I’m happy to share the following interview with Sean Hearn.
Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m currently 36 years old and living in Southeast Michigan, USA. I have a 6 year old daughter and we enjoy spending as much time outdoors as possible. I’m the type of person that finds it difficult to take a break from responsibilities. I hate procrastination- which means I’m almost always working in one capacity or another.
How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?
I’ve been carving for about 4 years now. For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed spending time in nature. My love for the woods started when I was a boy and my grandfather and I would walk through his woodland and he would teach me much about the magic of places such as this. In my late twenties, I rediscovered my affinity for nature and started practicing bushcraft. Before I knew it I was in the woods whenever I wasn’t working. Sometimes I went on long hikes or stayed for days and practiced primitive skills. The wooden spoon was a natural evolution of my desire to create something useful from what could be found in a natural setting. Since my first failed attempt at carving a spoon, I’ve been hooked. Enjoy the pun, that one’s free 😉
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
I’ve amassed quite a few tools for spoon carving. Not necessarily because I need them all, but because owning and using them allows me to give honest feedback to others about the quality to be expected from each. This is something I plan to delve deep into in 2020. My current go-to tools are my Gransfors Bruk Large Carving Axe, a long handled hook forged by Jason Lonon, and a custom handled Mora 106. There are plenty of other tools I reach for, such as Robin Wood’s open curve hook knife and a coupe Nic Westermann hooks, to name a few.
Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
As far as sources of information on greenwood spoon carving, Barnaby Carder has a wonderful book aptly named Spoon. Outside of that, YouTube and social media are phenomenal sources to pull information and inspiration from. Possibly my favorite social media aid is the Spoon Carving, Green Woodworking and Sloyd group. This group is public and currently has upwards of 22,000 members, both professional and amateur.
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
There are so many phenomenal spoon carvers that it’s difficult to name just a few. Honestly, I respect and admire anyone who picks up their knives and tries to do better every time. If I had to name a handful of carvers that have inspired me the most, I’d say Arsenios Hill, Sam Cooper, Tom Scandian, Randy Woods, Maximilian Neukäufler, Adam Kowalsky, Nick Murphy, Adam Hawker, and so many more. It’s difficult to give credit to everyone who inspires me because every carver I follow has I’m sure influenced me in one way or another.
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
My techniques have changed so much since I first began carving spoons. Perhaps the biggest difference has been my axe and knife control. It used to be that I would take small, methodical chops or cuts and it would take me a great deal of time to rough out a spoon. While I still do this when finishing a spoon, I’m not as meticulous when roughing them out anymore. Sometimes, this mentality forces me to make a quick design change when it doesn’t go perfectly. And sometimes the spoons that are bred from these mistakes are among my favorites.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
There seems to be a great deal of debate about decorating spoons. Many say that function should precede form, and I agree. A clumsy spoon is not likely to be used as often as a comfortable one. That being said, some spoons can be loved equally purely for its aesthetic quality. While it’s a lovely notion to have both qualities exist within the same spoon, I think a spoon bearing beauty or function can both be loved for their own reason.
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
Wood culture to me means passing down a craft that was recently nearing extinction. The reemergence of the hand carved spoon is made possible by those who have given their time, guidance, and resources. This generosity has been shown to me since the genesis of my hobby and I have every intention of paying it forward for as long as I’m able.
If you had to pick a few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
It used to be that I listened to whatever music I enjoy while carving. Lately, I find that music that calms me allows me to focus much better. I’ve been listening to a lot of Olympus Lenticular lately and call me crazy but I swear it helps me produce a better spoon.
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
For the most part, folks always react the same when you tell them you carve spoons. The most common question is always “why”, to which I’ve become very comfortable simply replying, “why not?” I carve spoons because it gives me pride to make something with my own two hands. I enjoy knowing that even after hundreds of spoons over several years I’m still in love with the process and the journey. I’m honestly shocked that I was ever even able to carve a halfway decent spoon. I can barely draw a rough spoon on a piece of paper, so it’s still a surprise to me every time I’m able to draw one three dimensionally with an axe and knife on a piece of wood. I always tell people- and I firmly believe- if I can carve spoons like these, anyone can do it.
Thanks Sean! You can follow him and inquire about purchasing his spoons on Instagram at @srhearn0908.
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.