I learned about Maryanne McGinn and her spoon carving through a few wonderful videos that Barn created for the Spoon Club. She spoke about her work in a quiet and humble manner, but her spoons, oh they sang out loudly and proudly. I immediately loved her carving, kolrosing, and use of color!
It was an honor when she agreed to do an interview with me, and I’m elated to share her thoughts below.
Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m 66 years old, and I spent many years making windows and doing general carpentry work, then I ran a woodwork project for a brain injury charity. Before all that I had an office job at the Crafts Council in London, and that really opened my eyes to the possibilities of creating beautiful craftwork. I got to handle the work of many craft legends, including Bernard Leach, David Pye, and Michael Rowe. I decided I needed to make a change of career and learn some very practical skills.
How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?
Whilst running the woodwork project I decided to offer the widest possible range of woodwork pursuits to the different clients, some of whom were already quite skilled, so we created bentwood boxes, small pieces of furniture, marquetry, and turned wooden bowls. I was also learning some of these specialized skills in order to teach them, and one project I came up with was making a spoon; it was very very basic, and we made it with chisels, a bent gouge and sandpaper. It wasn’t until after I left this job in 2015 that I discovered the existence of Spoonfest, and how to make spoons with an axe and knives, and from then on I became properly hooked.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
I use the Mora 106 most of all, and for the bowl I like the Woodtools open curve spoon knife. I do have a new favourite though: last year I bought a Reid Schwarz/Woodspirit Handcraft spoon knife from Jarrod Dahl. It’s got amazing strength and slide at the same time, beautiful to use.
Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
There’s nothing that beats learning from a good carver in person, but if you can’t get to one then Spoonclub.co.uk has very good instructional videos. Plenty of books to choose from, but I like Jogge Sundqvist’s Sloyd in Wood.
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
So, so many, here are a few: Jojo Wood for really great control and bold lines, Dan Lawrence for freshness and fun, Pat Diette for superb consistency, Jarrod Dahl for uncompromising efficiency, Karel Hekrle for imagination and style. Also Jane Mickelborough, Adam Kawalsky and Anna Casserley.
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
Although I had been involved in woodwork for so many years, I still had to learn to use those special spoon carving tools. Working with tools has to become as rhythmic as playing a musical instrument, getting your eyes, hands and body locked into the movements, and only then can you begin to produce your own work. So when I started I was always stressing about which bit I had to carve next, or wondering how to achieve a certain profile or finish. It was much more difficult than I imagined, but practice and perseverance are great teachers, and although I still have to concentrate now, it’s a much more instinctive activity.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
I’m a fan of both simple and decorative work, so If you like it go for it. I think it’s fun to try things out and see where it takes you.
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
Practicing some sort of craft has always been an important part of my life since a very young age, and if I weren’t carving, I’d be sewing or knitting or building furniture. Having craft skills allows for personal expression and creates links to our environment. I hate to think that schools don’t teach crafts any more – in recent decades our society has put the focus on consuming, and fewer people have needed to learn to create. I think this has led to a void in some people’s lives, and I’d like to see that change.
If you had to pick few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
If I’m inside it’s cheesy RnB and funk, or I listen to BBC World Service, otherwise my favourite outdoor music comes from the blackbird, the robin, or the ice cream van.
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
At the moment I can’t think of anything else which is so absorbing and gives me such a challenge.
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.