When I began carving wooden spoons and other utensils in 1977, I had found the calling I would love for a lifetime: working with wood to make spoons and objects of elegant simplicity. For much of my career I carved strictly functional utensils and enjoyed creating pieces that were both useful and beautiful. I still accept commissions to make special matched salad servers but, in recent years, my work has evolved into creating decorative sculptural objects. These are typically nonrepresentational sculpture, primarily grounded in the spoon or vessel form.
Most of my functional pieces were created from wood that had been processed through a sawmill and a dry kiln. Now I use chunks taken directly from the tree. I enjoy the challenge and excitement of converting an irregularly shaped, rough piece of wood into an object with visual and tactile appeal. It’s not unusual for one of my spoons weighing a few ounces to have originated from wood that weighed thirty pounds. I use locally available species, primarily Hard Maple and European Buckthorn (which, as an invasive species, is all too available!). On more than one occasion I have used meaningful wood supplied by the client.
Many of my sculptural spoons are collectible art objects. Others, including some of the carved vessels, embody the celebratory aspects of dining, especially when used as centerpieces. I seek elegant, restrained design, relying on simple forms coupled with attractive surfaces. Facets and surface contrast are often employed as design elements. My creativity and role in the craft world have been enhanced by four additional activities:
WRITING & TEACHING In 1994 I began to share the knowledge I’d gathered and started teaching spoon making workshops, initially at craft centers and, for the past ten years, privately, in my shop. In 2000 I wrote my first article for WOODWORK magazine and have since completed a half dozen more.
ADVANCED STUDY Since 1996, I have audited courses at nearby SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Initially they focused on wood structure and properties, but subsequent classes covered other areas of inquiry. These courses have greatly increased my knowledge and appreciation of wood’s complexity.
CRAFT RESEARCH In early 2009, Norm Sartorius invited Phil Jurus and me to join him in what has become a major craft biographical study of Emil Milan (1922-85), a woodworker who had an influence on all our careers. The study of Milan’s methods, plus the coursework, teaching and writing, have led me to reflect carefully on my own procedures and techniques. This in turn has enabled me to be more precise when discussing wood and a better instructor for students and readers.
GALLERY EXPERIENCE From 1988 through 1996 I was manager of the Eureka Crafts Gallery in Syracuse. During that period I continued to make spoons evenings and weekends. The gallery experience provided understanding about craft buyers and the collectors’ world. I’ve always had an interest in other crafts, particularly those involving iron and clay. My time in the gallery vastly expanded my knowledge about how those materials are used in craftwork.
Craft has provided a way of living for me. The pieces I make should not be taken alone, in isolation. They exist in the context of working honorably, without exploitation, to create objects that respect the tree and provide aesthetic sustenance for collectors. I am deeply indebted to my wife Barbara who, for many years, has been the major source of support for our family.
My Process For Making Spoons
I have written a guide to the process I use that I hope will be interesting and useful for both aspiring spoon-makers and collectors of spoons. FULL GUIDE >
Woodwork Magazine > A magazine for thoughtful woodworkers.
Collectors of Wood Art > An excellent showcase for collectible wood art, including my own.
In 2005, veteran collector Norman Stevens initiated the “teaspoon project” by inviting woodworkers from all over the world to contribute their versions of nine-inch teaspoons. The project is a landmark in the history of craft and the collection has now grown to include three hundred objects. Spoon makers, woodworkers and people interested in contemporary craft will be delighted to learn that the project has been beautifully documented in Stevens’ new book, A Gathering of Spoons, released by Linden Publishing in December 2012.
I am honored to have played a small supporting role in this project and, along with Norm Sartorius, wrote the introduction to the book. Several of my students have teaspoons in the collection.
I’m proud to suggest that you visit our daughters’ sites