I’ve been going back over some old notebooks recently and came across this page. The quote over the image of Fritiof’s spoons reads “a bowl is just a spoon without a handle”.
I remember when I first met Barn the Spoon in Abney Park Cemetery, probably almost 7 years ago now. That’s when he admonished me, via the quote above, for wanting to make bowls on a pole lathe. We were both trying to make medieval style eating spoons at the time and exchanged notes, although he was certainly taking a much closer look than me. He was making a lot of spoons at the time, street selling and camping his way around the country. Of course Barn has since gone on to many amazing spoon carving achievements and done great things for the whole scene in the UK. Not least his role in establishing spoonfest with Robin Wood and co. This year I made it to spoonfest for the 3rd time and was even lucky enough to do a course with Barn. I don’t have the time to to a full spoonfest blog post, but all I will say is it was great craic. After missing it the last two years I was delighted to be able to make a return, met lots of great people and caught up with old friends. Just sorry I didn’t get around to talking to everyone.
Ahead of Edale I had a brief episode of spoon carving, the first in about 18 months, to at least be somewhat prepared. I took a few photos of the process:
I was glad I had done this bit of carving as I managed to sell two of the six spoons I brought, which paid for my bus ticket. I do love making spoons but when I first started green woodwork I made tonnes to sell and got a bit sick of them. Going back to spoonfest and seeing all the amazing work that people are doing now has been a great inspiration and motivation to start making a few spoons again more regularly. I also returned to my favourite spoons (mostly Fritiof Runhall’s) in Robin Wood’s collection that he kindly puts out on display for the weekend. While there I felt ashamed that I don’t own more from different makers, but when I returned home and checked the kitchen I realised I did at least have a few. I will definitely be building on this little collection now!
Carving spoons was really the gateway drug into green woodwork for me, and my enthusiasm for them has fully returned. In reality it is mostly down to the people I have met along the way that I am motivated to keep doing woodwork and that only started to dawn on me properly at spoonfest.
My final thought for this blog post is stimulated by a poem Iorwerth Peate included in his 1933 paper titled “Welsh Folk Industries” (also containing a lovely photo of a pole lathe turner that I have inserted below). The world would be a better place if we made more stuff, furnishing our lives and environment directly with the products of our own hands.
Some beautiful images are conjured in this odd poem:
There is no point in work
unless it absorbs you
like an absorbing game.
If it doesn’t absorb you
if it’s never any fun,
don’t do it.
When a man goes out to work
he is alive like a tree in spring,
he is living, not merely working.
When the hindus weave thin wool into long, long lengths of stuff
with their thin dark hands and their wide dark eyes and their still souls absorbed
they are like slender trees putting forth leaves, a long white web of living leaf,
the tissue they weave,
and they clothe themselves in white as a tree clothes itself in its own foliage,
As with cloth, so with houses, ships, shoes, wagons or cups or loaves.
Men might put them forth as a snail its shell, as a bird that leans its breast against its nest, to make it round,
As the turnip models its round root, as the bush makes its own flowers and gooseberries, putting them forth, not manufacturing them,
And cities might be as once they were, bowers grown out from the busy bodies of people’
And so it will be again, men will smash the machines.
At last, for the sake of clothing himself in his own leaf-like cloth tissued from his life,
and dwelling in his own bowery house, like a beaver’s nibbled mansion
And drinking from cups that came off his fingers like flowers off their five-fold stem,
he will cancel the machines we have got.
D H Lawrence 1885-1930
anthologised in ‘A Book of Comfort‘ by Elizabeth Goudge, Fontana 1968