An Interview with Mikey Elefant

Tell us a little about yourself:

I live on a Kibbutz in the north of Israel. We live in a small home, close to the trees and nature on a small hill. My wife and I have decided to live in a remote area of the country, favoring a community built around ecology and nature.

How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?

I have been carving spoons since the age of 16- that’s when I carved my first spoon. At the time, I was part of a youth group based in the Golan Heights. During a winter hike, the rain kept pouring down, and after we managed to find shelter, our instructor had shown us how to go by making an ember burnt bowl spoon. With the help from my dad, I purchased my first set of tools and began experimenting with wood, in 2011 I attended a few Bushcraft related gatherings in the UK, and I guess that’s when it became slightly more serious- maybe from one spoon a month to a few dozens. I took some workshops and got some confidence with the axe.

What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?

I’m not so much of a tool kind of guy. I enjoy using good tools but have made a habit of reducing my tool “collection” over the past few years. I am often asked about green woodworking and what makes it so unique- my quick answer- simplicity, the one thing I aspire to do over and over is making something simple that works and doing so with as few tools needed. All that being said, I’m enjoying the adze very much these days.

Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?

I honestly think that there is nothing like a good workshop, spoon club, or an ongoing course- frontal education with the right instructor is by far the best way to go. When I first got started I would watch videos of old Swedish/Norwegian/Finnish craftsman of all sorts- I think just seeing the rhythm how they hold their tools, their body stance/position and how they go at making in general whether its a knife, axe, log home, dough trough, etc. there’s so much to learn.

Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?

So many, it’s hard to start. I think my inspiration for spoons and other treen come from so many different carvers. I guess Yoav Elkayam and Will St Clair are my two biggest inspirations- but not because of their spoons- sure they carve the most amazing spoons, but there’s so much more to it for them, I’m inspired by way of life that they have chosen.

How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?

I owe Barn a lot when it comes to my techniques and teaching. I took a prefest course with Barn on the art of teaching spoon carving- that’s what I called the class. Barn has the best approach IMHO to how to go about carving a spoon, facets, shaping the back end, time of putting in the crank, etc. since I have managed to get better results and more exact when trying to recreate certain shapes and designs.

What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?

Tough question. When learning to play the piano, there’s a certain order to the actual progression- every student has a different sequence, I consider myself a student. I have yet progressed to decorating my spoons in such ways. I have tried but always felt that it took away for the pure form and beauty of the actual grain in the wood.

What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?

Three huge titles to address. I’ve had this crazy idea for over a decade that craft can change the world, it can cure depression, educate people about trees and nature, it can help people who struggle with ADHD and many more day to day difficulties we have- not only spoons by the way. Most of all it can bring us back together, closer to one another- something about craft brings people together, and to me, that’s really “where it’s at,” we owe it to each other to find our way back to crafting together- like ancient tribes and like many people before our time.

If you had to pick a few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?

I go threw Two phases when carving- heavy-duty work like axing out blanks etc. I like listening to downbeat songs that will push me into a slower rhythm. When working with knives, I enjoy the quiet- hoping to hear birds chirping or any other wildlife.

Lastly, why do you carve spoons?

I carve spoons because I simply enjoy it. Carving brings happiness into my life, and I like to believe, in the lives of people around me too, but you would need to ask them. I feel more connected to the trees and with the people who choose to sit down and carve with me. At first, my goal was to have my kitchen full of wooden spoons, bowls, and cups, these days my kitchen is too full. My goals have changed since into more of a teacher mentality. I want more people to carve, or to craft. It isn’t about the spoons as much as it’s about living a simpler life and the feeling of accomplishment and abundance.

Thanks Mikey! You can follow him and inquire about purchasing his spoons on Instagram at @mikey.elefant.