KEEPING IT SIMPLE
I am a greenwood worker and specialise in carving spoons, bowls and related items using the simplest of hand tools.
As always, my work is characterised by the need to be functional and intended for daily use. Personally, I find great pleasure in using beautiful handcrafted objects as part of daily life.
The overarching characteristic of the pieces in the exhibition is the surface texture that makes them very tactile. Almost all have a tooled finished surface where each knife cut can be explored with the fingers. On some the cleft surface on the top of the handle has been left uncarved in order to leave the fibrous texture of the wood.
This year’s exhibition also features a larger range of work decorated either by engraving or the use of paint. Several of the pieces are from a wider project where the physical form of the spoon has been simplified to allow greater prominence of the decoration.
All the timber I use is locally sourced from within 10 miles of my workshop. Ideally the timber is worked while it is still fresh although occasionally I use it when seasoned. The great thing about greenwood is that it will change shape as it dries, resulting in a certain unpredictability to the form of the final piece.
A nice piece of timber rarely needs the addition of artificial colour and I prefer to allow the natural colours to come through. However, more recently I have been experimenting with milk paints. Consequently, you will see some pieces in the exhibition featuring applied colour. As the milk paints I use are made using natural pigments the colours are, for the most part, rather subtle. However, I love using the red especially on sycamore or other pale woods where a striking contrast can be achieved.
When I first started carving although I enjoyed doing asymmetrical or free form work I, like many, copied symmetrical traditional designs. A habit that has continued for many years. However, this year has seen the start of a return to free form work where emphasis is placed on the natural form of the material rather than imposing a symmetrical design on the wood.
During Oxfordshire Artweeks all purchases will receive a 10% discount on the listed price.
I do not come from a creative background but grew up in a family where, despite enjoying woodwork at school, greater value was placed on purely academic subjects such as mathematics and the sciences. Consequently, it was not until I had finished a career in the Army 22 years later in 2000 that an opportunity arose to practice traditional greenwood working.
In 2012 I gave up a part-time job with the National Trust to do greenwood working full time. After starting with turned items and some furniture I began to specialise in hand carving spoons, bowls and related items.
At a most basic level it is the simplicity of the craft that I enjoy the most. There is great satisfaction to be found in making beautiful hand-crafted “simple” utensils that the owner can have the pleasure of using every day. I also get a weird pleasure from being able to effectively use the three basic tools; an axe and two knives to craft such items.
My first inspiration was, and still is, Bob Shaw who introduced me to greenwood working over 20 years ago. He is a woodland owner, natural craftsman and advocate for sustainability. I also find inspiration in the work of Dan Dustin, an American “Hand Spoonmaker” who uses the characteristics of the wood to make spoons that are beautiful in their simplicity.
The first workshop that I used was the original Estate Carpenter’s workshop at the National Trust property that I worked at. When I left the Trust in 2012 I had a workshop built at the bottom of my garden with space to work outside when the weather permits. It is very much “my space” organised the way I want. That’s not to say that it is always tidy. Indeed, it may be knee deep in shavings when I have a lot of work on. In fact, the only time it really is tidy is when I’m teaching. If not making or teaching, then I’m happy to be in the workshop doing the chores such as sharpening tools or sweeping up!