I’ve had such a great time making spoons from green wood and doing all of the many associated fun activities for the last 25 years. Every single time I make a spoon, learn from or share skills with others, or think about spoon making, I feel pretty darn good, like I’ve found my “thing”. I was lucky to meet a couple of great people who introduced me to green woodworking and the “bent” knife, and that started the journey. So many more interesting people along the way as well. So, after 25 years, it feels good to be a person involved with sharing this passion with others, as that is how it started out for me. Most importantly, sharing encouragement and paying attention to others. Now I’ve crossed the half century line in life, and I’m really looking forward to embodying the “old spoon maker on the hill” role (well maybe a few years away still).
I have learned many, many lessons from years of spoon making, and from “selling”; selling my wares here and there, and selling spoon making as a “teacher” (I don’t ever profess to be one) to others. Selling is not something that I put a lot of energy into, which is different than some others. I don’t work to make a living making spoons at this time, although I’ve considered doing it, and in doing so, learned more about myself and this craft. It is so great to meet people, something I really miss since the pandemic started over one year ago. I came to learn early that spoon making in public, or spoon “busking” as an acquaintance called it, is an incredible way to meet people, get people talking, and share some good vibes. I used to busk music in Milwaukee with my best friend in the early 90’s, so that was good training for street spoons. Especially if there is a hatchet, shaving horse, drawknife, chopping block, or other tools involved that you don’t see every day, or sometimes ever. I sure have missed that circuit; this year looks uncertain for many events, so playing it by ear as usual. If there is some money that comes of it, I guess that is a bonus. Year after year for me, spoon making is a zero sum game financially, while also a psychologically and metaphysically rewarding rubric.
I’ve also been able to “meet” spoon people on Instagram (Facebook in disguise)(@spoonmakerx). There is a sweet virtual community there to be found, with kind, helpful, and non-judgmental people who generously share what they make and what they are up to, and even arrange swapping. There’s tale of a legendary spoon journal making its way around the world, receiving entries, and being sent on ahead with a spoon for the next person, with a list a mile long of those who wish to see it in their post one day…WOW! I’ve made a few new connections, maintained a few others, reconnected with still others, and probably spent way too much time looking at my phone. Most interesting is the ability to make connections internationally and have the opportunity to expand cultural understanding as much as the format will allow, and my limited knowledge of only one language. There are so many incredibly talented, incredibly young spoon makers I’ve come to admire. The young ones especially also have grown up with the internet, so they have much skill at making video, using cellphones and cameras to create super cool demonstrations of their craft which you can view endlessly in lieu of actually making things yourself. There was nothing like this available to look at when I started spoon making in about 1996. I especially appreciate those who bring creative humor, stop-motion animation, and general family life into the Instagram mix. I also admire those who work to keep alive traditions and imagine new ones. One day I watched a live feed of a group of people in their back yard in Japan working on a shaving horse, and, by their good graces of also speaking English I was able to chat with them. So much fun…this is a special phenomenon, the ability to connect and to be simply acquainted so directly with people from around the world, such an opportunity to build peace around our common interest, explore material culture, and to learn about each other’s ways “live”! It is also a place to have dialogue about how to respect and honor other cultures craft traditions as not to exploit those traditions for money. Here in Vermont this is an especially rich topic on many fronts, for example, making maple syrup, or certain styles of basket making, or canoe making; all traditional skills and crafts done by indigenous people on this their occupied land.
Another wonderful thing is to be able to support one another by purchasing the things others make: the spoons, the tools, the endless list of extra cool hand made items. Prices are completely all over the map and the best thing I can say about that is there is likely something that everyone can afford, or barter for. Unfortunately, international shipping is extremely expensive for small packages of handmade items, and these packages can also be slapped with extra taxes and tariffs. I’ve thought this is an area for international cooperation of craftspeople, fighting for an end to the high expense of international shipping, maybe cooperatively building a ship to sail spoons abroad… To be sure this virtual connectivity with other spoon and tool makers affords endless chances to buy things, trade things, spark your creativity, enhance your imagination, give and receive encouragement.
This past 14 months has brought about a lot of changes in priorities. It was scheduled to be a big year for spoon making classes and festivals, street-spoons and the bike cart. But instead our first world lives encountered many challenges, cancellations, and brought out the best and worst in us as people, while we adapted to new ways of doing things. Financial necessity led me to change day jobs, and everything in our family life was turned around in many ways. Everything except for, unlike so many other people, we were and still are so fortunate to enjoy the continuing health of our extended families. I still cant loose sight of the fact that the worlds people are suffering from the loss of so many lives in terrible circumstances, with the effect of shining more light and focusing more attention on inequality, racism, patriarchy, colonialism. The remarkable “pepper spray and candy” feeling I get from America: at once some of the best and most progressive and creative and forward thinking people, and some of the most frightening intolerant and bigoted people, all of whom could certainly benefit from spoon making and maybe inching their chairs a little closer together to strengthen common humanity.
So the summer is here. I’ve walked down our steep land to the bottom and back, the secret springs and waterfall flow, and still and in perpetuity this hill defies ownership despite the hundred year old barbed wire, which is being eaten by the trees. I tell our teenagers to just stay here, enjoy this place, but they long to go and I fear for them but also know the strong magnetic pull toward imagined and unknown places and experiences. In June the birds start singing in the faintest faintest dawn light at 4:25 am and the days are stretched out long between sunrise and sunset. I wake in the middle of the night for some reason and can’t sleep, bothered or mind occupied by racing thoughts. Grounded in the trees and the woods, cutting some firewood and cleaning up lots of windfall and diseased pine. Picking up the mess of a crashed old treehouse and burning the debris in a bonfire. Cleaning up trash that the bear dragged off into the understory. A fox pursues our chickens each evening; a swift and graceful series of movements for the fox, just answering the dinner bell, and total upheaval for the chickens and the humans who, in so many ways, try to stave off all that is inevitable through countless futile activities, all the while missing what is right there before them, behind a green fern, the now.