A Spoon A Day :
As I sit down to write this I am putting the last spoon away after finishing my ‘A spoon a day’. It has taken me a little over a year to complete and I am starting to think about how it all went, what I learnt and whether it has made a significant difference to my work.
I started this journey with the main intention of developing my carving techniques, especially knife finishing skills. Primarily to move away from sanding spoons (at least for a while), and this journey was most importantly about skills development and a learning process. I did not really have a plan, or a map (other than the one left behind by Keith Matthews) to make a spoon a day for a year, and I had no real idea where it would take me, or where it would end up.
As a secondary goal, I also wanted to see whether regular posting/blogging about the project (via a wordpress blog and social media) would have an effect on marketing and promoting my work. I have never really been someone to shout from the rooftops or blow my own trumpet (or tuba), but (maybe foolishly) I decided to take this journey in the public eye and openly share it with anyone who was interested.
The physical results (the spoons themselves) are quite plain to see, whether you simply compare spoon number 1 to spoon number 365. Or look at the gradual/incremental changes over the whole year. The digital results are less conclusive (or less something else). I think that in the beginning I hoped that it would be more wide reaching and engaging than it appears to have been, but in the end this was a personal project to improve my skills and in some ways to instil a change in myself to be happy to leave the sand paper alone.
It will be difficult to fully explain all of the things that I have gained or learnt during this experience, and the only real way to find this out would be to try and do it yourself. I now see the process as primarily an individual or personal apprenticeship without a master. It was always a self led and self appointed task, and though critical or constructive comments were openly accepted from others I was not always able to act on these or translate them through to the knife.
There were times when I thought, Why I am doing this….??? Would it matter if I stopped…??? Would anyone notice… or care…???. If I admitted ‘defeat’ and faded back out of sight camouflaged by the continuous online chatter. But I am a determined soul and in the spirit of Magnuss Magnussun’s questioning. ‘I have started. So I will finish’. (even if it was a little behind schedule)
I think that the easiest way to concisely explain some of the things I have learnt will be in a list. (A top 10, 20,50, or 100 things) that looking back I feel I have learnt. These will probably break down into a few categories.
1. Skills Development. Making Spoons and The Spoons themselves.
2. Personal Development. (Things I inadvertently learnt about myself)
3. Promotion/Marketing and Public Reception.
There may be more and some points will no doubt cross over these categories. So in no particular order (apart from the first to come out through my fingers) here are my top 20 things I learnt by making a spoon a day.
20. Making a spoon a day is not an easy thing to do….
19. You can learn a lot (for and about yourself) just by sitting down (or standing up) and making things.
18. I still need to work on my sharpening.
17. I am getting closer to where I want to be, but I am no where near there yet.
16. A spoon can look very different depending on the angle you photograph it from.
15. If you do a series of feather cuts it saves a lot of flipping back and forth.
14. The longer you can make a cut the better, and you can cut wood in a curve.
13. I am more cautious than I need to be. But a fat spoon can be made thinner and its better than one with a hole.
12. If you want to make things you need to be focussed and have no distractions so find somewhere peaceful.
11. This was not the right time/project for me to try and copy other peoples spoons.
10. You might not notice an improvement from day to day, but it is happening.
9. Photographing and posting about work can take as long as it does to make the spoon.
8. Don’t look back, there is not enough time just keep moving forward, and hope for a suitable place to pause.
7. Some of the plum wood I used does not taste nice. Fresh Birch, Sycamore and Maple taste the best.
6. Do not display spoons on a rug. Always use a table, otherwise kids think they can walk all over them.
5. A comment means more than a ‘like’
4. There are lots of great people out there who you can learn from, and it can save you some serious head banging.
3. You can keep on making the same mistakes and not notice. Develop your own constructive but critical eye.
2. There are more important things in life than making spoons…. but
1. Spoon Carving will help Save the World
Although this project started out focussing on carving and knife finishing (two aspects of many) involved in making spoons. I have learnt a lot about form shape, balance, design and a myriad of other things. I have waded/fallen in to a personal style which some people now recognise. This seems to have been a slow evolutionary process but it is not fixed, or final and I will consciously challenge it in the future. I
Apart from a brief outing of 330 spoons to Spoonfest in August, and a few previews of the latest bags of 50 at Abney Park (Cemetery), all of the spoons I have made during the project have been disappearing into a black storage box underneath our kitchen unit/breakfast bar. So once photographed and posted I have not really looked back at what has gone before.
Spoonfest was the first time I saw them laid out in chronological order, and whilst this was quite a challenge in spoon logistics. First sorting them from the bags of 50 into ordered bundles of 10, and then laying them out individually. This was a good indication of how my skills have developed, evidence of a slow and evolutionary process, and looking at the first table and last table there really is a world of difference.
I now have 365 spoons sitting in a box, waiting to go somewhere (or somewheres). I decided not to sell any until after the end of the project and though a small number have been ear marked for people along the way I would really like to have an exhibition of them all together. I have held back on investigating the possibilities., but a nice little gallery or pop up warehouse space in London would be ideal. It would be nice for them to pay a last visit to Abney Park (where most of them were made) but there is not really anywhere suitable there. My girlfriend says I should call up the Crafts Council! and although it is a nice collection of spoons and a great document of my skills development I do not think it is significant enough for them to consider and it might not be deemed ‘contemporary’ enough for them. So if anyone knows of a place/space that might be interested. in showing them please let me know.
I have not worked out how I am going to dispose of (sell) them yet. I would be happy for them to go out across the globe and find their own place in it. Or to remain as a ‘collection’. The Logistics will have to be worked out, and I am yet to consider a ‘pricing’ system. But I hope that when I do sort this out there will be both real (face to face) and internet/web sales.
Many thanks to everyone who has participated in the journey, in whatever way, whether a facebook like (or multiple likes), a comment/suggestion, words of encouragement and appreciation or engagement of more in depth or face to face discussion.
Special Thanks to the following People.
1. Keith Matthews for the original inspiration behind the task, and for a gracious ‘good luck’ when I contacted him contemplating the challenge.
2. Robin Wood and Barnaby Carder for being happy with me posting on the Spoonfest Group Page, and inviting me to bring the spoons to Spoonfest 2014.
3. Phillipe Steele likewise for the Spoon Carving, Green Wood Working and Sloyd Group page.
4. Steve Tomlin for the only formal tuition I received during the project (back in October 2013)
5. All at London Green Wood for their continuous encouragement.
6. Michael Mirkwied Stibane. for ‘Liking’ more of my posts than anyone else. [These really helped keep me going, and for this you will receive a special prize]
There are lots of other people (and work) that has inspired or influenced me as I have gone along and I hope that these people know who they are, and I will try to mention them in Subsequent posts…..
But before this turns into too much of an oscars acceptance speech, a big and very special thank you to my very wonderful girlfriend, who has shown untold patience and tolerance of my spoon related activities.
I will continue these thoughts in a thread, or an album.
The image is of the reach so far of a spoon a day blog site (as of this evening). I am really glad I managed to do this.
Thanks for Listening.