Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Spoon for Two

Spoons have been with us for an awfully long time - some historians even suggest one thousand years before the time of Christ.  It's one of our most basic and useful tools; often a personal spoon would be cherished as a valuable utensil and a person would carry it with him to use on his travels.  The gold spoon was reserved for royalty, for they were the only ones that could afford such extravagance.  The closest a wealthy layperson could come was silver; most common folk however settled with wood.  It's a simple tool, one quickly made, yet every one very individual and unique.

My most common wood used in carving spoons is birch - as in a chunk of birch firewood that comes from off the woodpile outside.  They are typically the perfect size for the average ladle or stirring spoon, and the plentiful supply eases the pressure of making it 'just right'.  Birch is also a hardwood, making it suitable for use with food as it is odor free and holds detail well.  It does however require a sharp knife.

Finish can be anything you desire, although I tend to stick with olive oil if there is any possibility it will be used with food.  The joy comes from watching the design unfold as I shape the raw material into a pleasing form; the grain coming to life as the finish is applied.  I never know what is hidden inside the rough, split piece of wood, yet with a little time, effort and polish it becomes a work of art.  I know of no other readily available raw material that has such potential!

Unless you consider people.  Millions upon millions surround us, and yet we have somehow built civilizations that simply view what is evident on the exterior facade of our lives.  We categorize and evaluate according to what we drive, where we live, how we dress, and where we work.  We've come to worship anorexia as beauty; debt as success; busyness as diligence.  We have become a culture that rushes around trying to cover our rawness with glitter, never taking time to seek the inner beauty that resides on the inside of all of us.  Every one of us has a story - an interesting and distinctive past; a beautiful, unique future.  We simply need to whittle past all of the false, fabricated exterior to find it.

Maybe that's why I find such inspiration from carving spoons.  They are a great reminder to me to live differently every time I pick up another piece of wood off the woodpile.

Spoon in a box - Shirley Adler design carved from birch, finished with linseed oil and gloss lacquer. Box 6mm okume plywood, linseed oil and spray shellac. Inspiration for box lid incised carving adapted from Beychevelle Vineyards logo.

Lily ladle - birch, tung oil and spray laquer finish.

Bottom ladles - birch, olive oil finish, jatoba and maple inlays.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Union of Wood

The joining of two woods is a good thing. 

The individual grain of one will inevitably oppose the other, but by bonding together they discover stability and strength.  Along with another species of wood, they all form a partnership that becomes greater than simply the sum of the parts.  All the individual differences combine together to create one unique and beautiful addition to the other tools on the bench.


What could we as people also accomplish - locally and globally - if we would move beyond our fears and begin to celebrate our differences?

"Beware the man of one book."
 St Thomas Aquinas

French style marking gauge, jatoba head and wedge with oak beam.  Finish tung oil with clear shellac.

Plans and article from Popular Woodworking available here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Thinking Chair

In my garage is a simple, hardwood stool.

It’s old and scarred, but I find myself retreating often into its comforting solidarity.   It’s stationed amidst a jumble of shavings, sawdust, and cut-offs, yet it stands with a posture of nobility and strength.  It is here that I become quiet, my mind stretching into creative corners that are so often challenged. 

It’s a wonderful place of solitude, stillness, and beauty.
It’s here that I sit with my feet up on the disorderly shelf below the workbench.  It’s here that my hands do the delicate shaving and shaping of my wooden creations.  It’s here that my mind empties of all the chaotic warmongering of the news feeds.  It’s here that my world becomes sensible, ordered, and glorious.  

And it's here that I wish to begin my journey.