"The experience of green woodworking and spoon making all hovers around the idea of connection. The old tools are a link to earlier times, and some of the tools are ancient. Each tree carries with it the past, and every part gets used. […]
"There is the wonder of the emergence of the spoon shape in a blank, and it’s evolution to the finished and dried spoon. There is the simple pleasure of oiling a spoon for the first time, re-hydrating it, and seeing all of the grain come alive… There are the ever present wood chips on the floor and stuck to clothes, which somehow is a protest against sterility and an acknowledgement of nature inside.
"It is not about production, and it is never likely to be about making a lot of money… It is about sharing the love of something with others. It is about putting a little part of me in your kitchen."
– André Souligny, Spoonderlust
In a time of mass-produced goods and overzealous consumerism, what happens when we slow down and mindfully handcraft the things we need and use, or purchase them from others who do the same?
I believe that the things we mindfully choose are different. They come into our lives infused with love and positivity. In turn, they help us return to slower, more conscious ways.
We turn inward. We are present.
In short, we revive the gift of slowness.
Through the simple act of mindfully choosing the things we surround ourselves with we breathe life into old ways.
Years ago I started using hand-carved spoons in my kitchen, made by my dear friend André. We've known each other since we were in our 20's, and his spoons are easily the favorites in my kitchen.
Truly, each time I slowly prepare a pot of soup or caramelize onions with one of his spoons that slowness comes full circle. Slow spoon, slow food.
It's a subtle message there in my hands: slow down. Savor.
When we were in Vermont this fall we spent a week with André and his family. He has been carving spoons for years – an artistic outlet for his full and busy life of parenting, working, and homeschooling.
We spent an afternoon out by the woodshop, tools and spoon blanks in hand.
I watched in fascination as he carved one beautiful spoon from start to finish that October day.
When André surprised me by sending us the spoon I watched him carve, I realized that I wanted to do three things:
1. Share André's beautiful carving process with you to inspire your own slow-craft journey
2. Encourage you to visit his Etsy shop when you begin your holiday shopping (and hopefully inspire you to bail an any Black Friday madness you were half-heartedly considering!)
and 3. Offer the spoon he sent me (the one I watched him carve last fall, the one pictured in the process below) as a gift in a giveaway for you.
How does that sound?
I thought so, too.
Well then. Let's get to it!
The birth of a spoon
André's spoon-making begins with a slab of fresh, green wood. He works with a variety of species including maple, beech, and in this case yellow birch.
The wood is split to an appropriate thickness using a froe, then examined as he searches for the spoon within. Soon a rough spoon bowl is drawn in place.
Initial shaping down the handle and around the bowl is done with a hatchet, removing the bulk of excess material quickly and skillfully. (When I do this my hands ache within minutes. Like the rest of skillful carving, it is definitely a learned skill.)
The very rough, very chunky "spoon" that results is called a blank. Many spoon makers create these with a band saw, but André crafts his with hand tools alone, like a spoon-maker would have done 100 years ago.
After the blank is prepared it's time to move to the shaving horse and more delicate tools. First the draw knife and spoke shave, then onto spoon carving knives for the detail work.
The bowl shape on this spoon was adjusted at this point when a small knot was revealed that required a slight rethinking of the design. A deep-bowled, elegant spoon began to emerge from the blank.
When André is satisfied with the more refined shape, it is time for the bowl to be hollowed. he uses a double edged hook knife for this task.
It is slow, conscious, hypnotic work.
After the bowl is carved, André returns to the handle and the back of the bowl, slowly removing more and more material until the just-right shape emerges.
It's a mindful art where the wood, the artist, and the emerging spoon all work together to create each one-of-a-kind piece.
Watching a spoon emerge in this way is inspiring and fascinating. Because largely, we have lost many of these old skills somewhere along the way. And I believe they are more than worth reviving.
The spoon André sent is lovely. (Pictured below.) I nearly kept it for myself. (So nearly kept it!) But you, sweet friends, win this time. (Or one of you will anyway.)
The giveaway is now closed. Our winner is Jane who said:
"To me there are few things as wonderful as the feel of a handmade wooden spoon. Thank you for the opportunity to win one."
Here's how to enter the Spoonderlust Giveaway:
1. Visit the Spoonderlust Etsy shop. If you have an Etsy account add his shop as a favorite.
2. Leave a comment below.
3. For an additional entry, share this post by any means you wish (Facebook, Twitter, tea with friends, tin-can-and-string-phone – you get the idea) and leave a second comment telling me how you shared it.
After Thanksgiving I will choose one lucky winner and ship you your spoon. Good luck!