It's been interesting to be part of the growing spoon carving scene. When I carved my first spoons back in 1991 or 1992 I used crazy tools to do the job. My girlfriend's dad suggested I make them for Christmas gifts and handed me a thick piece of air dried maple timber. I didn't know where to begin and ended up using the tools on hand in his cabinet shop. I cut out the spoon shapes with a bandsaw and hollowed the bowls with a horizontal mortising machine built the early 1900's. To smooth the horrible mess that the mortiser made I used a carving burr on a Dremel tool and then moved on to sandpaper. A few of those spoons are still around, returned to me after my grandmother passed away. I still remember feeling so excited about those spoons I gave her as Christmas gifts and so proud. But they were poorly designed, thus ending up in the back of the drawer until her death. My mom has some as well and again they are never really used due to poor design. We call them 'clubs' in the spoon carving circles I run in.
It wasn't until years later, maybe the 2001 or 2002 that I started carving again with great momentum. Still with no instruction. I made better spoons. But at that time I preferred spalted wood and I'm afraid folks loved the wood more than the spoons. This is a common thing in the woodworking world. Spalted and figured wood or highly decorated spoons always win over plain, simple and well designed spoons to the uninitiated. Of course there can be great spoons made from figured wood or that are decorated heavily, but mine were not. This time I used gouges, a small adze I forged myself and an axe to carve them. It was again very inspiring and exciting to make them. I was hooked.
A few years later I gave up building houses and went into craft full time. This time there was the internet and I had found Del Stubb's website. It was loaded with all kinds of spoon carving resources. I spent days and days looking at every page and following every link. I learned a lot just by studying the photos. Sooner or later I got a copy of Wille's book. It was still out of print and I payed over $150 dollars for it. I was serious about spoon carving!
I also attended my first Spoon Gathering in Milan, MN the second year they held it. I think they are on year 11 or 12 now. It was attended by maybe 20 carvers. This is where I met—now good friends—Del and Mary Stubbs, Fred Livesay, Tom Dengler, Jim Sannerud, Yuri Moldenhaurer and Rod Termaat. I was blown away that there were other 'spoon freaks' as I called myself, obsessed with spoon carving in the midwest. It was great to visit, carve together, and learn. What I learned from Fred and Tom particularly changed the way I carved spoons forever. Tom attended Wille's spoon carving workshop at Drew Lagsners's years earlier and Fred had been carving spoons since a very young kid, and was influenced by one of North House's Founder Charlie Mayo. These guys carved Scandinavian spoons. Over the next year I adopted the style and began to add my own tweaks and twists. I never looked back.
I guess it's been a few years now and I've carved many spoons since then. I spent years carving them for market and craft shows before getting turned on to pole lathe turning. I carved lots of spoons and made them quickly. I didn't have access to much crooked wood so I focused on straight wood. I started teaching here and there eventually teaching all over the world. It's pretty mind blowing really. I remember getting strange looks from folks who asked me what I did for a living and my reply was "I carve wooden spoons".
I started teaching basketry with my ex-wife, April back in 2001. Over the years I have probably taught 1000's of people. I have become good at what I do and I'm quite proud of it. I have had many great years of teaching awesome folks how to use their hands to make things connected to the earth and our very ancient human experience.
I'd been developing some pedagogy for teaching teachers of spoon carving over the last few years. I'm pleased to announce that I'm offering a workshop this spring for spoon carving instructors. I think that as the spoon carving craft grows so does the need to teach and share with folks about how to teach too. It's a natural progression to want to share what we know, but with the risks in carving I think it shouldn't be taken lightly. Being able to carve is a great skill to have. After that, being able to teach and show people how to carve safely is another very important skill to develop. And don't forget that honing your sense for spoon design is again another step.
I won't say too much more here, I'll let the description speak for itself, but I hope that folks that are interested in teaching, have taught a little already or folks that have taught a bunch will all be able to take something back to their workshops and classes from this Course for Teachers of Spoon Carving.
If teaching isn't your thing I'm also offering a spoon carving workshop here in Ashland too. It'll be full of all the good stuff -how to carve and design spoons. The details are here for Spoon Carving Ashland