August 2018

August was a busy month. I had to get the freezer ready for a hog later this fall, so that meant emptying lots of birch wood billets. One weekend, early in the month, I went into full production mode (or at least my limited understanding of what spoon production might be like). It felt great to shape out so many spoons and spreaders in a day. It felt like progress.

Then I spent the evening and next day carving them. I’m trying to be more mindful of how the knife cuts and creating even lines as I cut away the wood. It’s a slow go, but the carving is getting cleaner.

It was also my wedding anniversary this month, so like last year, I made my wife another spoon to honor her patience with me and my many distractions like carving. It is a joy though to see someone you love using the spoons you make for them.

I also attended a kolrosing class at the American Swedish Institute. I hope that I have an opportunity to learn from her again! At the same event, I also met Fred Livesay. It was an honor to talk with him because I just saw the spoon carving exhibit the he curated at Vesterheim in July.

We went to the farm to scout apples in the orchard for cider production this fall. I was chased by a bull, but even more exciting was discovering a lot of black cherry trees on the land. The smell of the wood as you carve it is wonderful! It coincided with me reading several books on observing nature by Tristan Gooley. It’s funny what you notice once you start paying attention.

I thought I had all of the spoon carving books by I found a new one this month – Carve!: A Book on Wood, Knives and Axes by Hannes Dahlrot and Henrik Francke – and really enjoyed it.

I polished up all of my carvings and prepared them for the Driftless Spoon Gathering. I wish I had more spoons, but I’m looking forward to meeting other carvers and sharing what I’ve made with them.

I got all poetic one night this month while carving chop sticks. Maybe it was the whiskey…

Carving after dusk,
a chorus of crickets,
then the crack… Frail fibers
broken by the blade. Chop sticks
Whiskey wained,
just a whisp left in my cup,
and me worn weary
as the whittled wood.
Yet, though I failed,
as I often do,
there will always
be another
Tonight –
Just humility,
crickets, and
a warm breeze.

There is something though naturally poetic about spoon carving. The simplicity, the silence, the falling away of everything else in the world.

Charles Bukowski has a poem about creating the perfect place to write in, and how in the end, it’s a bunch of bullshit. If you’re going to write you’re going to do it no matter what. This is where I carve. Just me and the crickets with a little Charlie Parr, Neil Young, and John Prine thrown in the mix. A kind stranger, who I met while picking blueberries in Wisconsin last summer, gave me the stump after I mentioned I was looking for one. The chair belonged to Granny Bea who lived for 98 years in a place that I long for. Thinking of Bukowski, the poem applies to carving too. I’d love a great shop with windows, a spoon mule, those near impossible to purchase knives by Reid Schwartz, and so much more.

But in the end, this chair, stump, and a Mora knife are enough. More than enough.

Late night, late summer sloyd – the cicadas are asleep, as I should be too. Seduced by cricketsong, I step outside of the “woodshop” to look up at the stars so far above the city lights.

A moment to recognize my insignificance in the grand scheme of it all. The thing I so love about craft is the opportunity to be immersed in the moment and the potential to make something that someone might find useful, and perhaps beautiful, long after I am gone.

It’s been a good summer, hope it was for you too.