June is one of my favorite months because it moves slowly, and lets a person savor summer for a bit until July rolls around and the everything starts speeds by. This month was a busy one with interviews with Tom Scandian, Adam Kowalsky, and Samuel Alexander. Also, travels abroad, winemaking, and lots of gardening where even a cracked spoon can have a purpose.
Early in the month, the humid summer air started to turn my pile of birch logs into moldy ones. I had sealed the ends with latex paint, but no stopping that Minnesota mold, so I had one option – to haul ass with the axe and hew as many billets as I could to store in the freezer. It was a long night, but I listened to blues on KEXP, and a kuksa with bourbon kept the mosquitos at bay.
Working late into the night made me nostalgic for the late nights in college decades ago when my friends and I worked in the metal studio until campus security kicked us out. I think I proved that there’s still a bit of fire left in the forge.
I bought several spoons this month. A beautiful one by Dane Licina.
A lovely spoon by Cole Holliday. It’s a personal thing for me, but there’s nothing like getting a handwritten note along with a stunning handcrafted spoon. A simple, subtle reminder that person made it, and an opportunity to deepen my connection with them. If you’re not familiar with Cole, give him a follow, read his interview on my site, and buy one of his spoons, spreaders, chopsticks, or anything else he makes. He’s a great guy who makes great things!
I also bought chopsticks from Pat Diette, and to continue the conversation about the personal touch of handmade craft, it was like unwrapping a gift. Actually, there was a gift – a beautiful spoon that Pat also included with the chopsticks.
My six-year-old son (with a little help from my wife) bought me an early Father’s Day gift – a book called Forest Craft: A Child’s Guide to Whittling in the Woodland by Richard Irvine. It’s a beautiful book!
My son and I spent an afternoon working together on a whimmy diddle. For those of you not in the know, a whimmy diddle is also known as a Gee-haw whimmy diddle, a hooey stick or a whammy doodle. It’s essentially a frog stick with a propeller all wrapped in the veil of physics that I will never understand.
We transformed a birch stick into this magical musical motor. A saw in his little hands enveloped by mine. Me letting go more often to give him the freedom to feel the saw bite into the wood under his power. Ah, the letting go… This is the essence of parenthood – to guide, and then, let go!
I have messed up so much of my life! I’ve wandered down a million dead ends. I have banged my head against far too many walls. The one thing, the only thing that I have done right was to make this beautiful, wonderous little boy. I wish that parenting was the same as craft! I wish that I could refine my technique. I wish that I could better understand the material. But a child isn’t craft. It’s all random. Parenthood is a perpetual coin toss of trying to do the right thing.
At night, after my son has fallen asleep, I go down to the woodshop to carve. Some nights I dance in the joy of a fantastic day. Other nights I seek shelter from a shitstorm and find the simple solace of wood shavings breaking away from a branch.
How I want to become a better carver… And how I want to become a better father even more. In the end, we are only defined by what we did and how that might make the world a better and more beautiful place.
Besides being a carver, my son can be a character too. One night I got home from work and found a dinosaur with a sloyd knife on my spoon mule. I think maybe my six-year-old has been reading my copies of the Spoonesaurus magazine.
Jet lagged but joyful after we returned from a trip to Ireland. I spent the week walking narrow bramble lined roads and building sandcastles by the sea. While there, I also visited with Éamonn O’Sullivan who was kind enough to take an hour away from carving to show me around his shop. It’s always such a treat to talk with another carver about their techniques, tools, and thoughts about carving.