Jarrod talks about Barn:
Last week in London I spent some time in Barn’s workshop. We worked together for a few days. I made some one handled bowls inspired by the American porringer that he will do the finish cuts on. He carved some spoons that I did the decoration on. It was a simple way to collaborate and we had a blast doing it.
When I first met Barn at the very first Spoonfest 7 years ago, he was still street selling as a spoon tramp. I’ve always respected his approach to craft and spoon carving because he made spoons to sell and made a living from it. His life seemed simple back then compared to now—running the Greenwood Guild, the Spoon Club, writing books, filming videos, running Spoonfest, traveling and teaching, and maintaining the shop on Hackney too.
It was from him that the ideas of the New Wood Culture began. Back then he titled it The Wood Culture Renaissance, but I thought the wording could be simpler so I coined the term The New Wood Culture which we now both use to give title to what we see happening in the broader woodworking world. When the spoon carving craze first started, people were carving spoons, but not using them. So we both watched this whole scene grow. And now Barn is continuing it with his feast idea of getting folks to eat from a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon who otherwise wouldn’t. This is what The New Wood Culture is about—using domestic woodenware in our daily lives.
About Barn the Spoon:
My name is Barnaby Carder, but I am widely known as "Barn the Spoon". I have a little spoon shop where I make spoons based in the East End of London, on Hackney Road. I’ve been in London for 6 years now.
Around 18 I did my A-level in Design and Technology. It was a product design course, focusing on both design and realization. That’s where I learned about design and ergonomics and that kind of stuff. I didn’t learn any woodwork though, it was all metal engineering. I made a desk fan out of cast aluminum which was turned on a lathe. I was fortunate to go to a very good school and study with a very good teacher. After that I did a degree in Biology which I do think influences my work and it certainly influences how I see the world.
What hooks you in:
The thing that hooks me in these days is a fascination with the process and efficiency. I think part of that is born out of having a spoon business. It’s also just a joyous thing to do—carving material away to create something. Spoons are perfect for that because they are small and quick. I also have an obsession with the sculptural side of it, with creating forms. I very much see it like music. The different styles of spoons I make are like traditional songs that I play and improvise with.
Spoons you made for us:
It was a fun collaboration because it’s a style of spoon that I’ve not really made many of recently. They look fairly similar to the thousand spoon project spoons with the pinched neck, but the side profile is quite different and I don’t often do this kind of square shape bowl, so it was fun messing around with that. I approached the rim slightly differently as well, so that was interesting. Normally when I make a batch of something, I know exactly what they’re going to end up being, or I’m just messing around making 2 spoons in a day whilst doing a bunch of emails and running errands. It was nice to settle down and carve a batch of 12 with an open ended outcome, and nice to do it with Jarrod alongside turning away at the lathe. From my point of view I am very much in my own little world, you know? There are guys I work with, but even at things like Spoonfest in recent times, I’m too busy to be able to carve with people there. It was quite fun to spend some time with Jarrod who I can chat to as a peer, which in our world is very rare. We don’t have many.
Thousand Spoon Project:
The Thousand Spoon Project is a cute little thing that I’m doing where I’ve taken one tree and I’m turning it into a thousand spoons and I’m selling those spoons to help fund a thousand trees. So the idea is that we’re going to buy somewhere that we can either grow a thousand trees or coppice a woodland or maintain a thousand trees. The concept in the long run is maintaining a woodland. It’s a super tiny thing, but it’s enough to sustain some spoon carving.
Barn the Spoon shop in Hackney:
We are planning a refurbishing of the spoon shop in Hackney with more products, spoons, and bowl turning, which we’ve not done in a long time, using electricity rather than a pole lathe.
Spoon Club Online:
The major project for me right now is Spoon Club which is an online video subscription with over 40 hours of video tutorials and over 120 videos focused on developing the skills for carving beautiful wooden spoons. Plus a new video is added each week. What’s fantastic about these video subscriptions is that guest tutors from all parts of the UK and beyond contribute to the videos. Plus it’s backed by my years of experience giving instruction in spoon carving.
