t know him, you should check him out.
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
Because it makes me happy. It’s a game that I can play over and over again and never get tired of. Trying to get those lines and proportions to work together and make a beautiful and well-functioning spoon never gets old for me. I have been doing it for ten years now, and it just keeps getting more and more fun.
Thanks Björn! You can follow him and inquire about purchasing his spoons on Instagram at @bonhasbjorn.
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.