William Morris famously said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”
Many in the craft community have taken this one step further so that we like things that are both beautiful and useful. For me wooden spoons are a good example. We have been making, buying, collecting and using wooden spoons in the kitchen and for serving food for nearly 20 years. There is still lots to more learn about just what makes a good spoon, they are like functional sculpture. Making a good spoon has all the same difficulties involved in making a fine piece of sculpture but many more besides since it has also to be fit for purpose. The angles should all be just right so that it sits nicely in the hand and stirs or serves the food easily. The design should take into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the wood fibres since unlike a sculpture it will see hard use for many years. Strange then that such a difficult thing to get just right is still seen as a lower art form than sculpture, it commands lower prices in the market place, is not recognised by the art world and the making of it does not attract the same kudos.
“I am a professional sculptor” would sound far more impressive at dinner party conversation than “I am a professional spoon carver.”
I greatly admires good sculpture (Brancusi and Hepworth being two of my favourites) but I still find myself appreciating more the things in my own life which are both beautiful and functional.
I have made pure sculpture and also have nice sculpture and paintings done by friends, these tend to get noticed a lot when they are new but after a year or two I find they become part of the scenery. A spoon which is used every day somehow gets inside our consciousness. As a maker of spoons and bowls I feel a deep connection with someone who has eaten their breakfast from one of my bowls every day for 10 years, that is 3650 small connections. Few people would consider at an artwork or sculpture 3650 times however impressive.
Nicola and I am currently working on a book on spoon carving techniques and are including a section of spoon photos for inspiration. Some of these will be gallery shots but it felt important to me to show some spoons in use so over the last few days each time dinner hits the table I have taken a few shots before everyone digs in. Some of these spoons are made by us and others by friends who we admire.
One of the fun things about this blog is that it gives me connection with a whole range of people around the world that value “I am a spooncarver” as highly as “I am a sculptor”.