Spoon Club London:
In London we have around 60 physical Spoon Club members whose membership includes both online access to all the videos as well as access to member meetings at the Stepney City Farm on a specific night of the week. We have members who have been coming for 2 years now and they are really proficient carvers, making and selling their work. That’s really special. Many beginners take classes as well. It’s a super lovely, diverse environment where lots of different types of people come. Sometimes a member will bring a cake and enjoy a chat, others are industrious and axe out six spoon blanks to carve at home until the next meeting. Some are real beginners who are able to ask for assistance with something they’ve just learned from watching a video tutorial. It’s a place where we have tools and sharpening equipment and wood and axe blocks, a place to hangout with other like minded people.
The Greenwood Guild takes people beyond spoons. The classes offered at the Greenwood Guild often require more equipment. When I teach spoon carving I’m expecting people to go away and carve spoons, but most of the people who take a bowl carving course at Greenwood Guild will be coming for the experience and go home with a really nice bowl. We also teach knife forging, furniture making, pole-lathe turning classes, stools, and introductory days.
I’ve had this idea brewing for a long time to introduce people, that would not otherwise have gotten round to doing it, to eating from a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon. I’ve had loads of wild ideas around the concept of a performance dinner, which might sound fairly intimidating, but it’s about giving people an experience. My hope is that it will be a fairly intense slap in the face from wood culture. I want people going away having felt it. I want to introduce people to the concept of woodenware, which is so strange. Eating from a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon is so strange, to normal people—which is extraordinary. I forget that. Even just saying it now, I’m like, “It’s the most normal thing in the world for me”, but for your average Londoner it’s like mind-blowing and they don’t even know how much their mind will be blown once they’ve tried it. So my plan was for the bowls Jarrod made this week to be a part of this dinner idea.
The future of craft:
Carving in space without gravity.
What challenges you:
Building a rocket…
No, but seriously my challenges lately have been about prioritizing and efficiency. Not in carving spoons, but in answering emails and worrying about finances and dealing with negotiating with landlords and website designers and photographers and trying to be efficient at that, which most people in this world do as their sole job. Trying to do that outside my normal working hours, that’s the challenge—trying to make space to be that funny little man in the spoon shop again.
Advice to other aspiring craftspeople:
Try not to lose the passion, make sure you enjoy it.
A funny/surprising fact:
I got the woodturning prize at school, age 12. I had a lathe in my parent’s garage and I used to turn bowls and toad stools and candle sticks. I subscribed to Wood Turning Monthly. That’s where I learnt most of the stuff I knew about woodwork, from that subscription. I spent my teenage years locked away in a garage making stuff, which is weird, making functional bowls for fruit and salad, because it was the olden days and that’s what people used wooden bowls for, that and potpourri… I can also play songs by hitting my head with a block of wood…
An interesting thing about me is that I’m being more drawn to the concept of growing natural beauty and surrounding myself with that, beyond just making it myself. There was a time when I really aspired to be like a Michelangelo, but I’m not sure I’ve got the drive for that. I’m quite happy with what I’ve achieved and there are still things that I want to explore, but when I think about things that are truly beautiful I’m thinking about living things and plants rather than craft. But I’m a spoon carver not a farmer, so what can I do? Keep going… And I do still f***ing love spoons…
Learn More About Barn's Work:
Visit his website www.barnthespoon.com
Carve.London: dinner, workshops, makers event https://barnthespoon.com/carve-london/
Spoon Club online subscriptions: www.spoonclub.co.uk
The Thousand Spoon Project to support a sustainably managed woodland
Barn the Spoon's shop in Hackney, London
A limited number of Barn's spoons will be for sale in the MAKERS SHOP on August 19 at Noon Central Time