One of my goals with this website is to connect with the spoon carving community, so it was wonderful when I received an email from Gorazd Richter a year ago with some kind words about my writing. I appreciated his thoughtfulness then, and the comments we have shared since then on Instagram, so I’m very happy to share the following interview with Gorazd.
Tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Gorazd Richter. I live in Prague, and I love spoon carving and green woodworking. My wife and I have two children.
How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?
My fascination with wood began since I took my first course in woodworking in 2013 in Nova Ves u Brloha in the Czech Republic. Robert Maly, a master carpenter and great teacher who taught me a lot about the woodcraft at that time and gave me my passion for woodcraft. He had spent a lot of time in Norway as a traditional woodworker, so he is very educated in that way of woodworking.
Since then, I’ve spent all of my spare time working with wood, reading books, and looking up information on the internet. Then I discovered the beautiful book Living Wood by Mike Abbott and learned about the pole lathe. I have never ever before seen something so magical like pole lathe. I had to build it. Mike Abbott writes so nicely about his life journey and green woodworking that I immediately fell in love with this craft. Before reading this book, I had no idea that it is possible to work with green wood. In our country, I always heard the mantra that wood must be dried before you work with it. I had no idea that you could use green wood the way Mike Abbott showed in the book.
Later, I found out about Robin Wood, Ben Orford, and Barn the Spoon and the world of spoon carving and new wood culture, which was like a whole new dimension of green woodworking to me. In May 2019, I carved my first wooden spoon.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
My favourite instrument is an axe. I just love to work with an axe. I have two axes. One is Norwegian type of axe made by a great blacksmith and woodworker Frantisek Teryngel. It is an excellent tool. The other axe is a regular axe from a local hardware store. Then I like, of course, the Mora 106 and 120 sloyd knives.
Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
For me, absolutely number one is the book Living wood by Mike Abbott and of course, Barn the Spoon’s Spoonclub website . It is an excellent educational site, and Barn the Spoon is just great. He is a world-class teacher and spoon carver. I must also say that your site is very helpful to me as well and if I need to find some information about spoon carving, tools, or books, I usually find it here. I remember when I was looking info about spoon carving and found your site… how I was immersed in reading your journal. It is so beautiful how you write about your journey in spoon carving. I love it very much. I also love the videos which made Zed Outdoors or Ben Orford on YouTube.
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
I must say Barn the Spoon again because he had such an influence on me. Also, Jarrod Dahl, Robin Wood, JoJo Wood, Mike Abbott, Wille and Jogge Sundqvist, Owen Thomas, Tom Bartlett, Niklas Karlsson, Yoav Kafets, Sharif Adams, Maryanne McGinn, Emmet Van Driesche, Jill Swan, Dawson Moore, and Daniel Lundberg. I feel also influenced by Martin Patřičný from the Czech Republic, who is one of our most famous woodcarvers. He makes beautiful wooden images, and he writes beautifully about trees and wood. I really love his work very much. Actually, everybody, I follow on Instagram has an impact on me. I might look at a picture of a spoon I like, and it influences my thinking about what I will be carving next. There are great craftsmen out there, and everybody who is not afraid to work with their hands and tries to create something useful and beautiful is an inspiration for me.
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
I think that my carving techniques are slowly evolving. Practice makes perfect as they say. The more I am carving, the more efficient I am becoming.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
I think they are great. It is a whole new dimension in spoon carving, which adds depth to the craft. One of the great things about spoon carving is that you can always learn something new. It never gets boring. It is beautiful. Recently I have just discovered the art of kolrosing, and it was a very exhilarating experience for me. I like it very much!
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
I think that people are starting to realize that the comfort we live in doesn’t bring happiness in our life. We are becoming more and more addicted to a comfortable life and just consuming stuff. We are starting to realize that there is more to life. We feel empty inside and want to fill the emptiness with something. I suppose many people are starting to realize that the empty space can be filled by creating something useful or beautiful with our hands. We are beginning to understand that living a comfortable life isn’t the same as living a happy life. I believe in creating there is something divine. The new wood culture is a symbol for me that we do not want to live our lives as sheep in this world. We want to do something meaningful and use our full potential. New wooden culture is, for me, a movement of those people who are not afraid to get out of their comfort zone and leave the consuming way of life behind themselves and make the world a better place.
If I may, I would like to quote Mahatma Gandhi. His words might resonate in the context of the new wood culture:
“It is a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions of people have ceased to use their hands as hands. Nature has bestowed upon us this great gift which is our hands. If the craze for machinery methods continues, it is highly likely that a time will come when we shall be so incapacitated and weak that we shall begin to curse ourselves for having forgotten the use of the living machines given to us by God.” – Mahatma Ghandi
If you had to pick a few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
The album “Jak to doopravdy bylo s Babinskym” by Michal Tucny (very famous Czech country singer) and Zdenek Rytir.
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
I carve spoons because I like to use them while cooking. I appreciate the look and feel of them, and so do my wife and kids. It is something very tangible. Something I have created with my hands. Whenever I look at the spoons I carved, I feel happy inside that I was able to create something with my own hands which can be used every day for preparing meal. For me, spoon carving is like meditation. This work absorbs me. It is a magical process of creation I am part of. With just an axe and knife, you can create something useful! Isn’t it a miracle? I suppose it is. I think we almost as people forgot to use our hands. I believe hands are the most wonderful tools God gave us.
Spoon carving is such a wonderful activity because of its complexity. You have to use your head, hands, imagination, sharp tools, knowledge, and experience to create a spoon. It is challenging, and you cannot do it mindlessly. Your mind must be present at every moment; otherwise, you cut yourself with a knife. You even are forced to develop your other skills like painting, for instance, if you want to make your own design of spoon. You use tools to make a circle and then start to think how to make ellipse or how to divide the circle and then you realize how spoon carving is forcing you to use past lessons from school that might otherwise have been forgotten. I always wanted to work with an axe as much as possible, but I didn’t know where it would be possible to its full extension until I found spoon carving.
I believe that spoon carving makes me also a better human, man, father, and husband. It also has therapeutic effects – living in the present moment, cleansing your head. Carving gives me freedom. With just an axe and knife, and you can create beautiful, useful things anywhere. The freedom spoon carving offers is divine. It is also something tangible I can show to my kids, so they understand what I do, and they can see me doing it, and they understand it. It adds great value to the way we are raising our children.
Thanks Gorazd! You can follow him and inquire about purchasing his spoons on Instagram at @gorazd.richter.
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.