beautiful and useful wooden spoons

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.

And this one is a bit of naughty indulgence, Haagen Dazs ice cream smoothie straight from the tub, a wooden spoon is perfect for this.

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”.

11 Responses to beautiful and useful wooden spoons

  1. Will Simpson April 24, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    "Hi, my name is Will and I'm a spoon carver."I love introducing myself like this. It surprises people. It is anti-establishment. Unlike my other job.I agree about how the daily use of a spoon connects you with it in surprising ways. We have this old store bought spoon that we used for maybe 20 years before I started carving spoons. Is is simple and beat up. It carries the scars of being left too close to the burner more than once. The handle is bent in an odd angle, probably form thousands of steamings as it rested across the rim of boiling pots of pasta. We can't bring ourselves to retire this spoon and sometimes find ourselves still reaching for it over my newer carved spoons. This spoon is not sculptural nor would William Morris consider it beautiful, but because of thousands of interactions, thousands of successful meals, it has found a place in our hearts.Thanks for sharing Robin.

  2. Ian April 24, 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    Just so spot on.Nothing more to say.

  3. Lewis Miles April 24, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    Cant wait for the book gotta love a good spoon.

  4. Adventure, Travel and Pretty Pictures April 24, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

    Ah, the challenge of trying to carve the perfect spoon. A challenge I hope I don't complete any time soon!

  5. flyhoof April 25, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Great post! A spoon carving book with techniques would be fantastic too! I shall keep a beady eye out for that 🙂

  6. Catriona April 26, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    Would love to read a book like that. I've tried carving several spoons, (definitely an under appreciated art) several had been modelled on trusty old friends that I love using, but they never turn out quite like they should…

  7. Robin Wood April 26, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    Glad you all enjoyed that, the perfect spoon is indeed elusive but something to strive towards and unlike pure sculpture the near misses are still useful and can become good friends in the kitchen. The book is well on the way but publishing takes time so it will be a long wait after we hand it over.

  8. Will Simpson April 26, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    I'm often surprised and disappointed when receiving one of my hand made spoons, the recipient states that it is to nice to use. To help this I've lowered my standards and will now make spoons that are more rustic with the hope that with time and use the cook will develop a relationship with the spoon. Is this wishful thinking? The delusions of a lonely spoon carver.

  9. Steve Kubien October 29, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    Robin, I'm reading older posts on your blog, this one included. I wonder, how's the spoon carving book coming along? Got an ETA on it?Curious.

  10. Robin Wood October 29, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    Book has been with publishers for some time but no ETA yet. They work on long schedules and I don't think have started editing, designing yet. I still have some more photos to do too.

  11. Steve Kubien October 31, 2010 at 12:01 am #

    Robin, please impress upon the publisher that there are thousands of Canadian spoon-carver-wannabes waiting for this book. Ok, maybe less than thousands. At the very least, me!Cheers, Steve