Tell us a little about yourself:
I am a 37 year old Californian relocated to Liverpool, UK. My wife and I have two lovely young girls – our house is an interesting mixture of american and scouse accents! We’ve been here for over 7 years, and before that we lived in Papua New Guinea so we haven’t actually been in the states for many years. My main employment is what has led me to these exotic (or not so exotic!) places: I am an entomologist and I currently manage large research programmes that aim to prevent the transmission of vector-borne diseases – those pathogens that are transmitted by the bites of insects. About 2 years ago, my wife and I became quite nostalgic about our childhoods in the states – we both have vivid memories of spending lots of time in the woods. Space is at a premium here in the UK, so we decided to buy a small woodland in North Wales to call our own. That purchase truly changed my life by introducing me to the abundance of UK woodland and the joys of green woodworking.
How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?
I’ve been carving regularly for about a year and a half now. I try to carve every day. I first got interested by stumbling across a YouTube video of Barn silently carving a spoon. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall that evening. The expression on my face must have been priceless – wide-eyed, slightly drooling, and bathed in the icy blue glow of the screen! I remember feeling truly awestruck at how it is possible to extract such elegant forms from a log. I began looking at trees in a new way.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
My absolute favourite tool at the moment is my Kalthoff carving axe. In fact, I find it hard to restrain myself from carving more blanks than I can handle at once. I find the balance and the wide bevel make for surprisingly accurate and empowering blows. I also enjoy my monadnock hook and sloyd knife from Matt White at Temple Mountain Woodcraft -these are my go to tools. However, my wood tools compound hook has such a tight curve that it allows me to accomplish some things that I can’t otherwise with the monadnock.
Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
I find the videos on the spoonclub.co.uk website incredibly useful and informative. Definitely worth a subscription. The book Spon is also lovely and a great introduction to the spoon carving culture.
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
Too many to list! Maryanne McGinn, Pat Diette, Ty Thornock, Mikey Elefant, Reuben Goadby, Eamonn O’Sullivan, Anne Fergman, Adam Hawker, Dawson Moore, Emmet Van Driesche, and Barnaby Carder.
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
My techniques have changed as you might expect after many hours of doing the same thing – I’ve not made any huge leaps, but rather minor tweaks to the process that build on one another. I’ve developed small modifications in methods (sometimes by accident and sometimes through ingenuity) that make the process more efficient or produce better quality products. One thing I have found is that I can develop these multiple, micro modifications much faster if I try to carve the same form over and over again. When I first started carving, I winced at the thought of doing the same spoon again, but now I seek out repetition as a way to improve my technique.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
I’m all for it. I use all these techniques in my work, and find joy in the diversity of pieces that can result. I am equally excited about the beauty of wood though, so I’m increasingly purposeful about when I use decorative techniques and when I don’t.
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
To me, craft is a catalyst of connection: connection to myself through meditation and achievement of a state of flow; connection to the earth by making natural products from living materials that people bring into their homes; connection to our history through the study of ancient methods and production of timeless objects; connection to other people through the building of community.
If you had to pick a few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
I actually don’t pay attention too much to song titles cause I’ll just put on an album and go! I’ve recently listened to Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, John Vanderslice’s Pixel Revolt, and Joanna Newsom’s Divers – all complimented the carving nicely.
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
At it’s most basic, I suppose I carve spoons because the process ignites the pleasure centres of my brain – through that sense of energised focus and the reward of producing beautiful objects with my hands. I’ve always found joy in craft – I went through a phase about 15 years ago when I was crazed with origami – but until now I’ve not found something where I’ve said to myself “Yep, I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life.” I’m glad I’ve found that in carving.
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.