I’m so happy to share an interview with Fiona Glover (@twigtotable).
Tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Fiona, or Fi, and I live with my husband, three children and nine chickens in Canberra, Australia. I’m currently studying Furniture at the Australian National University School of Art and Design, but I have a somewhat sporadic career history – I’ve worked in retail management, advertising, television news, government and now here I am, carving spoons, teaching spoon carving, and being a parent and a student. I’ve never been happier.
How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?
I started carving just under four years ago when I was in a pretty dark place – I’d been struggling to balance a stressful job while raising small children and felt like I was doing a terrible job of both. In need of a creative outlet and remembering that I loved woodwork at school, I booked into a spoon carving workshop that was run by Jeff Donne, aka The Spoonsmith. I split a branch and started axing out a blank and for the first time in ages I felt calm, focused and a sense of pure joy. Jeff’s gentle, inclusive approach to spoon carving appealed to me then and has stayed with me to this day.
From there I carved whatever I could find – storm-felled branches of street trees, neighbour’s fruit tree prunings and even hardwood. In the year that followed I took furniture making courses at night where I’d end up with seasoned wood offcuts. These seemed to beautiful to throw away so I adapted my techniques to carve those into spoons too. Today I still carve in both green and seasoned wood, but with a ready supply of offcuts most of my small batch production is carved dry.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
My Hans Karlsson left- and right-handed hook knives (I’m a lefty but use both in my left hand), a Hans Karlsson carving axe – it’s my third axe and I will never buy another, a little 4″ Veritas draw knife and the ever-reliable Mora 106 slojd knife. I have other tools but these are the ones I can’t do without.
Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
Nothing beats learning to carve one-on-one or in a workshop, but if that option isn’t available near you, the YouTube videos by excellent carvers such as Max Neukaufler (@woodsmans_finest), Emmet van Driesche, or Tom Scandian are really helpful.
Barn the Spoon’s book, Spon, is a beautiful read, and Swedish Carving Techniques (otherwise known as The Blue Book or the Spoon Carver’s Bible) by the late great Wille Sundqvist is essential for starting out and developing an understanding of Slöjd – especially if, like me, you come from a part of the world where this is not embedded in the culture.
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
There are so many spoon carvers whose work inspires me, and while I try to do my own thing and not be unduly influenced or appropriate others’ work, here are a few who I particularly admire:
– Jeff Donne @thespoonsmith and Carol Russell @carol.a.russell for the way they encourage new people to the craft and the work they do in fostering a great spoon carving culture in Australia
– Emmet van Driesche @emmet_van_driesche for his consistency, courageousness and brilliant work ethic
– Tom Scandian @spoon_carving_with_tom for his commitment to technical perfection
– Amy Umbel @amy_umbel her spoons and bowls are so cool but she’s also an awesome teacher
– Adam Kowalsky @donkdadonk – his chip carving and texturing skills are next level, he’s also one of the loveliest people on Instagram
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
My techniques are constantly evolving and they, along with the tools I use, will change depending on what I’m carving – seasoned or greenwood. For example if I’m carving from a seasoned offcut I’ll use a gouge and drawknife to remove material before starting on knifework, whereas if it’s greenwood I’ll just stick to axe – Slöjd knife – hook knife. Most importantly though, I’m becoming more comfortable with my own style – whatever that may be.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
Decorative techniques are fun and there are carvers who do them so well – Dane Licina @dane.licina , Maryanne McGinn @turnaleg , and of course the slojd magician Jögge Sundqvist @surolle are stand-outs.
I’ve mucked around with milk paint but I find kolrosing and chip carving anxiety-inducing – get it wrong and you ruin a perfectly good spoon!
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
I was lucky enough to attend a workshop and listen to a talk on Slöjd with Jögge Sundqvist when he visited Australia for the Spoon Jam carving festival a couple of years ago. His talk made an impact but his actions more – Slöjd to me is more than just an individual using hand tools to create useful and beautiful things from wood, it’s a shared sense of community and purpose.
If you had to pick few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
Carving spoons is my therapy and my happy place – wherever I am when I carve I feel like I have come home.
Thanks Fiona! You can follow her on Instagram at @twigtotable for spoon carving and at @figlovermadethis for her furniture student journey. She also has a website at www.twigtotable.com.au. She doesn’t generally sell her spoons direct because she’s working to capacity at the moment, but she does supply these galleries and shops in Canberra: The National Library of Australia Bookshop, The National Gallery of Australia Shop, Craft ACT Shop (@craft.act) The Canberra Glassworks, Meet Gather Collect and Timber and Tailor Shop.
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.