Words: Carolyn Folland, spoon carver and event coordinator
Photos: Ben Smith, spoon carver
In its third year, Spoonies in the Tweed has once again hosted carvers for a beautiful weekend of spoon carving. From October 1–2, 2016, over 50 happy people congregated in the beautiful Tweed hinterland under the tutelage of Robert Howard, either sharing their long love of spoon carving or exploring the craft for the first time.
Held on the October long weekend each year, Spoonies in the Tweed is the brainchild of Robert Howard, who sought to establish a traditional retreat centred on the humble spoon – similar to the UK-based Spoonfest. While Spoonies is still a smaller affair than Spoonfest, it is safe to say the picturesque Uki property features a good many trees more than the Spoonfest grounds. Under a canopy of camphor laurels, carvers were able to work directly from the trees on site to fashion their spoons from the purest point. Advanced carvers were invited to bring examples of their work, and all participants enjoyed seeing the different styles on display.
Robert Howard held workshops on the use of the straight knife and the hook knife for beginners; the design and structure of a successful spoon; and the all-important art of tool sharpening. This year, Carol Russell also returned and hosted a workshop on the use of chisels in spoon carving.
After the mandatory safety briefing, the Spoonies’ crowd quickly relaxed into easy laughter and fell quietly into concentration, working with new tools and new woods to shape their spoons. For the first time, the event drew interest from overseas, with enthusiastic participants from New Zealand and even Ireland. The youngest participants were the three-month old twin babies of seasoned carver, Mike Fleming and his wife Bec. The oldest participant was charming octogenarian, Barry Brook who kept everyone enthralled with tales of his life’s adventures.
The carvers spread out around the site – under the marquee, in the shade of the native rainforest trees or in the event shed – Spoonies HQ. Saturday evening featured the delicious delights of the wood-fired pizza oven, catering for all – vegetarians, gluten intolerants and carnivores. Later, relaxing around the campfire, there was singing, slam poetry, and an impromptu guitar and banjo jam session from the Irish visitors. One happy carver even played the spoons.
On Sunday, the carving continued early around the smoking embers of the campfire. Spoons began to amass in the gallery, ready for the prize judging. Once again, Carbetec provided gift certificates for the prize winners and these were received enthusiastically by the carvers – one can never have enough tools!
The interest in Spoonies in the Tweed continues to grow thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of its sponsoring artisans. Robert Howard and Carol Russell are devoting their lives to their personal love of wood and carving, and we owe the growth of the event to their enthusiasm and generosity in sharing their skills.