This past summer I was in Decorah and I bumped into Scott Johnson at Vesterheim during Nordicfest. I’ve had the good fortune to meet a number of good people in the spoon carving community, but I knew that there was something special about Scott as soon as I met him. Over the next few minutes after saying hello, he was showing me how to kolrose and making my child a kolrosed pendant that had a story to go with it. I’m looking forward to returning to Decorah to take Scott’s kolrosing class at Vesterheim in 2020. In the meantime, I’m honored that he shared his time to answer some questions that I had for him.
Tell us a little about yourself:
I live in the Nebraska Sandhills, south of the Niobrara, and north of the Elkhorn. I am a Husband, Father, Grandfather, and friend. We have three children and seven grandchildren. I work full time as a service/operation tech for a natural gas company.
I love to carve anything I can kolrose. Kolrosing is one of my passions. I also love working with steel, tin, and silver. Most of what I make – spoons, shrink pots, knives, tools, and jewelry – are given away. I believe the best way for me to make the world a better place is “One Smile at a Time.” The phrase that best sums me up is ( just happy to be here)
How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?
I started kolrosing in 2016. This lead to carving spoons, shrink boxes, and many other items. My father carved spoons and chip carved. I was not interested in carving when dad could have taught me. Life happened, dad passed on, but his knowledge of carving did not. One of life’s tragedies is not learning or passing on the skills and knowledge of those that came before us.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
I mostly use Pinewood Forge (Del Stubbs) hook knives. I have one of each, and they are very good knives. I can pick up what I need in Milan, Minnesota, at the Spoon Gathering. For a sloyd knife, I use the Morakniv 106 and 120. These are well made inexpensive knives that will get the job done. I use an old Perfection hewing hatchet/axe flat on one side. I also use an axe and hatchet that I forged. For kolrosing, I make my own tools, except for one, Pinewood Forge’s Kolrosing knife.
Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
Slöjd In Wood by Jögge Sundqvist, Spon by Barn the Spoon and Swedish Carving Techniques By Wille Sundqvist. Also, the Spoon Carving, Green Woodworking and Sloyd (Facebook) has great files and members that can inspire and answer many questions.
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
Most of the carvers I follow kolrose or chip carve their work. Jögge Sundqvist, Fred Livesay, Alexander Yerks, Dane Licina, Carlos Eric, Jane Mickelborough, Amy Leake, and Adam Hawker, just to name a few. Jögge Sundqvist is the Carver I admire most. I attended a class he taught at Vesterheim. I was inspired by his passion, energy, and creativity with natural wood forms.
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
I still have meager skills when compared to most spoon carvers. Having said that, I have slowly improved. Less sanding and more knife work/burnishing. Longer cuts with improved knife skills. I believe improving my sharpening skills has greatly improved my carving.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
I love them all, these techniques can add to the beauty of the wood and enhance the form of the spoon. Too much can be distracting and impair the spoons function. If you are afraid to get your spoon dirty or to clean it out, it’s probably too much.
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
Three words sum this up best – DO IT YOURSELF. If we always keep this in mind, we will be amazed at what we can accomplish. We will become better problem solvers, more self-sufficient and reliant, able to do more with less. The distractions of technology, take our focus away from the simple things in life. I believe many people want to simplify there lives, and spoon carving is a great place to start.
If you had to pick a few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
I love instrumental movie soundtracks, Quigley Down Under, The Untouchables, Transformers, Lord of the Rings Return of the King, O Fortuna from Excalibur, and many more.
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
The people in the spoon carving/folk art community are kind, gracious, and supportive. I have met many people that spark my creativity and inspire me. I have made many new friends at spoon carving events like the Spoon Gathering in Milan, Minnesota. This community gives me the inspiration I need to keep carving spoons.
Thanks Scott! You can follow him and inquire about purchasing his spoons on Instagram at @skolroser.
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.